Nurturing child literacy beyond the classroom

A common saying says a student cannot be better than his teacher. Needless to say, there is need for an overhaul of the education system whether we like it or not.

In December 2017, the government of Kaduna State sacked 21,780 teachers after they failed at Math and literacy competency tests.

The issue of incompetent teachers is not common to Kaduna State alone. A recent statement by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria says that up to 300,000 of the 700,000 teachers in Nigerian schools are not qualified to teach.

The Educational Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) has also spent years scrutinizing Nigeria’s Educational system and has proffered solutions. It said there was need to develop ‘effective planning, financing and delivery systems to improve the quality of schools, teaching and Learning in Enugu, Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kwara and Lagos.

Imagine then, the quality of students that leave the primary school system each year. A common saying says a student cannot be better than his teacher.  Needless to say, there is need for an overhaul of the education system whether we like it or not.

Parental Role in a Child’s Education

While it is true that many of our teachers are responsible for grooming young minds and preparing them for society, it is important to note that education goes beyond the classroom; parents have a massive role to play. According to a BBC report a good education is ‘…a culmination of school, home tutoring, books and Television programs you’re exposed to.”

In essence, both the child who attends a public school and the one that attends a private school stand the chance of emerging into society with the same level of education as long as parents are supportive and ensure that they have an enabling environment.

A 2012 study published by, Brigham Young University North Carolina State University and the University of California-Irvine, made a similar statement. It said, ‘parental involvement is a more significant factor in a child’s academic performance than the qualities of the school itself.’ Researchers arrived at this conclusion after they evaluated data from over 10,000 US based students. They found that bonds between parents and children such as trust, open lines of communication as well as active engagement in a child’s academic life contributes largely to improving a child’s performance in school.

Television as an Educational tool.

The first episode of Sesame Street, a popular Children’s Television programme, aired in the United States in November 1969. It was initially targeted at 2 to 4 year olds but let’s admit that many an 11 year old has found it to be both educational entertaining. In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell says, that Sesame Street ‘also encouraged lower-income families to play a part in educating their children.”

The Private School Advantage

Tracey Enakeno, a Head Teacher at a Lagos based kindergarten school is passionate about teaching. After over ten years of working in the private school system she agrees that parental involvement is key. ‘I believe most parents underestimate the importance of their input to their children’s education and the overall power of partnership with schools.’ she explains. “A parent’s involvement gives the child the assurance that mommy and daddy thinks what they’re working on is important and as with every other area of their lives, they would always be there to guide them as much as they can.’

Not all parents are have the time for their kids, however. They rely on paid help as well as teachers to teach them or keep them busy after school hours. They can afford to do this for the same reasons they are able to send their children to private school: they have the resources to do so. It is a different story for Parents of pupils in government schools, unfortunately.

Limitation of The Homefront Economy

There is need to be realistic about how much time the parents and children from a low income family can dedicate towards education.

According to UNICEF, ‘Many (Nigerian) children do not attend school because their labour is needed to either help at home or to bring additional income into the family. These children who work suffer from fatigue, irregular attendance at school, lack of comprehension and motivation, improper socialisation…’

Similarly, the International Labour Organization estimates the number of working children under the age of 14 in Nigeria at 15 million. Many of these kids may be able to attend the usual 8 am to 2 pm classes but afterwards they are out contributing their own quota to their family’s income. What this means is this: it is difficult for them to participate in any of the afterschool tasks like doing their homework, reading or participating in extracurricular activities that make their more privileged counterparts better performers.

Levelling the playing field

There is need to remember that all is not lost.

Do government schools offer lower quality education? In most cases

Is there need to overhaul the educational system? Yes, please.

Is the child who attends a government school doomed, then? No he or she is not.

With active involvement that involves you sitting with your child to do homework, watching educational TV programmes, playing  games that improve their cognitive skills and social quotient he/she could be at par with his/her contemporaries at private schools. Tracey Enakeno throws more light on this, “We find more and more each day are parents dropping off their children sleeping and picking them up sleeping. I think teachers need to be appreciated more because they are a made to play both roles and in truth I think a true and passionate teacher actually doesn’t mind one bit.’

As for the quality of teachers, Aisha Biliya, a counsellor with the FCT State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), agrees that there are quack teachers within the educational system. Her recommendation for turning things around are simple:

‘Regular training for teachers, increased salaries, motivation and to cut down on the number of students in the classroom’

This Article was originally published on Pulse.


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