I went to my children’s school the day it reopened after the pandemic and was surprised to see how quiet the classes were. I looked into the classrooms as I headed to the Headmistress office and couldn’t help but laugh at what I saw: the children were seriously trying to copy down what was on the board into the notebooks. It’s heartbreaking as I think of it now. But then, the amount of concentration I saw in those pupils clicked something off my brain: they have forgotten how to write.
I later approached my 7-year old son’s teacher and inquired of how the students were performing. She hissed, shook her head and said, “You won’t believe it if I tell you most of them have forgotten how to write A B C D to Z.” And this is Primary 2.
This young lady’s encounter is also faced by many teachers across the country; for those that have resumed anyway. Many students and pupils have forgotten what they were taught in school before the pandemic. Some are even beginning to readjust to the school environment. In fact, both teachers and their students/pupils are working hard to shake off the effect of the pandemic on education.
But then, the pandemic wasn’t the cause of this problem; it only created an opportunity for us to see it. Our education system has always had issues and that is why students struggle with their academics in this country. Academic activities are always made to look like war, our classrooms are given the face of a battle ground, and the students are made to believe that they must win those battles. We no longer send our children to school in order to pick up knowledge about the things in the environment; we send them to school to compete with their peers. For that, the only things they do there are to cram whatever the teacher said, pour them out on exam scripts, pick up good grades, and then forget everything that was taught. This cycle repeats itself the following term and the term after that and so it continues.
Today, teachers are paying for the mistakes committed by everyone: teachers, parents, pupils and the government. The teachers have their own share of the blame because they rush through their works in order to cover up their schemes. For that, they devise improper and outdated teaching methods that will instil sentences into the students and not knowledge. Hence, when these students forget the sentences, the underlying knowledge fizzles out with them.
We as parents have also contributed to this problem. We want our two-year old children in pre-nursery to start reading comprehension passages and writing two-paged compositions. If a school authority decides to take it easy with them so that they will learn at their pace, we either tell them to hurry up or we will withdraw our children to miracle-working schools, where teachers have mastered the act of mechanical teaching and learning. Hope we’re enjoying that now.
The government that packs up a lot of topics and subjects for children to study also has their share in the blame. How many times have their inspectoral bodies gone round to supervise how these children are taught? The Ministry of Education and Nigerian Educational Research and Development Centre (NERDC) should consider reducing the number of topics pupils in Primary 1 to 3 do in every subject. Five topics in a subject per term, as against ten or more that is obtainable now, is enough for these children. That way, teachers can spread a topic to two or three weeks and take their time to make sure that the students understood and assimilated what they learnt.
As for we parents, let’s concentrate on teaching our children how to improve on themselves and not how to compete with their classmates. Most of the great men and women in history were not the best in their classes; some of them were even marked off by their teachers. But look at them today, history remembers and will continue to remember them. Let your child learn to be a winner and not a competitor.
And then for teachers and school owners, I think it’s time we changed our teaching methods. Enough with teaching without aid; enough with asking students/pupils to keep repeating what you said until they cram it; enough with spending time to teach on making the students copy voluminous notes so that it will look as if you were very industrious. We all are paying the price of past mistakes; it’s time to make a change.