If there was one thing you could change to improve education in your country…

By Bilkisu Ahmed. Bilkisu lives in Kaduna, Nigeria.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela.

Words of wisdom these are, for in being educated, lies the path to freedom by exploring diverse dreams and interest thus unlocking limitless potentials and ultimately transforming lives.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has been at the forefront since inception, contributing towards realising the vision of quality education worldwide. Estimating that about 26% of a country’s annual budget should be allocated to education. Unfortunately, this cannot be said to have been tenable in many developing countries, one to which I belong.

The educational system in Nigeria has witnessed considerable progress, from establishment of new varsities, introduction of Tsangayya schools, Nomadic Education, Skills Acquisition Centres etc but a lot still has to be done to improve this sector. Major challenges like lack of infrastructure e.g. libraries not well equipped, poor access to online resources thus limiting, teachers not well trained, poor funding, research culture not encouraged, industrial actions and also the attitude of students themselves.

Negative belief in one’s ability or lack of confidence is one thing I will change. This is the foundation in the search for knowledge. Belief it can be done, a positive outlook.

This negative self perception sometimes starts as early as the primary level in some cases, and can be brought about either knowingly or unknowingly by school teachers, parents, guardians or even the society one is raised in. In the primary setting or other such, a teacher may chide a child for scoring low marks in a particular subject, or for not answering a question correctly, being slow to understand concepts taught or at times it can be as a result of problems the teacher is experiencing, and an unlucky student bearing the brunt. Other cases abound of a child being made jest of in the presence of peers. Examples include name calling like “Olodo” one who is dull, negative remarks “you can never pass this”, “you are not good in maths” a popular example is a published work in which a student wrote a book with the title indicating his teacher was wrong.

Parents, guardians are also guilty. This negativism about oneself can arise from comparing siblings e.g. picking a favourite one, pressing career choices on wards especially in a society like ours were titles are admired. Parents will like to be referred to as mama doctor, or courses like medicine, law, are looked upon as the ultimate. A child against his wish must study; examples abound of children who were sent to study medicine but came back with other degrees or others who hand over the certificate they were pushed to earn to their parents and switch over to their choice. Parents disbelieving or mocking the ability of a child. A real life example is that of a friend who confessed that his only reason for not studying engineering was because his dad doubted he could since he was an average student in maths even after gaining admission for such, if he had only encouraged him, he would have gone along with it. In some cases if not properly handled can lead to depression, psychological problems and in severe cases suicide.

The environment plays a huge role in shaping the character of a person. In a conservative society as ours, though improving, females should not be doing this, they will be married off, such females with low self belief even when presented with opportunities tend not to put themselves wholly in it due to this bias.

In conclusion, parents, teachers, and society have a lot to do in this regard. Students should be taught to believe in themselves. Like a popular story of a father who taught his young son about life when they went out together with their donkey. When the father rode the donkey, the people complained about his heartlessness to his son. Son on donkey, he was accused of not being merciful to his old father. Both on donkey, injustice to the animal and while they were on foot without riding the donkey, the irrationality of their action.

Eleanor Roosevelt rightly put it “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. This they must learn.

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