There is food for thought about the short audio clip of Professor Idris Bugaje, a former lecturer in the University of Malaya, Malaysia, in the 90s. He extols the Malaysian Education policy that bars public servants from sending their children to private schools.
The policy makes it mandatory for all public servants, from the Prime Minister to Ministers down to all public servants in the country to enrol their children in public schools. " If you want to send your child to a private school, you resign from the public sector," Professor Bugaje said in the clip.
In Malaysia, a sister developing country in Asia, Professor Bugaje reiterated, "public institutions are better than private institutions, which is the same thing in Turkey where lecturers in public universities earn more than teachers in private universities."
In an article published on the website of World Economic Forum ( weforum.org ) on September 10, 2018, titled "10 reasons Finland's education system is the best in the world, the author says, the Finnish school system considers a happy, harmonious and healthy student and learning environment as the key to successful education.
A report in the Sunday Times edition of 24th September, 2019, states that Finland outlawed fee paying in schools. The country has only 80 private schools, mainly faith-based, serving about 3% of the student population. The Finnish law bars these independent schools from charging fees and also makes it mandatory to admit all pupils on the same non-selective basis as public establishments. Interestingly, the schools are state subsidized; the main reason they function effectively and efficiently. The system technically eliminates the vanity and self-conceit which is common to children of the rich in our country.
In Nigeria today, as it was in Finland years back, the school system is so concerned with increasing test scores and comprehension in math and science, relegating what makes up a happy, harmonious and healthy student and learning environment to the background. Unlike what happens in Nigeria, the Finnish system makes the school environment in Finland a more equitable place for all classes of people in the country.
The quality of education in Finland is the product of patriotism and sacrifices by the government and Finnish educators over the years. In the same vein, Nigeria made many reforms in the educational sector that have impacted on pupils and students in basic, Senior Secondary and tertiary levels.
Therefore, it is important for Nigeria to borrow a leaf from the Finnish system. Our educators and governments should therefore focus on making these basics a priority: Education should be an instrument to balance out social inequality. Importantly, all students should receive free school meals, have easy access to health care, psychological counseling and Individualized guidance. In a nutshell, beginning with the individual in a collective environment of equality is Finland’s way. That should be the way Nigeria should go about it too.
Honorable Sergius Ogun, a member of the House, like most of us, might have been disillusioned by the appalling condition in the system, the reason he sponsored the bill titled, " A Bill for an Act to Regulate International Studies for Wards and Children of Nigerian Public Officers, to Strengthen Indigenous Institutions, Provide Efficient Educational Services for National Development, and Related Matters.''
Unfortunately, it was the second time within four years that the lawmakers would reject this bill. Imagine what would be the opinion of Nigerians if they had subjected the bill to a referendum. Undoubtedly, Nigerians would have supported the Honourable Sergius' bill, believe me you.
This confirms the fears that it is difficult or virtually impossible for Nigeria to adapt and implement similar popular reforms we see in Malaysia, Finland and other countries.
If our country were a better country, the families of our political elite would lead by example. Their children would get a quality education at home and graduate from our public universities. I, like many other Nigerians, believe that public officers should be subjected to the utility of the public institutions which they build and maintain. Late head of state, General Sani Abacha had led by example. Late Ibrahim, Muhammed, Zainab and Abba Abacha all graduated from university of Maiduguri, a public university in Borno State. Who among our leaders and government functionaries have their sons and daughters in public schools in Nigeria today?
Saleh Bature wrote in this piece from NDIC Quarters, Limpopo Street Maitama Abuja. He is reachable at [email protected]