By Dayo Adesulu
It is a common sayingthat education is the best legacy parents can bequeath to their children. The United Nations says that education is a right of every child that should not be infringed upon. Indeed, education is seen as the surest path to a country’s development. Notable personalities around the world have lent their support in one way or the other to the struggle of making governments around the world to realize the importance of education.
Prominent in the championing of the education cause is former South African President, Dr. Nelson Mandela who sees education as the greatest weapon of development. Education is generally seen as any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual.
As part of efforts to reinforce the importance of education, 1Goal initiative was launched to help rally support for the education of about 75 million students who are out of school. The initiative basically, has three objectives. One, to make government give more aid to education, secondly, to ensure that there is greater investment in teachers, textbooks and schools especially in developing countries. Thirdly, to reach out to people in the developing nations and make them see the importance of formal education.
Formal education is the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded ‘education system’, running from primary school through the university and in addition, to general academic studies, a variety of specialized programmes and institutions for full-time technical and professional training.
The standard of education of any country is largely dependent on the standard of public schools in that country. Simply put, public schools are the yardsticks by which a country’s educational growth and development is measured.
In the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s in Nigeria, public schools were more popular because they had discipline, good teachers and good facilities. They were attended by students irrespective of their social class and socio-economic background in the society. One of the advantages of early exposure of students to others from different socio-economic background is that it teaches them how to get along with people.
Those days, children of parents from different economic strata would attend same public schools, play and learn together. This early exposure helped the children of the rich to be acquainted with some of the hardship experienced by those who were from poor homes. These early experiences helped them to have a balanced perspective on life.
Those of the poor would also sit tight to study, believing that if they do so, they would be as rich as their friends’ parents and would not go through their present difficulties. There were even cases where some rich parents would take up the training of the friends of their children when their parents were unable to continue their education.
Funding of the public schools was good at that time, salaries of teachers were relatively good and paid on time. But as the mid-90s approached, the public schools could no longer handle the number of students due to adverse constraints on learning facilities such as desks and chairs, library books, mathematics boards, laboratory equipment and so on especially in the rural areas. At this time also, budgetary allocation to education had dwindled significantly.
Many parents did not like the idea of their wards being given less individual attention by teachers compared to the private schools which had fewer students. Also due to poor salaries of teachers who in most cases were not paid regularly, teachers started skipping classes to chase their personal businesses while others would do petty trading in class.
Today, public schools (secondary and primary) are a shadow of what they used to be. Students in public schools used to beat their chests and come out tops at national competitions. Parents and other family members used to wait anxiously for the results of national common entrance exams of their wards into federal government colleges which are now called unity schools. These days many parents don’t seem to be interested in public schools. It has become so bad that the rule is that public officers, including even commissioners of education across the country, public school teachers and principals have their wards in private schools.
Mrs. Bertha Abumere an Educationist has warned that the gulf between the rich and the poor in the society will continue to widen if drastic measures are not taken to improve the overall educational infrastructure of the public schools in terms of learning facilities, building and renovation of classroom blocks, employing capable teachers, improved libraries and relevance of teaching curriculum etc. This is especially in the light of the continuous isolation of the children of the rich who attend private schools from that of the poor who are only able to afford public schools.
In the US for example, 80% of students who graduate yearly from High Schools which is the equivalent of secondary schools in Nigeria attend public schools irrespective of class or social status of their parents. This has gone a long way to produce leaders who are more attuned to the needs of the society.
It is not no longer news anymore that government alone cannot give the qualitative and quantitative education that we aspire in this nation, hence, stakeholders in the sector, non-governmental organisations and companies should rise up to the challenge and fulfil their social responsibilities.
Social responsibility is an ethical or ideological theory that business should not function amorally but instead should contribute to the welfare of their communities and an entity whether it is a government, corporation, organization or individual has a big responsibility to society at large.
Corporations like The MTN Foundation has an education portfolio which seeks to improve the standard of education from primary up to the tertiary institutions. Under this portfolio is the Learning Facilities Supply Project which was created to support schools with critical needs.
Besides, as part of FrieslandCampina WAMCO corporate social responsibility initiative to boost students education horizon and afford them the benefits that are associated with information technology know-how in the this 21st century recently provided a fully equipped Information Communication Technology (ICT) centre for Ogba Junior Grammar School.
The oil companies in the niger delta have also contributed their part in this regard as classrooms are built in various schools. Nonetheless, more of such are being expected from companies, organisations and individuals so as to revamps the decadence in the sector.