Ministry of Education should do much more than visiting and seeing how many teachers came to school, facilities on ground should be checked

…Prof Selina Ekpo

Meeting with Professor Selina Sunday Ekpo, a professor of Early Childhood and special education in the faculty of Education, University of Uyo.

Professor Ekpo is a renowned teacher who has worked at all levels of education from primary school level to University, has spent more than a score of her lifetime on education to advance her expertise knowledge in education practice is indeed a compendium of knowledge even as a trainer of teachers in the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

In this exclusive interview with the publisher of The Evangelist newspaper, Solomon OKPO educates on a number of issues attributed to a decayed standard of education in Nigeria.

Prof, What is the right age for a child to start school?

The right age for school is six years. But we have what we call pre-school.
Those educational levels before school year. That’s creche, nursery, pre-primary before getting to the primary.
So, the right age for primary is six years.

There is a very unhealthy development now, children at a very tender age are already in school.
What can you say about that?

Actually, pre-primary starts at age three. That’s nursery one, nursery two, sometimes transition or nursery three before getting into primary one at age six.

But some people don’t follow it, there is this eagerness by mothers for their children to start secondary school at age nine or ten, normally it should be 11 or 12, but they do all they can to push the children.

Pushing these children very early, does it have effect on them in the future?

Yes, we have what we call ages, and stages of development. If you push a child pass a certain age, and the stage of what he or she should do into another age, what the child has left behind stays behind, and waits for fulfillment.

Learning takes maturity. You mature from this grade into another grade, when you pass that, you have achieved for that age and enter another age.
But if you do not achieve what should have been achieved at that level, that vacuum still remains.

What about the issue of assignment, They load the children with so much assignments, even on holidays. What is your position on this?

What they do is not what is required of them. If you look very well, you will see that the founders of those schools are not educationist.
All of these schools around with almost a thousand students without a playground? When it is time for children to play, they ask them to lie on their table and sleep. Founder 1, 2, 3, up to 10 are not educationist.

They are either political leaders, policemen, nurses, and all other administrators in different fields.
So, they can do anything in other to have the money they were looking for.

They collect so much money, and give the children very little. They bring people from all walks of life, not necessarily trained ones. They continue to pack home work for them.

As an educationist, what is your advice to ministry of education towards these things?

Money should not be prioritized at the expense of giving quality education to children. Running a school is one of the philanthropic things you should do, for the love of the children.

Normally the benefit of being a good teacher, or good school owner is much because when these children remember you in the future, they can do a lot for you, and even the school entirely.

The big thing is to be perfect at what you do, then the reward will come. The reward of the teacher is not only in heaven, we have it here.

Are you saying that education is not a business venture rather a social service, and not for profit?

It is a social service, is not for profit per say. There is no body that will make food, and not eat from it. You will never lack what to eat or what you should have. Remember all the buildings are yours, so you are rich. So, wait for it to blow out. It is not a business venture.

From your professional advice, these assignments they load children with, who should be the right person to do it. The parents or the children?

Mostly, the children do not understand their notes, but they just keep writing.
The teachers concentrate on just copying with making good explanations.
I think ministry of education should do much more than visiting, and seeing how many teachers came to school, what facilities they have and how they use the facilities should be checked.

Because this is the foundational level, so once the child is able to finish this level well, he is good to go. Some secondary school students do not even know how to write their names. The teachers help them to do, which is not right.

Considering the fact that we have public primary and secondary schools with qualified teachers employed by the government, how will you marry this situation with the fact that all these private schools do not have qualified teachers. So how do you marry the two?

I can’t marry the two. My candid opinion will be that public schools are better, because from primary one and two, they can read, and write well.

The owners of the schools may not have proper orientation, so how will he be able to give to those who are working for him or her.

To say the least, public schools are better than private schools, because public schools have trained teachers.
Now, someone’s two rooms can even become a school. It is not the best, but I’m not condemning anyone’s business, but if you love your child, send them to where they are trained teachers.

Public schools now are seen as schools for house helps. What in your opinion do you think is why people are not sending their children there?

Self-ego, false ego is their problem. All these big men went to public schools, like Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio. Even now, public primary schools are still functioning well.

Buhari recently announced during this year’s world’s teacher’s day, that incentives will be given to students studying education in the higher institution. Do you think that will grow the standard of education in Nigeria?

Yes, like every other thing, like agriculture. Are we not passing through scarcity of food? Whatever they are doing is just to open people’s ear, but is good, because is going to encourage a few people.

Others that will want to come, they are coming. This my department we use to have seven children in a year, even four, but now we have more, and you can see that. So, it’s an encouragement.

What is your advice to the Federal or state Government on repositioning of the educational sector in Nigeria. And what are the role of teachers, parents and other stakeholders towards achieving this?

I think on the air waves like radio, television, and even the newspapers, they are doing their best, but it does not reach down. They are planning all over the state, the federal, but the middle men do not allow it to reach down. So, I won’t fault anybody.

They aired these things on different broadcast media platforms, and they write in the newspapers too, and everywhere, but the problem is implementation.

Implementation of all that the Government is planning, and budgeting money for, even though the money is grossly inadequate.
If they had used it at least to start doing something, even though it will stop half way.

So, my advice is that the federal ministry, state ministry, should do much more than just going for inspection. They should make sure that whatever is meant for the education sector comes down.

When they start working, they will see that the money they were given is not enough, but if they divide it mid-way, they will not know whether it was enough or not, but because it has solved their problems, they are okay.

 The Evangelist Newspaper

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