Exam malpractice is also fast assuming the status of an industry. That is why it is difficult to kill it in our schools. Laziness, desperation on the part of student is a factor. Teachers who make money from the practice are fuelling it. Schools that want ‘good results’ by all means are a culprit. At the same time, some parents get so desperate that they collude with their children to commit malpractice. Three years ago, a man was caught in Abuja writing UTME for his child! What do all of these tell us? Our children are largely what we are or what we make them to be.
Some years ago too, a group of secondary school pupils were caught in the street gang-raping some girls in Lagos. You know why? They were said to be celebrating the completion of their secondary education. There have been others who outright rape fellow pupils, while media reports also indicate that some young boys did rape older women, including the aged. Are we surprised? We shouldn’t be. Rape is rife in our society. Teachers, imams, pastors, fathers are being caught in rape sagas. Indeed, the rate at which some evil men are being caught raping their daughters is alarming, so that you begin to ask: what is actually happening?
Since the students catch some of these vices on the Internet and social media, we should, as a matter of policy, integrate digital knowledge into our curriculum. The reason is that we will be able to give them grounding and focus on the positive values of the Internet. They need to know how to research on subjects that will elevate them intellectually, morally and creatively. But if we just leave them to blindly jump into the ocean of the confounding diverse materials online, they are likely to get addicted to negativity. Likewise, parents should take interest in what their children surf, what they watch online; the music they listen to and films they watch. It is hardly possible to completely keep your phone away from your children just as you cannot help buying it for them when the time is ripe for it. But we should find ways of knowing what they do with the device. They need our counselling, they need our guide.
Too much fraud is perpetrated online. The Yahoo Yahoo fraud ‘business’ has become an albatross on the neck of our country, and younger students are also being indoctrinated by more advanced ones. Every right thinking person should, as a matter of fact, be scared by the growing waves of Yahoo Yahoo. Each time suspects are arrested in groups – groups that can be up to six, eight, 10 or more – I get stunned, embarrassed and scared. And I believe all of us should.
If we have to face the fact, some of the crises we face in our schools cannot be completely rooted out. But they can be managed or turned into positive trends. One of such is that associated with the entertainment industry revolution. Since we agree that it is gulping much of the time of many students, we should try to balance it with training on other vital areas the students may not have been paying attention to. Among such is entrepreneurial and financial education. This will provide a kind of balance in their orientation, to the extent that some of them can also begin to see the business side of the music, football or comedy they are getting addicted to. We need to reinforce the curriculum with contents relating to history, culture, indigenous languages and religious studies. The more we try to run away from these values, the more we land in the mud of immorality. Our cultures and our language are, for instance, like our shadows. Yet, we keep trying to divorce them. When all the chips are down, these are what will keep the students in check.
There was a time that when you wanted to do something wrong, even as a child, you would just remember a Yoruba proverb and you would drop the idea. Or you could want to do it in a way but eventually do it in another way upon remembering the wisdom in particular proverb. As Yoruba proverbs helped in this regard, so did those of Hausa, Igbo, Efik and many other ethnic groups. Today, our children do not have the benefit of exposure to such proverbs – and some other vital aspects of our cultures and languages. This is as a result of the fact that whether at home or school, they do not have the opportunity to acquire the values. We should acknowledge this as a problem and take steps to break the barriers. Just consider what will happen to our culture and language in the next 20, 30 and 50 years when those we have refused to pass the legacy onto will become the fathers of their own children!
Schools must fashion out new ways to teach our history, cultures and languages. Also, schools and other relevant groups should introduce projects and programmes that will awaken students’ interests in our heritage. It is good for continuity and it is good for taming the wrong values.
Schools should strengthen discipline and adopt a strong punishment mechanism for vices. As we pursue the long-term and persuasive methods, we should also evoke the rules that can bring sanity in schools. I do not want to bring up the controversial issue of using canes on pupils or students. It was the order of the day in our own time but it is no more encouraged. What is important is that the school, the teacher, should fashion out a way to correct, reprimand and punish the errant student in a way that will be corrective and effective.
To achieve any turnaround, teachers’ commitment is crucial. As a matter of fact, it takes a disciplined teacher to produce a disciplined student. A good teacher should be a master of his or her subject. But that is not enough. He should also be a true master in the moral class. Therefore, to refine our school system, we must first refine our teachers. Well, they must refine themselves. And that is why we employ capable teachers who worth their salt in Daystar schools.
There is a need for a revolution in our educational system, but it is the teachers that can really lead the drive. Government must chart the course; stakeholders should come in; but, ultimately, it is teachers, alongside the management and non-academic staff, that can really turn things round. Perhaps, the biggest role we need to pay as government and society is to provide an enabling environment for them to function. A major part of this is the need to pay teachers well, if possible, radically well, so that they can effect the radical change. In a country like Finland, teachers are among the highest paid workers in the league of health workers and the police. Germany also rates the services of its teachers the highest, and pays them accordingly. What level do we keep our own teachers on the salary scale? Is it not possible to change things dramatically knowing the radical growth we are bound to experience if we do so?
As I conclude, I want to return to the proverbial first that shall be the last. That is the nagging question of corruption. We must appreciate the reality that immorality is spreading among our youths primarily because corruption is shattering the fabrics of our society. There is too much stealing – official and non-official – in our country. We have tolerated corruption so much that it has penetrated everywhere and is sinking the ship of the country. If we do not rise against it because of ourselves, we must do so because of our children. After what we had considered as gains in the fight against corruption in recent years, the latest Transparency International rating says Nigeria declined from 144 to 148 of the 180 corrupt countries considered. Such rating alone cannot be the yardstick, yet we cannot ignore it. The bitter truth is that a society cannot remain this corrupt and expect its children to be saints and angels. Our children are watching us, our children are studying us and they know everything going on. Put differently, we are destroying their innocence and turning their visions and minds into a den of vices by doing what we do not want them to do. Let us resolve to jettison corruption if we want our children to exude the positive values we are missing in school.Balogun O. A (Mrs.)The Head of school,Daystar schools, Akinogun.