Education Series I

“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves”

                                                                                                                                   –            James Allen


In secondary school I was taught that there were two types of education – informal and formal education. Informal education starts at home and continues in the society. Formal education takes place in the organized setting of a school. Both types of education complement each other. Without informal education, socialization may be awkward. One without formal education on the other hand may not have his horizons broadened especially when one is not an avid reader.

I started my formal education in Mivara Nursery and Primary School, Amukoko. After primary one, my father got me out of the school for Nigerian Navy Nursery and primary school, Mobil Road (then Malu Road). Someone had convinced him that a school run by the military was better than a private school. I got into primary 2C in my new school. Primary two for example had classes A to E if I recall correctly. I do not know of today but then it seemed pupils in A were there because they were considered to be the most brilliant academic performers followed by the pupils in B and so on. One thing I remember properly was that my academic performance dwindled. I took between first and third positions in Mivara at the end of each term. In Navy Primary School I took the 4th position at the end of my first term in primary 2C, 6th the second term, and by the time I was in primary four, my position was hovering between 26th and 30th position in a class of about 40. I was not much of a reader at Mivara just as I was not at Navy. So I would not say that not reading was the reason for my academic regression.

Miss James was my class teacher in primary three. After a class work in which I got a good score, I put down my correction which Miss James wrote on the blackboard. I cancelled a few times in my correction and when I judged that my work had become rough, I completely tore out that page. Unfortunately that was the page that had the score of my classwork on it. I rewrote the correction and took it to my class teacher for marking when she noticed that my score was gone. She gave me a good flogging. I knew I would never do such again. Other pupils got “sized up” too by her when they acted in an unacceptable manner. Mr. No Nonsense was also good at flogging. Pupils did not know his name and called him that. I do not know how that name came about. You misbehave, you get whipped and you do not forget such whipping in a hurry when it was Mr. No Nonsense. Pupils dreaded him but do not know his position. He was not a class teacher. After he was promoted in the Navy, he went from one class to another shaking every pupil smiling. It was the first time I saw him smile. It was also the last.

In spite of my regressing academic performance, I moved from one class to another. I sat for common entrance examination in primary 6. I failed the exam. My younger sister who completed her primary education at Mivara in primary 5 passed and went on to Command Secondary School, Ipaja. However at the venue of my common entrance exam, I observed that some invigilators were handing out answers on sheets to some candidates. The recipients of the service were “special candidates”. Their parents paid so that answers may be given them in the course of the exam. I was surprised it happened and more surprised today that it happened at that early stage. Education in Nigeria did not go down suddenly. The decay started years ago with a good number of parents and teachers as collaborators.

After spending few months at home having left primary school, I was enrolled into Mivara Secondary school, Tedi Town. The school began operation that session and that made us pioneers. I joined some few weeks to exam. I copied notes and tried to catch up but took the 18th position in a class of about 30 after the first term. Mrs. Agnes Nwaudu, my principal, was encouraging in her remark on my assessment report. She remarked that if I put in more effort, I would do better the next term. The next term commenced and my father bought text books for me. Due to financial constraint, he had stopped his formal education at primary 6 after which he went to learn a trade. He was brilliant in academics. I have no doubt that if the circumstance had favoured his continuation, he would have excelled academically. He was eager to give us the education he considered himself not to have. I gradually started reading after my father bought text books for me. At the end of the term, I came first in the class. My father did not hide his regret at taking me away from Mivara primary school to Nigerian Navy school. He believed I would not have gone backwards academically if he had not changed my school.

The price of coming first dawned on me. I loved it but I had this burden of not wanting to relinquish the position. It would not be pleasant for me to take the second position the next term. Throughout the rest of my schooling in Mivara, I lost the first position three times – I think.

A year after completing secondary schooling, I gained admission to study Computer Engineering at Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife. The registration was rigorous. It took me more than a week. We had to move from one department to another. After completing registration as a student of the institution, one had to begin registering the courses to be offered at their respective departments. We waited on long queues. Sometimes after waiting for hours and getting very close to one’s turn, the staff of the department responsible for registering students would close for the day. It was frustrating. The use of Information Technology for this purpose had not been adopted. When I finished my registration, I breathed a sigh of relief. I faced academic work.

This write-up continues in the next post.

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