Congratulations to Our ‘Graduates’! By Safiya I. Dantiye

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HUGE congratulations to our teeming ‘graduates’ that graduated recently with fanfares. And I so believe with distinctions.

This is not referring to university graduates by any chance, who are at home as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has entered the seventh month of its strike due to protracted impasse with the federal government over the latter keeping to agreements over the years.

“In this regard, though there would always the haves and the have-nots, but it is incumbent on the government to provide opportunity for the have-nots as well.”

Perhaps some students that would have since graduated feel a twinge of envy at the graduation ceremony of these small, cute and adorable children barely out of their diapers so to speak, decked in academic gowns, graduating from Nursery School!

Talking of a starting point, but that is by the way.

Private schools have for some time introduced graduation ceremony for Nursery School pupils. Some people criticised it, but from all indications, it has come to stay and many are catching up.

It is amusing, interesting and a big deal to parents in particular; it however draws attention to the pathetic condition of our public schools.

Recently, Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, was reported to have urged teachers in the state to enroll their children in public schools because of low enrollment in them. This was stated in a statement released by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Richard Olatunde, noting that the governor said so to increase enrollment and further encourage the government to embark on more upgrades of public schools.

However, the Ondo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Chairman, Victor Olabimtan forbade public school teachers from putting their children in private schools in order to boost public schools’ patronage. He said this in a statement after his meeting with head teachers.

This has caused a backlash that made the governor to refute it and said there was no such policy that teachers must enroll their wards in public schools.

Some say it is not the fault of the teachers that government does not provide facilities. Some say he should have made the order a blanket one for all civil servants, not to single out teachers, as the low standard may not be due to poor teaching but facilities.

It is why some people would do all they could to put their children in private schools, even if they don’t amount to any standard rather than put them in public schools. May be, as a status symbol.

There is a funny story. Some years ago, in the suburb of Abuja, some children attended private schools and they had friends in public schools. But every day they came home with homework, it was those in public schools that helped them to do it. The father got angry, saying he saw no sense in paying school fees through his nose and it was those in public schools that were more brilliant than them. He withdrew them and put them in the public school.

Therefore, attending a private school may not necessarily translate to brilliance, but the pupils are exposed to facilities that may not be available in public schools, such as computers, beautiful desks and chairs, recreational facilities like swings, not overcrowded classrooms, type of uniforms and some extracurricular activities such as excursion and so on.

As it is, the private schools are being innovative and forward-looking. Few years ago, my harried neighbours were running up and down to get attires for their children’s Career Day – lab coats for doctors, lawyers’ dress, pilots’, soldiers’ and so on.

“I wish people would demand such from politicians looking for their votes and hold them to that subsequently because, we have had enough campaigns on ‘free education’ without desks and chairs in many schools, to just take it at face value.”

They said the schools sold the attires but they were very expensive, so they would go to the market and find a tailor who specialised in those types of dresses to sew for them. And the children were small not up to seven years.

In this regard, though there would always the haves and the have-nots, but it is incumbent on the government to provide opportunity for the have-nots as well.

In spite of the much-touted rhetoric of free basic education, many primary schools are dilapidated, with windows without frames, chipped blackboards, floors with potholes, fallen ceilings. And the most scandalous of all as far as I am concerned, pupils sitting on the floor because there are no desks and chairs. So, the children write in that uncomfortable position, who knows, they may develop back pain at their tender age. Where they are overcrowded, they may have little room to write.

The government should live up to its responsibility by at least providing desks and chairs, some of these are not even the polished good ones, they are crudely made. But at least they are better than sitting on the floor and it would boost the morale of the pupils that they have a desk and a chair.

I wish people would demand such from politicians looking for their votes and hold them to that subsequently because, we have had enough campaigns on ‘free education’ without desks and chairs in many schools, to just take it at face value.

Therefore, even with good teachers eager to impart knowledge, they can only do so according to the circumstances. They cannot give what is not made available to them by the government.

While we celebrate our little graduates, we should not forget the less privileged ones.

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