OUR DIFFERENCES

We are uniquely made, uniquely different in our needs. Some prefer the hot weather, while some rejoice in the cold. Our needs can never be the same, what matters is our ability to understand and tolerate the differences in our needs. A child’s need is quite different from that of an adult. Even amongst his peers, his needs seem varied. He may sometimes be seen as an isolate, often neglected amongst his group, he is shown the picture of not been wanted, he belongs where he does not, yet, he never chose his condition, for he is wonderfully made.

Many a times, our expectations about what a child should be able to perform makes it intolerable when he is unable to meet up to our expectations. The society expects more than what the child can offer. Tasks and expectations are usually age ranked. When a child is unable to meet up to the social demands, such child is often seen as been irrelevant, inadequate or one who is not fit for any competitive tasks. Usually, this operates in our homes, schools, workplace and even around us.

It is no news that twins share similar traits and attributes, but usually there exist a slight or noticeable variation. This makes it possible for identification. While one might be highly intellectual, the other might be intellectually retarded, one might be outspoken, the other an introvert, these situations exists. It does not mean, these individuals who possess limited or inadequate skill are not fit, it only entail that they are uniquely made.

Often times, parents and teachers are confronted with these unique being. Individuals enrolled for knowledge acquisition, a raw material brought into the industry for processing. The school in this case serves as the processing industry, with the teacher playing the role of an industrial worker. The aim of any business is usually to maximize profit. However, the school’s structure does not necessarily give room to identification of unique features amongst students, they are usually presented with placement tests, once successful, these individuals are enrolled into the school system. What happens if they are not? They are rejected, often to be neglected, they are presented with an outcast imagery.

The teacher usually is saddled with the task of completing a set of content over a period of time. He visits the classroom only to discover the child’s inability to cope with his peers.  The teacher’s opinion in these situation often times do not count, he is seen as a school’s staff, one saddled with the responsibility of content delivery. In instances where the teacher’s opinion count, how often are his presentations/ ideas utilized in the teaching and learning situation. Usually, he is seen as a toothless bulldog.

However, if a teacher should exist in such environment, he should rather see that as a great challenge on his part. The real question of his teaching should be answered. Is he on the job for the money or for qualitative life improvement? If he can answer this question accurately, the barrier in his workplace is gradually eliminated. A teacher’s happiness is in his products, his impacts on the child’s overall development and growth. He is never discouraged based on the society’s perceptions of his profession. His driving force resides on the smiling faces of his products.

He goes into the classroom, bearing in mind the variations existing amongst his students. He tries all his possible best to ensure that his teachings are well understood and utilized by all his students. These he achieves by applying all the pedagogical skills of teaching. The notion that anybody can teach no longer holds water, for this notion as for many years sent our educational system into years of ancient traditionalism.

Whichever level one operates, it is pertinent to understand that as teachers or parents, the optimum benefits exist in seeing our students/children learn and succeed. To achieve this however is a daunting but rewarding quest, a quest not easily attainable, only available to those who present themselves worthwhile. Even when the teacher becomes readily involved in the overall development of the child, the task should not be limited to the four walls of the school.

This however is the case for most unique individuals. Many a times, they are neglected even at their first point of contact, the home. They are either shouted at or abused. They often forget that even if the child loses public friendship, the home should be there to provide the child with constant re-assurance, a re-assurance that all is well. It is not as easy as it seems, but indeed, it is a situation one must learn to live and cope with, it is essential that one faces reality.

It should be added that some famous individuals whose names now become synonymous with one invention, event or the other did not find it easy growing up. Some suffered from inability to identify alphabets, some could not perform simple mathematical operations, others where socially unfit, while some operated at levels way too high for their ability levels. However, these individuals never gave up but persisted in a path whose leading ways were unsure. Today, we celebrate and recognize them.

Thus, as parents, teachers or anyone involved in the child upbringing enterprise, it is imperative to know that our attitudes affect the optimum behavior and development of the child. We can raise a socially balanced individual from an autistic individual, we can fine-tune the behaviors of an introvert, and similarly, an academically backward child can be encouraged to learn better.

Once we recognize the weakness in a particular child, it is incumbent on us to also identify and find ways that will make the child exist independently as an entity, and also recognizing the need for social interactions. Special or uniquely different children or individuals should not be laughed at, mocked or looked at as socially unfit individuals, they are inseparable, and essential key players in the overall development of any society.

For the fact that he is uniquely made does not make him unfit, misplaced or demanding too much. What he needs is a smile on your face reassuring him of hope. Your smile is the key to his existence, and his existence is vital to your existence. He may hold the key to the platform of our unknown tomorrow.

THE NEED FOR ROLE REDEFINITION IN THE EDUCATIONAL SECTOR.

