Last year, Ekiti State attained a new pedestrian as regards her educational sector. She was declared the best performing state in the last year National Examination Council Result of that year, beating 35 other states. This feat goes a long way to reaffirm and reestablish Ekiti State as the Fountain of Knowledge. The state Government, while expressing her satisfaction, pointed out the reasons behind this unprecedented transformation. The Commissioner for education in the state, Mr. Jide Egunjobi, pointed out that the radical reforms introduced by the state was instrumental to the success recorded in the educational realm of the state. This reforms, which include the introduction of moderate tuition fee for public school students, and basically, the stoppage of free WAEC and NECO Examination Registration instigated the success story they confidently tell today.
In the words of the Commissioner for Education, Mr Jide Egunjobi, “Those who were paying for free registration in public exams without first inculcating discipline and hard work in the students did more harm than good for them. An unserious student whose parents never suffered to pay either school fees or WAEC and NECO money may not see reason in being serious and dedicated to his studies”
The reforms introduced by the state government was initially criticized and tagged an anti-people policy, this is because the people of the state were used to everything free including free education. Free universal basic education is a right for every child no doubt. Free Universal Education is one legacy Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo is known for today, he initiated the free education policy, (especially people who reaped the dividend of the country during the A-days of the country), this policy have no doubt impacted positively on the society, this initiative have given the masses the privilege to be enlightened. In fact the initiative distinguished the western Nigeria form other part of the country. This to some extent has bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in the society. Every child has the right to be educated. Even on the goals of the defunct millennium Development Goals MGDs, free universal basic education is the second goal listed and the new Sustainable Development Goals SDGs has it in a special place on its agenda, this shows the priority placed on this important human necessity.
However, it is obvious that people do not value free things; things presented on a platter of gold; free of charge is usually abuse and misused. Free education is now the militating factor against standard education in Nigeria. Free education, presently has lost its value, its initial approval by progressive mind has prompted a second thought in the mind of people who can see the signs. Students of public schools have seen the various government built Citadel of Learning as a social meeting point. They don’t have to pay to assess the institution. The value placed on educated have being eroded as a result of the fact that they spend nothing to get the service. It is known that a large number of students in Nigeria attend public. But few of them have the impact of the value of education reflecting in them, this is apparent, when you examine the WAEC/NECO result for each year especially in government owned schools. Most don’t read for exams because they know little to nothing. They, therefore, engage in examination malpractice. It is however painful that the teachers also aid this behavior for the tips they would get from illegally helping these students during these examinations.
The attitude of teacher in public school is even more condemnable, most of these teacher don’t add value to their endeavors. They are as redundant as they were last year. This reason for this nonchalant attitude is because of the common impression that the job is a government job, so, there is freedom to do what you want. They engage in malpractice to help their student during examination, especially during external exanimation. One would then wonder why they teach this student, while at the end of the day, they help the student during their exams. Parents also have their own share of the blame, most of the parents of students in Government school are not concerned about the education of their wards, they don’t dig deep to know if their wards are making progress. As long as their kids is not at home, they believe it is the duties of the teachers to take care of them. This attitude is probably due to the fact that they don’t spend much to have them in school, anyways.
Even though the stakeholder of the educational system have their portion of blame assign to them, the Government need to understand that free education has become counterproductive. The fact remains that most state Government find it hard to maintain educational facilities, most public schools are dilapidated, facilities are poorly equipped, and teachers are inadequate; All these point to the shortcomings of the government. The government basically cannot bare the weight of the sector any longer. The lack of funding for this important sector has eroded in the qualities of education in the country.
The government for instance spend a lot of the state resources on the registration of student for WAEC examination, at the end of which failure is always reaped. After this failure, student leave school with nothing, no result, no skill. For this reason they end up not being useful to the society. Free Technical Colleges should be created to take the place of free conventional collages, this would enable student learn the necessary skills for survival. Secondary school should actually be an alternative to Technical collages for those who are ready to pay the price to succeed. The amount expanded on WAEC registration by the state for mostly prospective failure should be gather to create free Technical and Vocational College. For students, teachers and Parents alike to value education in Nigerian, and to see it as a priority, a monetary value needs to be placed on secondary education.
Some States in Nigeria are presently taking actions to ensure that education is value, this is done by enforcing policies that would make students acknowledge and key into the sacrifices of the government. The Lagos State Government for instance, even though still maintaining the policy of free education, and still paying for WAEC registration, have employed measured to luck down the attention of the students. They prevent them from writing external examinations so that they can concentrate and focus on the exanimation the Government would be paying for.
It is however, to make reference to the introduction of free feeding in public schools in some state of the federation. The question is can the federal Government sustain this program, when we consider the reality of our depleting national resource. This particular discussion is for another day.