Poor learning outcomes in Nigerian public schools - By Yusuf Muhammad Damisah

The focus of this symposium is on the Primary School which is the foundation for all learning. The problem of the quality of government schools is so poor that it is often not worth parents investments and opportunity costs to send their children to school. An NGO in Zaria assessed the reading skills of 1000 graduates of rural Kaduna schools and found that 70% could not read a single word.

My first daughter graduated from primary school and cant read a word. I wont send my second daughter, said one mother.

This is a sentiment that came up often in the exploratory ethnographic research. Of the 250 recent primary school graduates tested by the NGO, 74% were unable to read a single Hausa word upon program entrance. Even fewer were able to do so in English.

Some of the reason I have been able to identify for Poor Learning Outcomes in Public Schools in especially in Northern Nigeria include the following; (1) Teachers Competence/ and Qualifications (2) Teachers Training (3) Negligence (4) Home Studying at home (5) Study Materials/Instructional Materials (6) Large Population/Overcrowded classrooms and an insufficient number of teachers.

Teachers Competence/and Qualifications
Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufaithe governor of Kaduna State, generated a lot of controversy when he sacked 22,000. The debate ragged on for a long time but the truth is that results of a 2009 survey that found thatin five northern Nigerian statesless than 5% of all teachers were found to be competent. The Lack of adequately qualified and competent teachers is a major hindrance to the acquisition of proper learning students in schools. The appointments of most teachers is mostly not based on merit. “More than 60% of teachers cases employment is based on political influence patronage. There are instances where teachers are employed that cant even construct a single sentence in English but because they have very influential political God-fathers, no one can say a word about it

The issue of Competency is not just centred around a problem due to the employment of unqualified teachers, but also affects other factors such as the promotion of officers to positions of responsibilities without proper regards to merit.

You see the School Support Officer is very sensitive important for position in school improvement, but often they are not appointed on the basis of their qualifications and experience when they come to appoint Support Officers mostly, it is not done on merit., said one official. Even if a teacher or administrator is competent, there is the problem of staffs that have attained certain level of competence, there is the problem of frequent transfers.

I was moved from School Services to Quality Assurance and now back to School. I had received all the trainings as an SSO for the first position but was just dormant in Quality Assurance the second A teacher I interacted with posits.

But was the sacking of those 22,000 teachers the solution?
Some have argued that the sacked teachers should have been made to undergo re-training. This issue of Teachers Competence is indeed a pervading challenge to the ability of students to learn how to Read and Write as is captured in the laments of a parent who is also Chairman of an SBMC; . When you visit most of these public primary schools, this school inclusive, you will realize that most of the teachers are unqualified, he said. Some cant spell; others cant speak English, while others dont come to class at all. These pupils primarily depend on what the teacher teaches and what they get out of the lesson sticks. They cant tell if they are learning something incorrect when something is wrong and this is a very serious issue. They see their teachers as little Gods and trust what is being taught. Now, what will be the fate of these pupils when the teachers themselves do not know what they are teaching?

Teachers Training
Inconsistency in teacher development training is another issue highlighted as a major barrier to the effective teaching. Once they are employed, teachers rarely receive additional training on how to teach literacy. Another obstacle noted by some respondents is perceived to be hampering the effectiveness of these teachers professional development trainings by these Non-Governmental Organizations is the politicization of these training. Teachers are only sent on the basis of who they know, because of who they know and therefore most of the teachers dont concentrate to acquire the knowledge during the ESSPIN program trainings all they keep their minds on is the training allowances they are expecting to get after the training program.

A very interesting point which is always raised is the quality of the teachers produced by the Colleges of Education, which now presently have the mandate of training teachers, as against opposed to the Teachers Training Colleges, which also previously trained teachers. The Teachers Training Colleges are secondary schools where teachers are groomed to be professionals in their fields. Colleges of Education, (these are tertiary institutions) does not offer nearly the amount of hands-on training. Once you interact with a grade two teacher, the difference is clear. He explains further that The teachers who passed through the training college, are called grade two teachers, these teachers have undergone adequate trainings instruction on the on methodologies appropriate to in teaching different subjects, how to organize a classroom, and how to ensure that each learner is learning.
A teacher is paid 30k to teach over 100students in a class. Classes with 100 to sometimes over 200 students seem to be the norm. A class is supposed to have only about 30 to 35 pupils but now some schools will have more than 400 pupils in a classroom. The system now is One teacher to over 200 pupils which is not suitable for learning I have visited a school with more than 300 pupils and there is no teacher! for that class and they are expected to be part of the system a classroom is supposed to contain only about 30 to 35 pupils but now some schools will have more than 400 pupils in a classroom. The teacher-students ratio is thereby 1000 times over the expected ideal. This leads to an environment that is not conducive for both teaching and learning.

If the teacher cannot read and write correctly, how can he teach the pupils?
So there is certainly no way a teacher can handle these large population of student. We need more teachers to be employed. Even if the Salary remains 30,000 naira. We have the Nigerian Teachers Institute in Kaduna and the Institute of Education at ABU. Such institutions could partner with the Government in manpower development.

Northern Nigeria has one of the worlds highest rates of maternal mortality and early marriage and lowest rates of female literacy. The median age of marriage for girls in rural north-western Nigeria is 15.2 and 45% of adolescents aged 15-19 have begun childbearing. Early childbearing has dire implications for girls health. Adolescent girls are up to five times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties. Adolescents are also more likely to suffer from prolonged or obstructed labour as well as obstetric fistula. Infants of adolescent mothers are 60% more likely to die compared to infants born to young women.

Girls education may be one of the most leveraged and cost-effective strategies to address the RMNCH crisis in the north. Six years or more of girls schooling is strongly associated with delayed marriage, improved use of prenatal care and delivery services, and increased contraceptive use. If all girls in Sub-Saharan Africa were to complete primary school 113,400 maternal deaths would be prevented each year. If all were to complete secondary school the number of child marriages would fall by 64%. The resulting increase of age at marriage could directly reduce 15% to 20% of future population growth in the region. Girls secondary education also helps women realize their fundamental human rights. These benefits yield intergenerational dividends with educated women far more likely to educate their own daughters.

A report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon emphasizes that investing in girls secondary education reduces poverty, stimulates economic growth, is cost-effective, and helps women and children realize their fundamental human rights. The House of Commons International Development Committee has described education in Northern Nigeria as being a state of multi-dimensional crisis characterized by the lowest overall enrolment, retention, and pass rates and the greatest secondary school gender disparities in the nation. The ICAI report discussed previously, describes primary and junior secondary education in Northern Nigeria as one of the most difficult basic education environments in the world, facing a combination of deteriorating infrastructure, substandard teacher performance and almost no predictability or transparency in State funding.

About the Author
Yusuf Muhammad Damisah studied Literature in English at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He taught Computer Science at Demonstration Secondary School, ABU, Zaria which was his alma mater for 5 years before leaving for NGO world as a researcher and he is currently a qualitative data analyst at center for girl-education.

Edited by adamutarome@compasstimes.com.ng

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