It is no news that education pave way for development, enlightenment and functionality. Education has several definitions, meanings and interpretation. The essential qualities not neglected is the fact that education helps break the shackles of poverty and ignorance. An educated person is a pride to his/herself and the entire human race. However, getting an individual attain competency or perhaps being referred to as educated or put simply literate is a daunting, yet rewarding activity.

To most developing nations, the concept of education is a far cry from the ideal. People who find themselves in undeveloped areas are often characterized as the lower class of the society’s income hierarchy. What operates in this environment are structures if any, that are tagged to befit a school, which in fact may not pass for an abattoir. For those with structure, the areas lack proper transport network, suffer from dilapidating structures, and perhaps lack qualified teachers.

In most developing countries, the schools are partitioned, in a way that there exist a divide and rule system, with some appearing as governments’ favorite and others not in the good book, the former are usually well funded, equipped, located in befitting areas, well-staffed and do not suffer from quality control. They are periodically visited, taken seriously and often used as advertisement items just to score cheap popularity from unsuspecting public during the time for electioneering.

The latter, constituting the other end of the continuum lies schools that do not meet public appeal, can never be used as political advertisement, only appear in publication when the opposition needs a tool to taunt the ruling class or perhaps call it the ruling party. These relegated schools often low performing play host to the children of a vast majority of the lower class. What is noticeable in this schools when identified are readily pushed aside and tagged mere paper accusation just to dent the effort of those in charge. In most cases, the class size is usually alarming, school location not ideal, basic necessary amenities not available amongst other issues.

The school leaders and administrators in such schools are often marginalized. They, in a bid to safe their jobs keep mute and never query the government. Then we deceive the general public that education is a tool needed for liberation, a tool needed to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich, a far cry from the ideal. Many a times, learners from the relegated schools often feel themselves inferior. They belief their colleagues in the developed parts of the country are far better than they are. This is absolutely true, for the leadership of most developing nations have unconsciously further widen the gap between the rich and the poor.

To make matters worse, is considering the admission system into most citadels of higher learning. A visit into the Nigerian education system will clearly showcase this fact. Unconsciously the chances of the children of the rural dwellers are slim in choosing a befitting career. The requirements for admission towards studying in most institutions of the country is just too outrageous. It is a known fact that the possibilities of a rural dweller passing his/her papers with all distinctions is relatively close to zero. However, the chances of his urban counterpart is relatively high, although not devoid of limitations ranging from finance to malpractices.

As it is noticeable in the Nigerian context, even schools located in urban centers are often classified, while some are privately owned with high school levies, others are publicly owned acclaimed to be owned by the government. Considering schools owned by the government, one easily spot the immediate dissimilarities existing amongst these schools. Some of the public schools are fee paying, while others are tuition free. The performance of the fee paying are usually efficient as compared to those enjoying free tuition.

Though, a chat with prominent figures in the educational sector of the country will point to the fact that nothing is free. There exist no such thing as free education. Then, the question one may quickly ask is this; why allow the government politicize the educational sector, turning the funding of the citadels of learnings into constituency projects. Why can’t the educated and enlightened figures in the country advise the government on best practices of education? Rather than uplifting the standards of the Nigerian public schools, they advocate for the establishment of private schools.

These private schools are also not left out. The private school owners in the Nigerian context are business oriented, except for some few. In a bit to outshine the other and attract more clients, most private school owners devise new methods for their advertisement. To some private schools, the bill board advertisement is indeed bigger than the school. What the school’s bill advertisement depicts is a far cry from the actual reality of the schools’ existence. Other private school owners pride themselves as offering curriculum not related to the Nigerian context.

The truth of the matter is that the school owners are not to blame. Those in charge of the nations’ education may not necessarily have anything to do with education, so long as they are loyalists, they get appointed as a form of payback. Hence, a situation of placing square pegs in round holes, rather than focusing on the needful and essential, what we hear of are terminologies, all to be eradicated, ignored or deserted when the period of governance ends, particularly when an opposition government takes over power. No wonder, our education is still where it used to be with no form of improvement or development, only in terms of politicization and gross destabilization of the system.

Consider the structure of the education parlance, how qualified are the teachers in the classroom?, how efficient is the school administrator?, what relationship if any exist between the schools and the host communities? Are learners finding education fun, stress-free and easy?  What reinforcements are in place for high performing teachers and learners? To what levels are the influence of organizations in the conduct of education, apart from when used as a form for tax waivers? All these and much more are questions one needs to answer and until sincere answers are provided, our education is far cry from the ideal.

