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Education Secretary, Ado Ekiti Local Government Education Authority

The narrative of public schools as images of mockery can be revamped in Nigeria, education stakeholders have said. The Educational Secretary at the Ado Ekiti Local Government Education Authority, Mr. Oluwatoyin Omotoso, and an educational consultant from the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Mr. Ajide Daniel, both shares ways they think the narrative could be reversed.

Public schools in Nigeria have been deemed inefficient, underfunded, and portrayed to be for the poor. On the other hand, many private schools have sprung up to supplement for and ensure better learning. Unlike public schools run by the government, private schools are run by individuals, and some of them have been taking the glory of sound education across the country.

However, Mr. Omotoso believes the availability of qualified teachers in public schools still gives them an edge over private schools. Citing Ekiti, he said the minimum qualification for teachers in public schools is the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE).

“We have degree holders now in primary and secondary schools, which is not so evident in private schools,” Omotoso said. “WAEC holders teach in private schools and this is something that can never happen in public schools.”

He added that public schools in the state are not seen as business ventures, but rather as learning environments to impart knowledge. This is unlike private schools whose owners run a business hence the huge investment.

“Look at Harding Model College, Deji Fasuan Model College, Ayo Fasanmi Model College and others. Look at the structure, is there any student that wouldn’t want to learn there? Harding Model College has 36 blocks of classrooms and 50 conducive toilets. What else would serve as a hindrance to learning in a public school?”

He noted that there might have been a preference for private schools at some point. This could be due to the government at the time and the perception that public schools are meant for the poor, Omotosho said. But that is changing now, he added. He claimed that Ekiti has seen an influx of pupils and students across its 101 public primary and 20 secondary schools.

Aside from recruiting qualified hands and improving infrastructure, he mentioned other ways public schools could be better. They include teachers being trained on a regular basis and given instructional materials yearly. The introduction of school feeding could help too, and teachers being paid promptly.

For Mr. Daniel, who said private schools started emerging in the 70s, said they were meant to be a solace, as structures for public schools were almost non-existent back then.

“Private schools then were established by standard graduates from public schools, who saw the need to complement the effort of the government in depopulating the crowd in public schools,” he said. “However, in 2000, people started going into the business of starting a school since there were no jobs for graduates anymore. From there, substandard private schools emerged. WAEC failures and all were employed to teach the children back then. But they end up cheating instead of teaching them.”

Daniel maintained that requiring a minimum NCE qualification for public school teachers, and the teaching aid and methodology provided by the government have helped. He thinks public schools being better lies in the hands of teachers.

“If public school teachers can stop being lackadaisical on their own part, public schools would be top-notch,” he said. “Public school teachers carry all the students along because they have been trained as seasoned educators to know that intellectual capacity of students are different. This is not the case in private schools. Private schools will only focus on a student who appears to be good and breed that student to market the school.”

He concluded that there is nothing wrong with public schools across Nigeria. Relevant stakeholders only need to make education a priority.

Educational Consultant (EKSU) Mr Ajide Daniel

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