In this maddening period where schools’ proprietors are charging fees that are out of the blue, when governments at all tiers fail to provide quality education; where teachers in public schools take children for ransom with incessant and reckless strikes as top public officers prefer exorbitant private and foreign alternatives for their wards, there are few individuals in Nigeria, who in the spirit of patriotism and philanthropy are funding education for the benefits of our children’s future.
Indeed we are in an era where schools in Nigeria are judged not on its quality of the teachers or on any performance index but on how costly the fees are. It is disheartening that some embassies and foreigners establish expensive schools here and recruit the service of local teachers are doing better than government owned and some other private schools. In fact such schools are promoted by large patronage they receive from top public functionaries and by extension public treasury.
In some of the highly exorbitant private schools, students are treated to monarchial luxury: air-conditioned rooms, meals of their choice, servants for their laundry, in fact the only service they are not provided is to be cleaned up in the toilet. On the other hand, some public schools are no more than slums with dilapidated infrastructures and demoralized teachers who enslave their students to run errands for their domestic and personal needs during school hours.
The dichotomy between the rich and poor is further widen which ugly impressions that children in expensive schools are special breeds while those in free or affordable schools are seen as social outcasts.
In between these two extreme, are not-for-profit schools that are funded by private individuals for the benefit of other children in accessing better education in conducive environments. This writer was in Kano recently during the teachers’ national strike where public and private schools were forced to close down. One of very few schools that were not invaded by the striking teachers in Kano was school founded and funded by the retired military intelligence officer, General Haliru Akilu who was once Director of the Nigeria Military Intelligence for several years. The founder thwarted the threat of the teachers by mobilizing adequate security for the protection of the students. He succeeded and the school remained in session till the strike was called off. General Haliru Akilu would rather expend his wealth to education of students from different backgrounds where parents only make token monetary commitments to the school.
With other interesting stories built around the boarding school for boys, like an inquisitive reporter, this writer took a trip to the school, “Alhaji Akilu Comprehensive Islamic Secondary School” situated in Madobi Local Government Council about 37 kilometre from the ancient city of Kano. What he discovers further reinforced the belief that not all private schools are truly for commercial and profit making.
Located in a very serene environment, the school consisting of well-structured blocks of storey buildings in high-fenced wall accommodates a mosque, classrooms, hostels, dinning hall, administrative offices, laboratories and library. Adjacent to the main building is a big football pitch where on that this writer watched two team of the school playing a match. Apart from having strong football team players, there are other sporting facilities for table tennis, badminton and volley ball. For learning through social interactions, there are also social clubs that include Literary and Debating Society, Young Farmers Club, Muslim Students and Quranic Recitation Society.
Because of its limited boarding facilities, admission process could be described as though and strictly on excellence performance through comprehensive entrance examination and interviews to test the candidates’ communicative ability.
One would have assumed that with Islam in the name of the school only Arabic and Islamic would be taught. But to the surprise of this visitor, the school has Science and Arts Classes which a student or his guardian can choose. In the Arts Class for instance, subjects being offered include English Language, Mathematics, Biology, Geography, Government, economics, Agricultural Science, Hausa Language, Computer Science and Islamic Studies. The Science Class has Physics and Chemistry in places of Government and Economics.
Probably to be in sync with the orientation of the proprietor’s military discipline, the school has strict daily routine that must be observed by all the students between their waking up time of 5.30am to bed check and light out at 10pm. The routines include prayers interval, sanitation, meal, lessons, siesta, and games. Everyday they are fully occupied with academic works and social activities.
One just has to observe the obedient of students to their teachers to realize that the school is truly established to imbibe discipline, inculcate sound moral character and instill spirit of brotherhood with the fear of God in daily dealings of students. It was therefore not surprising that since it establishment in 1997, the school was never reported in negatives vices like fighting, bullying, theft or vandalisation of property just as social vices like smoking and use of distasteful language are strictly prohibited.
To ensure that the school does not divert from its mission, members of the Board are respected educationists in Nigeria which include scholars and officials of Ministry of Education. It also has other committees to oversee matters bordering on education, discipline, teachers and students welfare in addition to effective Parent Teacher Association.
While we must acknowledge the contributions of wealthy and influential individuals in our society who are intervening in restoring battered education system through philanthropy, special foundations and scholarships for benefit of our children, the government can still revamp the sector by compelling its ministers, commissioners, judicial officers, legislators and others to send their children to public schools or in alternative make commitments to schools in their localities.
I wonder if any of our leaders today went through expensive schools to reach the peak of their ambitions as they seem not to bother on the present dilemma of average Nigerians and their children desirous of good education.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in New Nigerian September 23, Leadership September 14, 2008