In those days, public schools- schools solely established, owned and funded by the government – were a delight to behold in terms of the state-of-the-art infrastructure enormously complemented by serene environment, which was student friendly. It was a pride and fulfilling to send children to public schools to obtain sound moral and academic training. Products from public schools walked tall and shoulder high in the society; they actually gave a good account of themselves; they spoke polish English; and could defend their educational credentials, even in the dream. High academic standards and discipline were maintained; and students were highly disciplined. Where boarding facilities were provided, boarders were known to be cultured and highly intelligent students because their lifestyles were absolutely regulated. They were well fed for a healthy mind, they say, exists in the sound body. Parents who did not have their wards in public schools greatly envied those who did. It was not difficult to identify students from boarding schools. Teachers were seriously committed to their duties. The morale was high. Teachers’ entitlements and salaries were promptly paid. It was uncommon to hear about industrial actions, which have become a culture in our public schools these days.
The rot currently bastardizing the education sector was not known. Government had accorded top priority to educational development in the country.What periods are we writing about when the goings was good in public schools? Comparatively, can we say the present-day public schools have lived up to the expectation? Why do we prefer private schools to public schools these days? Why do the haves and even the haves-not send their wards to private universities and secondary schools? Why do we have more Nigerians in Ghana and South Africa for their university education? How many children of our senators, governors, state assembly members, House of Representatives, ministers, commissioners, etc are in public schools, or are enjoying the free education policy, as introduced in Akwa Ibom and other States?Frankly speaking, if academic standards had not been eroded in public schools, we would have seen no need to patronize private schools, even when we are paying through our noses.
Today, a public school is sited in almost every community. Good idea. Primary and secondary education is brought to the door steps of the people. Most children can access education, particularly in Akwa Ibom and other States where primary and secondary education is free. In times past, most parents could not send their wards to schools because schools were not nearby. Only the wealthy could afford education for their children. But what education are our children accessing or enjoying in public schools? Regrettably, there has been a sharp decline in the academic values; standards have woefully fallen; public schools are living in the past glory.No wonder most products from public schools these days speak correct English. They hardly write a sentence without avoidable grammatical errors. They are scared of job interviews, yet they complain bitterly about unemployment. And those who find their ways into work places cannot write meaningful memos. They are afraid of promotion interviews, yet they want to be promoted. They cannot serve as secretaries of committees or panel because their weaknesses would be exposed. Imagine a prospective job seeker saying, ‘I study Public Administrator’ in response to an interview question! No thanks to the unbridled examination malpractices mercilessly rocking our school system, throwing up half-baked school leavers and graduates! The school system is fast collapsing and government does not appear to bother about the decay in the system. Teachers’ entitlements and salaries are unduly delayed. And those who have retired have committed a crime as they endlessly languish in grinding poverty.
They are dying by installment as their retirement benefits are not forthcoming, even after endless rigorous screening exercises. Those in the system are cumbrously tasked and poorly rewarded. The morale is low. We should not expect anything good from them.Yes, the hope lies in private schools. They are established to bridge the yawning gap in our school system. And serious-minded proprietors are not driven by profit motive, but their schools are well equipped and are providing qualitative education to those who can afford it. Private schools, indeed, are effectively addressing the apparent decay and rot which have characterized public schools. This is a barefaced truth we cannot conveniently trample upon if we are sincere with ourselves. Hence, the alluring and attraction of private schools. They are flooded by those who can afford it in spite of exorbitant charges. After all, good things do not come cheaply and cheap things are not good. Therefore, there are not centers for examination malpractices as the feeble-minded have been made to believe. Therefore, the moves by the Ministry of Education to shut down ill-equipped private schools, if there exist, are ill-timed and should be jettisoned. Rather, private schools need support and encouragement of government to operate and provide services not obtainable in public schools.