Schools, then and now

School

Change we are told is the only thing that is permanent in life. It is not contestable. We are experiencing changes in our lives every second as well as in the other occurrences around us. Some of the changes are conscious while some are brought about by circumstances we cannot control. Everything in life including institutions undergoes changes. Changes can add or subtract values.
And so today we can recount so many changes that have taken place in our educational system especially as a beneficiary. This essay is drawn from my regular habits of rewinding to look at the past with a view to ascertain if we have made progress or retrogressed. In truth I don’t like living in the past because they are gone and remain irretrievable but I cannot forget to draw from some of the experiences especially when they can help to close the gap of the present. In many situations we can recount where our past has been better than where we are today.
My discourse is on the schools, the schools we attended then and now. Everyone is at liberty to do this and compare notes. Very often I hear people bemoan the current experiences especially our educational offerings and their outcome. While some hold the views that we have advanced tremendously in education standard with very strong justifications, others believe that we are experiencing lower standards and there are also pointers to that. The argument can be unending and quite an interesting debate.
There are some of the activities then those young students or pupils were exposed then that were critical to their character formation and this largely I believe accounted for much of the disciplined behaviours experienced then than now. Between the 70’s and up to the early 90’s public schools held sway and few of the private schools were in existence. With the decline in the quality of education arising from poor quality staffing and less funding of public schools private schools mushroomed.
One of the features that characterized public schools then was boarding education which helped the students shape their characters at that formative age through bonding and friendship building. Students staying together learned the character traits of sharing their cultural values and building relationships most of which survived the school period. Discipline is inculcated; something is given and taken from each other.
I am not an educationist and cannot speak authoritatively on certain issues especially on current developments which may have influenced certain policy decisions. One area of activity which is missing in today’s schools and which was more pronounced then and still remains very important in the overall development of the child is sports. The public schools then and till today had sports fields where various types of sporting activities can hold. Sports too help the students to imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship, working hard to win and adjusting to win when one loses. It provided physical exercise which aided development of the physical body and mind.
It is different ball games for most schools especially for the private ones who have no facilities for sports. Most of the schools we find today are located in structures that have no sufficient space for activities that promote education. Some are squeezed in the noisiest places in town where there is no place in sports making you wonder if games are no longer relevant in life. Physical and health education is not a subject that can only be learnt in theory or has it been scrapped.
If it is still relevant it means the pupils are denied the opportunity of well-rounded education. Following closely but associated with boarding education is the cross country races and early morning sports which the students were exposed to. The cross country races which stretches pupils covering some kilometres of roads was indeed an endurance games which stretched the minds of the pupils to undertake some challenging tasks.
Back in the days while some of us who love sports look forward to it some lousy ones among us would like to dodge it but disciplinary actions eventually got them to adjust and tap into its value. Whether or not we like it or believe in it, it had its value. As I rewind back and looking at the present I am yet to observe anything that is a substitute to this. What is the response of educationists to this?
Inter-house sports were a regular feature among schools. The competitive spirit generated the desire to want to win and be decorated with certificate and trophies. It whets ones appetite to want to fight to win for your house. Those who have excelled in sports were usually honoured, enjoyed special privileges and respected by all. They bring honours not just to themselves but to the school. Inter-house sports these days can be found only among few private schools and not frequent.
School farms were another regular feature in our school system. It aided the study of agriculture. Even in the primary schools back then we had ridges allocated to each. Each tended his crops and ensured it had the best yield by providing manures that supported its growth. It was quite exciting to show case your products at the end of the harvest. We practiced everything we were taught as agriculture students in our farms. I must confess that the love I have for agriculture today was developed when I was growing up.
I am convinced that many young ones would be influenced as well if they are exposed to such activities. I am wondering at the manner practical agriculture is done today in our schools. Is it possible that these things are no longer relevant today or have we developed alternatives given the advancements in science and technology?
Do we still remember the school debates and quiz competitions among schools. These are programs that challenged the intellectual efforts of the pupils and the teachers in their desire to bring honours to their parents, schools as worthy ambassadors. Schools got rated and became the popular choice when their performances in school certificate exam, school quiz, debates, sports, etc are taken into account.
It was a regular program back then for the Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) to host quiz competitions on air and it attracted wide listenership. It is sad that these days we hardly hear of any schools quiz competition. We cannot emphasise its importance and relevance in improving the academic performance of our kids. When students are encouraged in this area and they get focused it takes them away from crime and widens their horizon.
Today the introduction of science and technology has improved the quality of life. The curricular has been revised to accommodate current developments experienced in our world as at present. Many of us only heard of computer but never experienced it. In my first year of higher education we were taught Data Processing as a course but we never saw any computer and had the knowledge of it in our imagination as demonstrated by the lecturer.
Our kids are learning of computer right from the primary school. But the debate has continued to rage on the quality of educational offerings. Some claim it is nothing to write home about while many think otherwise. The quality of teachers we have in our schools these days is a far cry from those days. It was not for nothing that Gov El-Rufai of Kaduna State fired over 20,000 teachers where he discovered that cannot answer primary 4 questions. That situation that he confronted is in every state.
The moral decay in our schools then is a child’s play to the frightening experience we are confronted with at present. There may be no end to this issue. We may rest it at this point to continue later. Your views are also welcome.

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