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THE NEED FOR ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT IN SCHOOLS

It is imperative that schools give adequate feedback to stakeholders involved in the educational sector. Parents, government, guidance and other key-players require a responsive description of their educational expenses. Hence, the need for evaluation in our schools cannot be overemphasized. Evaluation simply involves collection of relevant data, organizing the data and using these data so gathered to make decisions and/or pass judgements as to the worth of an educational program or how well students are faring in line with sets goals and objectives.

The need for gathering data with respect to what students have acquired in the learning process calls for a framework termed assessment. Assessment entails all procedures employed to obtain data as regards how well students are able to accomplish or acquire certain desired behavioral changes with respect to set objectives. Assessment centers on students or group of students’ achievement. In the educational setting, assessment is expected to center on the three domains as identified by Bloom in his taxonomy of educational objectives.

The domains are; the cognitive, the affective and the psychomotor domains. The cognitive domain focuses on the academic aspect of the student. It is the domain that supplies answers to most questions. It is the domain most schools center on. Assessment is usually concentrated here, as it has to do with mental recall or memorization of facts, regurgitation of meanings, understanding, analysis and interpretation of concepts, drawing relationships, and worth determination. Data are usually gathered through tests. The results obtained from this domain are usually represented with numerical equivalences or letter grades.

However, these results may not necessarily be true representation of the students’ worth or level of understanding of the concept being measured. Hence, the need for the second domain of education; the affective domain. The affective domain is the domain saddled with emotions, affections, feelings and any other aspect of socio-personal relationships. It takes receiving, responding, valuing, observation and characterization as key elements. This domain can be measure qualitatively by the use of sociometric tests, checklists, questionnaires etc. However, most schools do a face value evaluation, often assessed by posing questions such as relationship with others, leadership, cooperation, amongst others.

The psychomotor domain is the domain responsible for skill demonstration, performance, role-playing amongst others. It is usually seen as the domain responsible for the utilization of the hands (tactile) and the legs (kinesthetic). This domain is mostly utilized by sportsmen, artisans or skilled individuals. In the school system, the domain is usually rated via handwriting, handling of materials, engagement in sports, amongst others.

Thus, haven identified the domains of education, it becomes imperative to consider the procedures for gathering data as regards the worth or level of attainment in each domain. Often times, a student’s progress to the next level or class is solely based on his or her performance in the cognitive domain, leaving the two other domains unimproved or neglected. With this as the practice of our school system, it is impossible to present a holistic description of a student. Hence, where students are not able to regurgitate facts, such students may find it difficult progressing academically.

Most people will be quick in defending the schools’ practice of a single domain evaluation, and say individuals that encounter challenges academically be placed in special schools. But this argument or stance holds no ground, as the regular schools are expected to cater for all categories of students provided such students are neither deformed, nor handicapped, which in this case, calls for special schools or individualized instructions. Schools should constantly seek and emulate best practices that do not consider a single perspective to evaluation, hence, the call for alternative assessment.

The traditional forms of assessment utilize teacher made or standardized objective tests to elicit responses from students. This being good, but presents a shallow and narrow; one-end description of a students’ progress. The school should in cooperate into her evaluative strategies, the concept of alternative assessment. This assessment help present a holistic description of the student’s progress. They are usually gathered from the start of the program to the end of the program, where-in showing manifestation of progress.

These assessment procedures considers the three domains of educational objectives, and judgements gathered from the three domains are key in decision making and judgement. The student is usually an active determiner and a stake-holder in the data collection process. Since the student is adequately involved, he or she plans strategies that can help develop other innate talents. Thus, rather than been tedious, learning becomes fun, inclusive and conscious on the part of the students. Alternative assessment employ as instruments; students’ observation, portfolios, anecdotal records, problem solving, self-evaluation, group evaluation, models construction and presentation, simulations, podcasts, field works, exhibitions amongst others.

It should be added that alternative assessment can be visualized in two forms, these are; performance assessment and authentic assessment. Performance assessment presents the child with a demo of what to expect in future. In other words, students are usually pre-informed of the need to be adequately prepared for a task ahead. The students usually concentrate their efforts on presenting the best part of their abilities for their submission. The students are usually given adequate time to gestate. During the periods of gestation, students compare their previous performances and their present performances and identifies areas requiring improvement.

Authentic assessment on the other hand presents the students with task of real life occurrence or situations. Students are not pre-informed of the task ahead, but rather partake in the tasks as they emerge. Advocates of this assessment argue that since the students are expected to be members of the wider community or the world in general, they should not be given a pre-warning, as practitioners in the real world do not get a notice before embarking on tasks. An example might be the case of an accident victim, the doctors, caregivers or first aiders are usually not pre-informed of an accident, rather they take charge of such situations as if pre-informed.

