By Oluwafemi A. Ogunsiji

ESSENTIALLY, there is a connection between the school and its society; an interdependent relationship where the two entities play mutually-beneficial roles in the processes and outcomes of each other’s activities. The management of the school, its teachers and the students live in the society and their worldviews are shaped by the society.

Invariably, the school activities are hugely determined by the same worldviews acquired from the society by its management, the teachers and the students. The school, on its part, periscopes the society and designs projects through which the society can be moulded and remoulded to suitably adapt to the changes emerging in the world.

This symbiotic relationship is often referred to as ‘The Gown and The Town’ in the academic world. I will rather call it ‘The Uniform and its Community’ for the purpose of this presentation. Without exclusive classification of the four basic concepts in this discourse.

The school, the teacher, the student and the social ills of the society, all of them help to shape the understanding of this presentation. The school as the soul of formal learning must provide the basic infrastructure, adequate finance, and detailed curriculum in a conducive environment for effective learning to take place.

The teacher who regulates the valves through which learning flows to the students must be a good role model who passes reliable social values to the students and should be digitally compliant to be able to cope with the technologically driven module of modern teaching.

The students today are the metaphorical camel forced to the stream but cannot be forced to drink the water. They are averse to the conventional method of learning in the classrooms. Except learning methods are laced with musical jingles or dramatic arts, they are not aroused to learning.

They are distracted from learning by the modern technology which has extensively driven them on the routes of Internet, Google, Twitter, e-mail, and other social media that made them ‘Learners without Frontiers’. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the new technology has deeply shaped their perspectives about coping with life challenges.

Our society today grinds with mounting heaps of challenges that pushed everybody on the edges of sustainable living. And except they are properly handled and solved, it is difficult for the people in the society to achieve their potentials.

For this discourse, the ills under consideration include the following: food security (hunger), under- and unemployment, mental health challenges, drug abuse, alcohol use, bullying, academic problems, insecurity, technology dependence (phone addiction), gangsterism, prostitution, religious bigotry, suicide, depressive tendencies, inter-ethnic clashes, kidnappings, et al. Most of these social ills are not new but the dimension with which they rage across the land gives cause for concern.

Emptying the tinderbox: Nothing is critical to life than life itself. After the provision of the survival kits by nature, the next important kit to life is learning. Suffice to say that after water, air, diet and shelter, the proper building of the mind is non-negotiable. And it is here that the school, the teacher and the student come into play.

Knowledge is core to the building of the mindset, and the mindset is the essence of being; a watchtower over behaviour, outlook, way of thinking, worldview, self-esteem, feelings and mental attitude of individuals.

From this, knowledge is central to the making of the individuals who collectively form the society in accordance to the widespread worldview prevalent at a particular time. In this regard, education remains the effective tool to develop the intellect of individuals to purposefully contribute to the development of the society.

These are the noble objectives the school should set out to achieve. The huge burden of this task squarely rests on the shoulders of the teacher. The teacher should be the source of inspiration and pride to the students for them to explore the innate talents and skills wrapped up in them and translate their visions into reality for the world to behold.

The teacher should, therefore, engage in problem solving through soul searching practices that cultivate constant higher order thinking skills. The teacher should communicate clearly and accurately to promote germane academic conversation. In order to prevent the violent explosion of the social ills(tinderbox) in the society, the ‘Students Path to Critical Thinking’ should be undertaken.

These involve: •making relevant connections through deep thinking, asking clear and quality questions, and analysing and evaluating events; •synthesising diverse ideas through interpreting information by using evidence and reasoning to support thinking; •generating and evaluating options prior to making reasoned decisions to solve relevant and complex problems.

Others are: •focusing on details to derive meaning through reflective thinking that question credibility, accuracy and relevance of information and their sources; •exploring alternatives in all circumstances by examining diverse points of view and valuing and respecting the ideas of others; and •thinking independently and in concert with others and assessing consequences of actions or ideas through questioning what is read, heard or seen.

Students should be able to strike a balance between living purposeful lives and lives of addiction to technology to be able to build necessary hardwire models in their brains that will guarantee unhindered flow of ideas when the mind wanders in the universe.

Through this means, they will be able to build, in themselves, fertile minds, rich imagination and excellent interpretative skills. It is generally accepted that education is the essential pathway to a refined soul faculty.

The function of education is to train the mind to think intensely and to think critically. Intelligence plus character are the goals of true education (Albert Einstein). It is not about just learning the fact rather the training of the mind to think properly.

Everything in this discourse focuses on three major areas: In individual as the centerpiece of the society; mind building as a means of arousing the consciousness of individuals towards achieving desired goal; and detour from the familiar terrain that leads to the perilous state deserving a complete turnaround.

Ogunsiji, school administrator, trade unionist, moviepreneur, journalist and talent coach, wrote from Lagos

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