by: Aaliyah Rahman

Why wouldn’t you want to? From the free compulsory educational programmes to the free school meals, what is there not to like? I do not understand why 10.5 million children are not in school. I won’t be surprised if UNICEF is spreading deceptive figures to tarnish our image because of sheer jealousy.  

Let me walk you down the chain of education the average blessed Nigerian is so privileged to have.  Nigerian public primary schools are the best of all the other primary schools in the world. I still cannot believe it is free. It doesn’t matter that the teachers are unqualified and mediocre at best. It is training for you to be able to strive harder to learn. When you think it couldn’t possibly get any better, you now discover that the children are given free food. Yes, the quality and portions are nothing to write home about but is that what is really important? Can you not see that the government is showing their dedication by wasting resources that aren’t enough to start with? Human beings can never be satisfied. I need to applaud the government for seeing that malnutrition among school pupils can be remedied with one free meal every day. Let us not dwell on the funding and implementation issues after all it is the thought that counts.

You may be wondering and asking about insecurity. That is not important because God will protect you. I cannot believe that the fear of being abducted or killed should be enough to stop you from going to school, especially when there is free food involved. In fact, the potential of bandits and herdsmen attacking you should add to your passion for learning. Where else would you learn with the fear of death hanging at the back of your head whilst getting an education?

Some people would argue that the overall poor funding of the primary education sector is the root of all its problems. That is why it is good to be educated so one wouldn’t make uneducated claims like these. I am not refuting that the quality of teachers and educational infrastructures won’t stand to gain from increased funding but it is not a big deal as many people are making it out to be. Holes in ceilings, dilapidated buildings and jagged roads only enrichen the learning experience. What is even the big deal if unpaid teachers aren’t teaching children at their most impressionable ages? Is it not common A, B, Cs and 1,2,3s? The children really don’t need quality teaching for good foundational learning.

In fact, the main problem in this country is the rampant fearful statistic mongering. Those greedy news and media houses only want to line their pockets to the detriment of the general populace. A good example is when that injudicious UNICEF representative, Peter Hawkins, had the audacity to say that  “an estimated 35 per cent of Nigerian children who attend primary school do not go on to attend secondary school, while half of all Nigerian children did not attend secondary school in 2021.”

It is this false statistic I will use as a segue to now talk about the joys of going to a secondary school in Nigeria. Please pay no heed to the various scandals Nigerian public and private secondary schools have been embroiled in. It is obvious that it is the work of the enemies. Think of how enriching the experience of stifling uniform regulations is.  And not to worry, I know you must have thought that corporal punishment was a preserve of public schools, but you would be delighted to know that private schools also employ a range of punishments to enforce obedience. Do not mistake discipline for wickedness. Cleaning toilets, cutting grass, kneeling for extended periods of time, destruction of personal property belongings and the occasional sexual harassment are all proven methods of enforcing discipline in long-standing institutions that are known to be citadels of learning excellence. 

Overpopulation in public secondary schools is something that should be not been spoken of distastefully. Where else did you think that spirit of patriotism and familial love every Nigerian has comes from? Sharing a seat with three others in a poorly ventilated classroom tends to breed a type of love that words cannot do justice to. 

It should be common knowledge that learning in an overcrowded poorly-ventilated classroom for 6 years of your life puts you at an unprecedented advantage compared to your international peers. It teaches you a high tolerance for foul odours amongst a number of other equally valuable lessons.

Remember the self-teaching technique that you learnt in primary school?  In a public secondary school, you would learn to polish that skill. You would have to find alternatives to laboratory exercises since the laboratories merely exist for decorative pictures in national newspapers. Do not worry about the less-than-ideal attention given to sporting activities. All the running from kidnappers on your way home should be enough physical exertion (education).

After 6 years of studying an outdated curriculum (because the educational boards understand the need to preserve history) and writing life-altering exams that teach you the importance of computer-rivalled memorisation and repetition, you have finally gained admission into a Nigerian tertiary institution. My major advice would be to add 4 more years to the duration of your proposed area of study. The Academic Staff Union of Universities understands that the concept of time is fickle and is dedicated to always giving students the time to explore their interests outside of formal education. In fact, they are so dedicated they embark on industrial actions almost every year. An added bonus is the entertainment they provide with their eventful legal tussles with the Federal Government. I have never seen such a well-planned educational system that prioritises the training and well-being of students anywhere else in the world. It does not matter if you spend ten years studying a four-year course, or if your education is truncated on a yearly basis. It is an opportunity given to you to test your resilience and cramming skills when the fragmented academic calendars have to cram months of academic activity into weeks. 

The students that can’t afford the obscenely expensive tuition of private universities should not hold on to unfruitful resentment but should just go get a job. It is training even if they choose not to see it. This should not be seen as making quality education inaccessible for the average person, it should be seen as the altruism of the giant of Africa’s government. Which other government really thinks about the in-depth well-being of students like this? 

Let me even let you on a little secret. I had no idea I wanted to be a writer until quite recently. I have ASUU to thank because how else would I have ever discovered my passion if not for the just called-off eight-month strike?  The long eight months allowed me just enough time to reflect. How they knew that the students required a long 8 months to relax from the stressful 2-month session is really amazing. They should be given credit for their immense consideration.

I could go on and on about the several merits of studying in Nigeria but my humility won’t allow me to show off. That and the fact that I understand that jealousy is truly the root of all evil. Publicising my country’s successes will surely rub a lot of others the wrong way. Contrary to what the headlines of insecurity would have you believe my country does not like violence. So it is here I will drop my metaphorical pen. A word is enough for the wise.

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