Towards Improving the Quality of Primary/ Secondary Education Delivery in the FCT
By Ifeanyi Okereke
The month of September usually mark the beginning of another school calendar year in Nigeria, mostly for Nursery, primary and Secondary Schools.
The period is characterized by so many activities as parents are seen running around trying to source for money for school fees and other ancillary items needed for their wards to be in school. On the other hand, the Schools are burdened on how to improve facilities and put in place better learning environment for the students.
The Students themselves are not left out. They often try to adjust themselves from the long holiday mode of rest and relaxation to the new mode of the school resumption, which demands, agility and constant activities.
Undoubtedly, September indeed, is one of the most demanding months in the year for parents and students.
There is no gain-saying the fact, that, the ultimate reason why parents put themselves through these stresses is to ensure that they provide qualitative education for their children. Quality Education will enable them to compete favorably with people in other parts of the world and equally prepare the children to achieve their goals of becoming responsible citizens. As the Famous, America’s Civil Right Activist, Malcom X, puts it, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”.
Indeed, for most people, training of Children is an investment in Knowledge and like Benjamin Franklin says, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. Therefore, most parents stop at nothing, by investing huge resources in the education of their children, all in the bid to reap favorable rewards in future. These rewards are expected in the Children growing to become independent, able to do their home-works with little or no supervision and ultimately coming out best or tops in their exams.
However, quality education is not cheap. This assertion is given credence by the huge amount of money charged by most private schools in the Country and especially in the FCT. This has given rise to the situation where the rich and the educated, mostly have their Children, in private schools. These schools are usually, very expensive and a good number of them are in the FCT. The reason is obvious because, FCT is Nigeria’s Seat of Power and Centre of government and is supposedly, the Centre of excellence. Abuja, by its position as the seat of Government, meant that it is home to the best resources that the government can harness and it is expected to bring out the best in all areas of government services, including education.
Evidently, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has over the years invested heavily in infrastructure. It has put- in- place structures to ensure that quality and affordable education is delivered to its inhabitants. The Administration in collaboration with Development Partners have built model state of the Art school buildings. Similarly, Private individuals and religious organizations, wanting to leverage on the enormous business opportunities created by Abuja’s status as the seat of power have also invested much in building modern schools in the city and environs.
The Education Secretariat, through its subsidiaries like the Education Resource Centre (ERC), The Secondary and Primary Education Boards, is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the standardization and quality of educational materials as well as providing the required resources in terms of human and materials used in Nursery, Primary and Secondary schools in the FCT.
Despite efforts being made by the administration to ensure that Education in the FCT remains qualitative and affordable, it is yet to translate in output on the performance of students in the nationally organized Examinations in Nigeria. For instance, the FCT has at least in the past seven years maintained a distant 14th position in the states’ ranking of Students’ performance in the West African Examination Council organized examination. While States that may not have provided as much as the FCT in terms of infrastructure and human resources have consistently maintained a better performance in the same examinations.
Given the status of the FCT and the quality of resources it possess in terms of human and materials, one would expect it to be at least among the first five ranked states, if not the best. However, looking at the quality of reading/study materials being used in most FCT schools; obviously approved and recommended by the Examination Resources Centre, (ERC), one need not to be educationist to unravel the reason for the not too-good performance of FCT students in Nationally organized examinations. A look at most of the reading materials will reveal deluge of grammatical errors, punctuation errors, errors in some mathematical equations. Often, the schemes are not covered in the recommended books. Several times, most parents are compelled to help their children do their home-works because the answers cannot be found in the recommended books. Other children, resort to using the internet, not because it is easier but because the recommended books fall short of the curriculum.
Often, when the schools are presented with these obvious lapses, they accuse the Examination Resource Center and the other supervising bodies for recommending such poor-quality reading materials. The question begging for answer is how come these poorly written materials are the ones approved? Who are those approving them? Again, a focus on the activities of the ERC will reveal that some unscrupulous staff of the ERC collude with publishers to recommend and approve books of those who are ready to do their bidding. It is only books of the highest bidders that are usually recommended.
In view of this very disturbing trend, there is need for the FCT Authorities especially the Education Secretariat to improve on the supervision of the departments and Agencies under it. Monitoring and evaluation of activities and programmes of critical bodies like the ERC and other departments involved in providing educational services should be strategically done to achieve desired results.
The Current practice where poor quality materials are used should be discontinued and efforts should be geared at reviewing the current reading materials at the Nursery, Primary and Secondary levels to ensure that their standards are not only improved, but also aligned with the stipulated curricular.
In order to achieve this, all hands must be on the deck, parents, teachers, School owners/proprietors, School Administrators as well as the various FCT organs saddled with Educational Administration should unite to rescue education in the FCT, ensuring that services rendered are commensurate to the quality and status of infrastructure and human resources available in the City. Certainly, FCT deserves better than it is getting now in the States ranking. It can certainly do better.
Ifeanyi Okereke is a Public Affairs Analyst and wrote in from Abuja.