Thus, schools are implored to make their assessments all inclusive, rather than basing their judgment on an aspect of the educational domain, and doing a face value evaluation of the other domains. With the use of alternative assessment, schools and teachers will be in best position to present detail description of their students. Similarly, students will be able to predict their successes, monitor their progress and readily conceptual their areas of interest at a tender age, rather than relying on less detailed facts.

 

THOSE WE TRUST HAVE FAILED US

THE JOURNEY UNKNOWN; INTO THE WORLD OF NYSC AND THE UNCONSCIOUS YESTERYEARS

In a country like ours, after the completion of an higher institution usually accompanied by so many years of hectic and unending worries and memories then there lies NYSC, a scheme many believe to have over stayed its welcome, a scheme others say should continue, which ever you chose to believe should be a personal decision, perhaps depending on your individual encounter on the journey.

To a great majority, it is a scheme that deprives the average Nigerian the opportunity to progress in whatever discipline he/she aspired except for some few. The scheme whose major aim is to distribute well meaning individuals usually called corp members into “the interior of the interiors”, does not in most cases consider the individual differences of these persons who for one reason or the other may not fit into the lifestyle of the host community.

Though, the scheme to some might be flexible in terms of relocation of some corp members based on health, marital status or other concessional reasons. For these, some invent illness or health situations alien to them all in the bid of not wanting to stay in the environment they find themselves. Life been the way it is, some get lucky and get reposted, others unlucky and as such must settle to strike a balance with reality. Hence the need to survive in a rather unusual scenario.

Then comes the next issue, the host community. They are expected to be welcoming and accommodating, but in most cases that appears to be in fantasy island. The corp member is welcomed to another world of its own. The world of NYSC barricaded by her rules and regulations. A free, yet restricted individual is thus conceived. The race for surviver begins.

In most cases, the host community do not really understand the corp member’s plight and challenges in the course of his stay, they see it as service to humanity towards the betterment of mankind. Newly posted corp members usually referred to as “Otondos,” are usually confronted with many challenges.

He goes to the market based in the ideas and lectures from the orientation camp in his full kit khaki uniform or Ajuwayah as it is fondly called 7 OVER 7 only to be approached by the realities of life in the uniform. He realizes that the the prices of commodities all of a sudden sky rockets, this he is yet to learn from his Senior Corper, a retired and delivered Otondo.

To the host community particularly the interior areas, they believe the take home pay of a corp member is something to boast about. However, considering the high cost of education in the country, it suffice to say that the take home pay of an average youth corp member does not commensurate with the expected service he is expected to offer.

Then comes the issue of the place of primary assignment, though corp members are usually advised to maintain a high level of discipline and composure, but what goes to the employers as they are called. Most of these employers in the rural areas do not even possess a certificate not to talk of an equivalent quality to host a graduate, thus, a situation of an S.S 3 student marking the examination script of a post graduate student, “a total disaster.”

Rather than been grateful to the scheme for supplying a corp member, they see that as an avenue to form “bosses to a graduate.” However, being a graduate, he is able to meticulously adapt to the ever changing situations despite all odds. The question that needs answers need be asked; “Must all graduates excluding some selected professions be posted to schools?”

The scheme though trying to cater for education in the rural areas fail to answer the question of standardization in the educational sector. Some use the avenue of the scheme to run a school system, once they apply to the scheme, they send corp members, nobody cares whether it is an approved or standardized school, corp members are simply posted. Little wonder the standards of education in the country is fast dwindling. “Those we trust have failed us” a great line from the award winning musician Asa in Situation

The western and developed countries of the world believes in education as a tool for advancement and improvement. Adequate care and priority usually accompanied by monitoring is devoted to the educational sector, but here the story holds no water. Education, particularly the school setting is seen as an avenue for money making and not advancement. No wonder students in such schools will without apologies offer comments like; “I do not offer Mathematics,” a big fall out from the norm.

A wake up call for the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), the Teachers Registration Council (TRC) and others concerned to see the need for drastic and productive steps to rescue the countries education sector from the oceans of sinking waters. Perhaps, a model of the health sector needs be exemplified, replicated and actualized, to avert a situation of square pegs in round holes, that will rather cause more harm than good as it is the case with NYSC.

As a practice, the scheme will never send teachers to the hospitals, neither will it send musicians to the chambers, but will rather send an electrician or a botanist to a school. Then, why is there a need for the teacher training colleges, colleges of education and universities of education. The scheme in defense would erroneously say an Act student should be able to teach English Language and a graduate of sciences could teach Mathematics as contained in the handbook for corp members in schools.

Thus, let all concerned wake from slumber and actualize intended goals and objectives for the nation’s advancement and improvement, not fast track the country into years of yesteryears.