UNIVERSAL BASIC EDUCATION AS PANACEA FOR QUALITATIVE AND SUSTAINABLE CHANGE IN NIGERIAN EDUCATION
Salihi Ibrahim Ateequ
Department of English, Federal College of Education, Yola
This paper attempts to portray the role of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) as a panacea for qualitative and sustainable progress in education in Nigeria. Basic education is for the eradication of illiteracy and poverty because education is the key to development. It is not for nothing that the slogan of UBE is: ‘Education for all is the responsibility of all’. It calls for the professional development of teachers to close the gap between the demand and supply for qualified teachers. The paper believes that UBE has a role to play in bridging this gap. It states the reasons why there is poor participation of the rural community in school administration and calls for community participation in the day-to-day affairs of schools. One of the problems facing qualitative and sustainable education is lack of proper inspection and supervision. The paper therefore calls for effective supervision of schools to yield positive results. Teaching of Nigerian languages at pre-primary and junior secondary levels of education is not handled with the seriousness it deserves, and is also politicized. Problems militating against the use of Nigerian languages as medium of instruction as well as subjects are highlighted. The paper suggests strong sensitization and advocacy programs to alert people on the dangers of neglecting Nigerian languages. Recommendations are given at the end, based on the issues raised in the paper.
Keywords: Universal, education, supervision, teachers.
Basic education is referred to the education embracing all forms of education given to the individual from the six-year primary school to the end of the three-year junior secondary school at the formal level. In the non-formal, it includes basic functional literacy and post-literacy programmes planned for children, youths and adults out of school. The ultimate goal of basic education is to eradicate illiteracy within shortest possible time. Achieving quality of basic education according to the Federal Government is the responsibility of all and sundry from the Federal Government to the Non-Governmental Organizations and the media down to individuals. Access to early childhood and pre-primary education is provided to enhance literacy growth. However, some major constraints to the delivery of basic education are recognized as poor teacher preparation, irregular in-service training and retraining of teaching and non-teaching personnel, poor funding, and inadequate community mobilization and advocacy for basic education (Madumere-Obike and Oluwuo, 2001).
The National Policy on Education (NPE, 2004) presents basic education as an ambitious educational program aimed to eradicate illiteracy, ignorance and poverty. It is in the real sense directed to stimulate and accelerate national development, political consciousness and national integration. The Federal Government and people of Nigeria tend to achieve this aim by providing free universal basic education for every Nigerian child of school-going age, out-of-school children, adolescents, and adults (age 15 and above), with quest for relevance and quality of numeracy, literacy, communication and life skills, as well as ethical, moral and civic values.
There is no gain-saying the fact that education is the major key to development, hence teacher development and quality of basic education are inseparable. The greater burden of quality of basic education in Nigeria rests on the Federal Government. In this regard, government ensures minimum standards in teacher preparation, and curriculum and instructional delivery. However, the number of teachers, especially qualified ones, is still low (Adegoke, 1998).
The need for professional development of teachers
To achieve worthwhile development of teachers of basic education in Nigeria, serving teachers should be involved in seminars, workshops and in-service programmes on management techniques, methodology of teaching, instructional materials, computer literacy, to mention a few. Beside this, professional teachers’ associations, such as Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), should be mobilized in helping to develop teachers and to regulate standard and practice.
A critical examination of the state of professional teacher development in Nigeria vis-à-vis teacher human power needs for the UBE, as well as an assessment of the existing approach for developing teachers call for quick and serious intervention. The educational development of any nation is a major link to the development of the other sectors of the economy. The demand for teachers has outpaced the supply of teachers, especially since the introduction of the UBE in 1999. Apart from this, the teachers in the system have been discovered inadequate, professional and career wise. Hence, there should be solutions toward retraining the old ones for better effectiveness, and recruiting new qualified ones. A research source (Jegede, 2001) indicates that since the formal approval of the UBE programme in 1999, there are over 17 million pupils in over 41,000 schools with 420,000 teachers. This gives a ratio of 1teacher to 45 pupils as at 2001. The situation is almost double now. How this inadequacy can be corrected should be the main concern of all.
