Professor Adebisi Afolayan, a retired Professor of English language and founding Professor of the Department of English language, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State in this chat with SEFIU AYANBIMPE, speaks on the rationale behind the poor performance of students in core subjects like English language and Mathematics as well as other education related issues.
As a professor of the English language, what do you think is responsible for the poor performance of students in English and Mathematics?
When I researched into the problem, I discovered that the problems are three. Firstly, today in all schools, English language is not taught. Even the books used in teaching English are not comprehensive enough. English language should be tested because there is a difference between testing English and teaching it. So, English is not taught. The second one is that the English language being used in schools is not the English language that can be useful for us and for our development.
The English language that can be used and which will develop us is English as a second language. What we have now is English as a riddle. It’s a common thing. A language is meant to express a skill and the purpose is to understand what one another means. For instance, Tea is a Chinese word and should not be called Tea as second English.
Thirdly, the English we learn is not the one we need. Education has gone wrong. What is called education is no longer learning anything. It's not how much you learn. If they say you have your degrees in Mathematics, you must have known a lot in Mathematics.The certificate most graduates carry about does not certify that they know anything. Examination is being used to get certificates in schools nowadays.
Can we say curriculum is not properly prepared or what do you think the problem is?
What is curriculum? It's the totality of the subjects you study; so the big problem is just like we do not have the right idea of what education is. We don’t really have the idea of the things we have to learn to make up for our education. We say we are doing education when we do not know what education is. Then how do we know the subjects that would constitute our curriculum? The education we are teaching is wrong. The curriculum is wrong.
How do you think we can improve the standard of education in Nigeria?
There are three things involved in improving the standard of education in Nigeria. First of all, we will properly conceive what education is. Education is the way you are brought up, the things you learn, knowledge to help, zeal to develop the knowledge and attitude to develop.
Education is not about memorizing what another person has said. Many people don’t believe that you can use Yoruba to teach Mathematics. It’s not possible for you to teach a Yoruba child Mathematics that he will use in life if you do not teach him only in Yoruba. When I went to school, we learnt everything in Yoruba language.
We are not members of the English culture but that of Yoruba culture. Most children are being forced to speak English language to the detriment of their mother tongues. Most parents are destroying their children's race through the imposition of English language. Most children don’t know the difference between the hand and arm.
What is your take on the funding of education in Nigeria?
What they mean by education is not what it means. They spend money on the buildings and chairs in schools; the participants in educational success are the learners, the teacher, the curriculum which forms the subject part of the education. The question is: what are they teaching the students and who is teaching them? I hope that Ogbeni Rauf Aregbeshola will be able to carry out his determination that basic education should now be given in Yoruba and that part should start in September, this year.
So, Mathematics will be thought in Yoruba, science in Yoruba, and others in Yoruba. What you rarely need money for is primarily health, making our children to survive in the home. If I have my own way, the money allocated for feeding of pupils in government schools in the state would be diverted to making the children fit for learning because the food served is only to give them the energy not to sleep but to be able to work in the classroom.
The real development of their brain is what they eat at home before coming to school. Don’t think I am saying the food they eat in school is not important to them. The money should be given to the nursing mothers who are having babies from age zero to five so that they will not run away from home and be looking for where they would drop their children. If you can train children from age zero to five, you would have endowed them with much capacity.
What is your advice to the federal government on education in Nigeria?
I wish the federal government would listen to me. True education is an ideological position. Free education is an ideological position. When you want to equip your child to learn, it’s an ideological position. To be paying a nursing mother is an ideological position.
Do you think that building a nomadic school by the federal government is a good decision?
The president last year wept on NTA about the state of our education but the next thing he would do to correct the problem of education in Nigeria was to establish nine new universities when the universities we have are not well funded. They do not have good and qualified teachers. The curriculum is poor and they don’t have money to build the curriculum.
The nomadic education is a national problem. The government should be able to organize education and not only organizing it, delivering and evaluating it properly is why UNESCO says they should use 26% of the fund into education. Leaving the leprosy and killing the ring worm is the situation on ground.