NIGERIA: Forgotten aspects of education (1)

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With unemployment rates on the rise, even for university graduates, experts have had to question the turn which the education sector is taking. As mainstream education grapples with survival amidst many challenges, there are other aspects of education where the average Nigerian student does not stand a chance when compared to his counterparts in the global village; aspects of education that seem to be forgotten.

Slow to boot in Computer education
Nigerian students seem to be languishing in the dust behind the moving train of the 21st Century as a result of poor computer education in many secondary schools across the country. Investigations carried out by Vanguard Learning revealed that many schools in Nigeria lack up-to-date computer technology and that many of those that have computers have little or no access to electricity.

Also, some Nigerian students have only been in a computer classroom when their school is privileged to have a qualified corps member for one year of national youth service. Remi Ademiju, is one of such Corps members who teaches computer science in a government school in Southern Nigeria.

He said; “I teach basic knowledge about the computer. We are supposed to have practical classes, but we can’t because there is hardly any electricity here, and the school doesn’t have a generator. The students barely visit the computer lab. So we just teach them theory. Out of a class of about 60 people, only one person claims to have worked on a computer before, on his uncle’s laptop.”

Professor Olu Jegede, a lecturer at the Institute of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University said; “Illiteracy is now beyond being able to read and write. Once computer education is out of it, that person is an illiterate. Very few of the schools that have access to computers also have access to the internet and that is a very big problem.”

Professor Jegede and his colleague, Josiah Abiodun Owolabi in 2003 did a research on Education in Nigerian Secondary Schools: Gaps between Policy and Practice, where they compared the National Computer Policy (1988) with existing school practice at that time. The now obsolete policy, whose objectives were to “Bring about a computer literate society in Nigeria by the mid-1990s, and enable present school children to appreciate and use the computer in various aspects of life and in future employment” obviously passed on with the tenure of the policymakers as a 2010 report showed that 90 per cent of primary school teachers are not computer literate.

Educating children with special needs
According to the 2006 national census, there were 3,253,169 persons with disability in Nigeria, with nearly 39 per cent of school age. Experts expect the number to increase. The number of seemingly normal children who are out of school runs into millions, how much more those who are blind, deaf, lame or autistic?

Ikenna Okpala is a Law graduate from the University of Lagos who was born blind. He is one of the lucky few who scaled through the system.   “When I was in secondary school, many teachers were oblivious of the fact that there were blind students in the class. A teacher would just enter the class and start copying a note on the board, and clean off as soon as he was done. I had to develop another approach. After classes, I would get people to read their notes out loud to me. I would write them out, and translate to Braille. Many of my teachers didn’t even know they had such a student in their class until it was time for test, and I would bring out my type writer.”

Dr. Kunle Adebiyi, a lecturer at the Department of Special Education, Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo, said; “Because of lack of sensitization, many are not really aware that such people can get good education. We need to sensitize the general public to communicate with such people.”

If sensitization concerning learning for the physically disabled child leaves much to be desired, then awareness about unseen disabilities such as autism, are nearly non-existent. This is the view of Oke Martins, the brain behind Austism Associates, a non-governmental organisation that helps solve Autism Spectrum Disorder and related developmental disabilities in Nigeria.

According to him; “There are some conditions that are well known and to some extent, have available provisions, but there are some other conditions that aren’t well known and have scant provisions. The big challenge with unseen disabilities such as autism is that they have no physical features, and as such, millions of Nigerians living with it are undiagnosed, and there is barely provision for them.

“Autism is now regarded as a global epidemic, reports say that it is the third most common disability in the world,” Martins said, “but as I am talking to you now, there isn’t a single centre for learning for people with autism that is government- owned. Even those that are set up by individuals are in cities such as Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt,” he added.

Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja early last year, the Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyat Rufa’i said that six zonal autism centres would be established for early detection and treatment of autism as part of Federal Government’s effort to address issues of autism. She also said her ministry has been training the regular classroom teachers on “methods and techniques of handling children with autism in an inclusive classroom setting.”

No medal in Sports Education
Hon. Daniel Ighali is a Nigerian-born wrestler who won the Olympic gold medal for Canada in 1998. When asked to comment on sports education in Nigeria, Ighali replied: “Is there really such a thing as sports education in Nigeria? If there is, I didn’t know about it.

“The age group set up is not here at all. In Canada for example, sports recruits are chosen from primary six at the age of 12. But training begins much younger than that, my son is six, and he has already started training. In sports like gymnastics, swimming and golf, techniques are taught from ages 2 – 3.”

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