It is believed that Nigerian primary school teacher’s professional and academic life will improve in both quantity and quality if more attention is paid to teacher supply and retention (Abdullahi and Ateequ, 2001). Moreover, in early 2003 the Federal Government of Nigeria established the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) - a distance learning institution which, it is hoped, will facilitate the development of the teachers expected.
The need for effective rural community participation in primary school administration
The goals of primary education cannot be meaningfully achieved without the cooperation of rural communities and the schools established in those areas. Unfortunately, most rural communities in Nigeria are apathetic to primary school administration and remain withdrawn in various school activities. This low involvement of rural communities in primary school administration, as Obanya (2001) observes, could be attributed to:
- Low literacy level of rural dwellers who often fail to appreciate the value of education and progress of their children in schools.
- Poor socio-economic status of rural dwellers which makes them shy away from financial obligations of the school including Parents/Teachers Association (PTA) fund levies.
- Poor public relations of primary school authorities, especially the head teachers who distance themselves from rural dwellers.
- Lack of will on the part of classroom teachers to occasionally visit parents to discuss the academic problems of their children.
Various strategies could be used by head teachers and their staff to motivate the rural communities to participate in school programs. Ogundele (1999) suggests that school heads and their staff can engage in public relations workshops to sensitize the rural communities to participate in school activities. They can also encourage teachers to pay occasional visits to parents to discuss their children’s academic problems. Beside these, schools can help in the organization of cultural and sporting activities, social meetings, adult education programs, and other activities of communal importance. The school can be opened up to the rural community by, for instance, allowing it to use its physical facilities such as sporting ground, school vans, school clinic, water supply, etc. These strategies will galvanize rural communities into participating meaningfully and maximally in various primary school activities.
Need for effective inspection and supervision
Supervision must be accorded a high priority in the school system if qualitative education is desired. Through inspection and supervision, the inspectors and supervisors will assist in improving classroom instruction because teachers will then be made more competent and efficient, parents satisfied with the performance of their children, pupils motivated to work harder and achieve the required standard, all of which will culminate in the achievement of desired goals of education. Tuoyo (1999), describes supervision as the constant and continuous monitoring of the performance of school staff, noting merits and demerits and using befitting and amicable techniques to ameliorate the flaws while still improving on the merits, thereby increasing the standard of schools and achieving educational goals. Inspection, on the other hand, he further says, is the critical examination of a school as a place of learning through which necessary and relevant advice may be given for the improvement of the school. Such advice is usually registered as a report. It is, however, normal to refer to supervision and inspection at the same time as they usually go hand-in-hand.
Teaching and learning of Nigerian languages at pre-primary and junior primary school levels of education
Sometimes politics affects the use of Nigerian languages and their teaching and learning at pre-tertiary levels of education. The language provisions of the National Policy on Education (2004) state that the medium of instruction at pre-primary and lower primary classes should be the mother tongue, with transition to English in upper primary classes. Nigerian languages are to be taught as subjects in all primary and secondary classes. The policy also provides that Government would develop the orthography of many more Nigerian languages and also produce textbooks in Nigerian languages. This laudable initiative of government has not met with much success due to politicization of the program. Evidence of this politicization, Chijioke (2001) correctly maintains, is the wording of the language policy which says that the languages would be taught in schools ‘subject to the availability of teachers’. This gave a loophole which schools rely on not to teach Nigerian languages. Another political issue is the non-inclusion of other languages as subjects to be taught in the schools, which is causing resentment and unfavourable attitudes towards the three major languages – Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, that are taught in schools.
The National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN) which was set up in 1991 for the main purpose of producing teachers of Nigerian languages has not been able to successfully carry out this function. The lack of political will on the part of the government to see to the success of Nigerian languages in schools is also manifested in the non-monitoring of the schools to see how teachers are implementing the Nigerian languages provision of the NPE. Government should therefore re-visit the language provisions of the NPE in more positive and unambiguous terms.
