“A substandard education will always result in a substandard nation.” ― Aubrey Priest
If teachers, teaching, learners, learning, core text books and decent classrooms come into your mind when the words school and education come into perspective; then you are not alone. You are like most of the people who think that having undergone different political dispensations; and having a different number of leaders who are good at political rhetoric then we should be able to provide all our primary schools with at least the basic necessities needed for teaching and learning.
Theoretically, in the twenty first century, the concept of school embraces the aforementioned elements on top of other necessities like desks and chairs for every child, notebooks, chalks and chalkboards and other essential teaching and learning resources. Furthermore, the accepted wisdom is that there is supposed to be personal attention of each learner from the teachers. And mostly learning is supposed to take place at all levels of education with the whole ministry responsible for such in place.
Practically the above postulation is mostly a wishful thinking of most rural school going children and dropouts. Mostly what takes place is contrary to what many expect. To most of the learners in the typical rural areas things like text books, notebooks, desks and chairs and four walls of a classroom are but a luxury they long to see as part of their learning process.
Even to most teachers of rural primary schools, teaching is tough as they have to do without the basic teaching and learning resources such as textbooks. A teacher’s desk is even a thing that will distract the attention of many learners as they have never seen one. A teacher’s house in the rural setting is mostly a nightmare which leaks when it is raining and falls short of basic security standards.
We cannot just sit and pretend that all is rosy for the rural child’s education. We are not looking for very sophisticated education like their counterpart in designated schools. What we are looking for is at least a basic education with all basic teaching and learning facilities and resources available and not the sub standard education taking place currently. We seem to have rationalized the substandard education under a tree where most of the rural child’s early years of education are taking place. Not that it is out of school authorities’ choice; but they are forced by circumstances and their eagerness to see the child learn in the absence of enough basic education facilities. Not that the child cannot learn under a tree, but education under the tree is proving to be chaotic to qualify for quality foundational education which is being advocated—if not just a lip service. Is this the kind of education that will help build our nation?
Under the trees learners come properly bathed and clean but they go home dirty with the dust as if they have been to a certain manual work in the mines. Learning under a tree is like being exposed to a double edged sword. When it rains learning process is disturbed big time and the child is forced to go home without any learning at all because there is no roof and walls to shield them from the harsh weather conditions. When the oxcart is passing by, all the learning is distracted because the walls which could shield them from the petty distractions are invisible. When the winds are harsh learning is halted for the child to seek refuge. Education is a farce under a tree.
Under the tree, the number of learners is too huge to be handled and taught by a single teacher who mostly end their days very tired and dejected. Where the classrooms are available, they are in dilapidated form and that learners are bundled like bags of bonya posing which is detrimental to their health. Most learners do not have a privilege to know a text book because education authorities think that text books can wait but not their hefty allowances. While this is the case, authorities seems not to care at all. Under the tree, the salary delayed teacher would rather spend time gossiping with their friends as to when their salary will be deposited in their bank accounts and leave the child helpless without learning at all.
Even though the children arrive under this tree hoping they will learn how to read and write, and some basic numeracy skills; the day mostly ends only learning folklore or a song because that is the easy thing one can learn in a big group. Learners progresses into another level of an under the tree class even without internalizing the simple concepts of reading and adding figures which makes them to reach even standard four without knowing how to write their names. This is not by design but by default as the teacher cannot pay personal attention to teach each learner personally how to read or write because the learners are too many for personal attention.
Instead the teaching is in form of singing without caring whether the concepts are sinking in the learners or not. While the teacher student ratio is high, and is contributing to miseducating the rural child, other teachers who could alleviate this problem are idle because the authorities do not care whether they are of use or not. If this is not substandard education then what can we call it?
Many people will think this learning environment is normal. It should be noted that it is under this tree that the child’s foundation is distracted and distorted because the basic tenets of meaningful education are violated left right and center due to poor teaching and learning environment. If we do nothing, this will have a profound effect on us all. This poor environment has been rationalized by those in authority to make it normal. But do we really have to let this happening in the twenty first century?
- McDonald is an educator. Feedback: [email protected]
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