Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole recently paid unscheduled visits to some public schools in the state. According to reports, Oshiomhole was appalled by what he observed. There were rampant cases of absenteeism and dereliction of duty on the part of teachers. Following a performance audit later, disciplinary measures were taken against a number of school administrators and officials of the ministry of education. Oshiomhole's experience is a common feature in practically every state in the country.
School Inspectors have vanished from both classrooms and public view, and vital issues concerning school administration have disappeared from public discourse. Are teachers doing the work they are being paid to do? What do they teach? Are these teachers creative and committed to stimulating their pupils?
Also neglected were the state of classrooms including roofs that protect children and teachers from sun, rain, rodents and snakes; as well as if salaries of teachers are being paid as and when due. Low and inadequate salaries often drive teachers into hawking textiles and other consumer goods to make ends meet.
Many factors have been fingered for the perpetual neglect of the Schools' Inspectorate Division at state levels. Middle-class parents who themselves benefited from effective public schools, turned their critical focus to private schools at home and abroad where they sent their children to be taught, neglecting the creeping rot in public schools. In some states, outright theft of funds killed ability to provide vehicles and travel allowances to inspectors, thereby, crippling their abilities to visit schools.
While Oshiomhole's method once again highlighted the rot in public school management, it raises serious concerns regarding his applied solutions. Surprise visits to schools may jolt loss of discipline among sloppy staff, screaming at teachers to "SHUT UP!", if they have valid reasons for inadequacies, may only humiliate and breed frustration. There is also a danger of a relapse to a resilient culture of militarism and a legacy of humiliating teachers in front of the children to whom he is expected to impart values of respect for authority and the rule of law.
Oshiomhole's fire-brigade approach is ad hoc and not sustainable.
Coming from a tradition of educating and mobilising workers to fight for their rights, he has a most valuable opportunity to creatively inject into classrooms values of fighting for rights, solidarity for the promotion of collective welfare, and leadership for building economic development. The inculcation of such values in pupils may require changing the architecture used for building classrooms. Cuba has experimented with examination tools which require groups of students to work together on a task; are awarded a collective grade, and score each other's contribution during group tasks. In Britain, the Labour Government of Harold Wilson experimented with Essex University as a campus designed to promote revolt and creative challenge to conventions. Governor Oshiomhole has a record of challenging powerful, often entrenched, interests whose vision and actions are considered harmful to the welfare of workers.
Schools are often prisons for children at age-grades when they are most creative. Failure to provide adequate tools and material for training skills block their mental and physical creativity and turn graduation ceremonies into pushing out generations of clueless and ill-equipped products. The British Foreign Secretary recently announced a programme for recruiting secondary school leavers to use computer games to combat attacks targeting computer systems of British companies and government departments and agencies. Edo State can create IT camps for youths to be inventive and use its high quality wood resources while vigorously lobbying for a ban on imports of furniture.
The much-talked about falling standards of education in the country has its roots in poorly-funded, poorly-managed and poorly-inspected public primary and secondary schools.
The various state ministries of education should consider it a matter most urgent to revive school inspectorate divisions, manned by suitably qualified personnel and be provided with the appropriate tools and remuneration to aid their vital work.