Problems of using Nigerian languages as a medium under the UBE scheme
Commenting on research conducted between 1997 and 1999 in Plateau, Niger, Kano, Rivers, Delta, Imo and Lagos states, Ohiri-Aniche (2002a) reveals that most states, especially multilingual and minority ones, are not implementing the indigenous languages provisions of the National Policy on Education. The NPE requires pre-primary and lower primary classes to be taught in the child’s mother-tongue while English takes over as medium in upper primary classes. All primary and secondary schools are also required to teach indigenous languages as subjects. According to the researcher, the following problems militate against the use of Nigerian languages as medium and their teaching in schools:
- Multilingual states find it difficult to cater for numerous languages, some of which have only few speakers.
- In urban areas, classes often contain a mixture of children from different ethno-linguist groups.
- Apart from the three main languages – Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba – most of the 400 Nigerian languages lack orthographies, textbooks, approved curriculum and trained teachers.
- There is generally a negative attitude to indigenous languages by parents, pupils, students and school authorities alike.
- Indigenous languages suffer poor funding and lack overall support from the Government.
Ohiri-Aniche (2002b), recommends strong sensitization and advocacy programs with parents, communities and states and local governments to alert them on the disastrous socio-political and educational consequences of neglect of indigenous languages. In the UBE scheme, a vibrant bilingual education policy involving use of English and the mother tongue as media in all primary and later junior secondary classes should be pursued.
Emenanjo (1998), advocates for a review of the language policy whereby the mother tongue of the immediate community should be extended for the whole of primary education, alone or in conjunction with English. All the escape clauses now contained in the policy should be expunged, to compel the implementation of the language provisions. With regard to curriculum and material design, he reveals that the National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN) has produced a prototype curriculum in Nigerian Languages, which could be easily adapted for particular language curriculums. He also called upon government to address the gross shortage of teachers of both Nigerian Languages and English without whom the effective implementation of the language policy cannot be realized.
Emenanjo and Bleambo (1999) examine the fate of minority languages in the educational system and report that the fate of these languages primarily is in the hands of their speakers. The speakers should take steps not only to use their language themselves, but also to ensure that their children are adequately exposed to it and retain it as their home language to pass on to the next generation. They affirm that there are sound educational, cultural and emotional arguments for studying and teaching minority languages in schools. Rather than trying to suppress, ignore or frustrate the use of small languages, it were far better to accept them and look for creative possibilities to cater for them in the school system.
Universal Basic Education (UBE), in the long run, can go a long way in proving education for all, thereby eradicating illiteracy in the country and assuring quality education at the basic education level. The future of minority languages in Nigerian for the purposes of teaching and learning is very gloomy. Nigerians are therefore called upon to take bold steps not only to use their languages themselves, but also to ensure that their children are adequately exposed to them and retain them as their home language to pass on to the next generation.
To control the decline in knowledge and use of indigenous languages, bilingual education in English and indigenous languages as a way of promoting English while also ensuring the survival of indigenous languages is advocated. Politics affects the use of Nigerian languages and their teaching and learning at pre-tertiary levels of education which should not be the case. There is a recall on the language provisions of the National Policy on Education (2004), which state that the medium of instruction at pre-primary and lower primary classes should be the mother tongue, with transition to English in upper primary classes. This provision is flaunted by schools, especially private schools.
The goals of primary education cannot be meaningfully achieved without the cooperation of rural communities and the schools established in those areas. Unfortunately, most rural communities in Nigeria are apathetic to primary school administration and they remain withdrawn from various school activities. There are reasonable educational, cultural and emotional arguments for studying and teaching indigenous languages in schools. However, rather than suppress, ignore or sideline small languages, it is better to accept them and look for possibilities of catering for them in the school system.
Based on the issues raised in the paper, the following recommendations are made:
- Government should re-word the language provisions of the National Policy on Education in more positive and unambiguous terms.
- The promotion of bilingual education in the mother tongue and English language should be vigorously encouraged.
- Government should intensify the training of Nigerian language teachers, and fund the National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN) adequately to enable them fulfill their statutory functions.
- Government should include more Nigerian languages as school subjects and constantly monitor schools to ensure they are teaching Nigerian languages as provided in the National Policy on Education.
- There should be intensive monitoring and evaluation of existing basic education models and practices.
- The Universal Basic Education Scheme (UBE) and all other stakeholders in the education enterprise, as well as the private sector such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and good spirited individuals, should be involved in maintaining and sustaining basic, qualitative education.
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