Traditionally primary or basic education means the type of education, in quality and concept that is given in the first level of education. (UNICEF 1993, Osokoya 2011). The concept of first level of education varies from country to country. In some countries of the world the first level of education is of 6, 7, 8 or 9 years duration. In western Nigeria for example, the first level of education was of 8 years duration prior to 1955 when it was reduced to six years. In Eastern Region of the country, it remained 8-years until 1976, while the Northern Regional Government maintained a 7-year primary education until 1976. Between 1976 and 1992 however, the scope of first level of education in Nigeria as a nation was 6 years but this was later expanded to 9years when basic education included the first three years of secondary school education. Education at all levels is of great importance to every nation, developing, developed or under-developed and thus attracts considerable attention over the ages. No doubt, at the family, community, state, and federal government levels, education is discussed, planned and processed. Education makes a person for it has a great influence on one’s values and attitudes. Studies have shown that man’s attitudes, habits; values are gradually acquired over time through his or her education. No wonder, the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) once observed that since wars begin in the minds of men it is also in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed. This illustrates the great potentials of education for transforming the individual and the society.
Universal Primary Education in Nigeria is an educational system that was started in the mid 1950s following the Macpherson constitution of 1951 which granted democratic rights to the citizens to elect members to the regional House of Assemblies of the three Nigerian regions. The assemblymen had powers to raise and appropriate money and also to pass legislations concerning health, education, agriculture and local government. The elected governments in Western region and later in the East selected an ambitious literacy and educational program to see through that most primary school age students attend primary schools.
Further in 1976, the federal government which had in 1972 assumed more responsibility for education took on the challenge of seeing all primary age students attending school. It also launched the U.P.E. scheme to correct regional, rural-urban and sex imbalances in the educational system and invest in human capital.
U.P.E. is considered a pre-cursor of the Universal Basic Education both based on the ideal of equal access to primary education for all. However, the U.P.E. plan has been criticized by many for the lack of proper planning leading to inadequate educational facilities in classrooms, insufficient trained teachers and erosion in the provision of quality education.
In September 1976, the military regime of Olusegun Obasanjo introduced the free universal primary education. It was designed to make primary education free and available throughout the country with admission given to pupils aged six. The launch followed careful analysis of the plan starting in 1969 when a committee headed by Mr Somade was charged to enquiry into the educational system of the country and the feasibility of launching a free primary education programme. A proposal from the education ministry followed in 1972 as the federal government assumed more role in the educational system of the country. However, some stakeholders raised caution about the proposed level of investment in education, the sharing of financial responsibilities, and a lack of preparatory time. But in 1974, U.P.E. was decided to be introduced on a voluntary basis. Unlike in the past where the primary goal was to educate citizens and increase the enrollment of primary school age students, the new policy of 1976 was partly created to address educational imbalances between the Nigerian regions. At launch, primary school students in class 1 were about 3 million but a shortage of properly trained teachers hampered the objectives of the scheme. The government which had spent about 1 billion dollars on primary schools and teacher education enjoined success with school enrollment but enrollment was far out pacing the availability of trained teachers. The plan later suffered in the 1980s constrained by inadequate financing from the chief sponsor, the federal government when oil prices fell. Inadequate enthusiasm from the major beneficiaries and the Nigerian government’s policy instability also contributed to the lack of full realization of the project’s objectives.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND PROBEMS OF UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION (U.P.E) IN NIGERIA
ACHIEVEMENTS OF UPE IN NIGERIA
Trends in enrolment from 1999 to 2003 show that on an average enrolment consistently increased over the years for both males and females from 7%, 8%, 11% and 44% in2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively. Primary schools rates were, however consistently higher for boys than for girls. The efficiency of primary education has improved over the years.
The primary-six completion rate increased steadily from 65% in 1998 to 83% in 2001. It however declined in 2002 to shoot up to 94% in 2003.The implementation of the Universal Basic Education in addition, has brought remarkable developments in such aspects as academic, social and physical educational spheres. The content of elementary education in Nigeria witnessed many changes both in variety and intensity since then. It should be remembered that the advent of the National Policy on Education in 1977 and the revisions in 1981, 1998 and 2004 respectively brought with it the need to radically change the school curriculum to meet the new philosophy of Nigerian education. Appropriate curriculum contents were therefore developed for the school system in the recent past aimed at improving universal education to fit into the dynamics of current events and of the immediate future in Nigeria. Of particular importance is the issue of citizenship education which has been infused in to the primary school curriculum. Topics emphasized include Nigerian constitution, tenets of War Against Indiscipline (WAI) Mass Mobilization for Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) principles and the high waycode. Other topics include home economics, introductory technology, elementary science, population and family life education, drug abuse education and environmental education. Relevant components of these new subjects were infused into the existing school subjects through the process of integrated approach to avoid over-loading of the school curricula. In the area of personnel development, more teachers were trained at the colleges of education and universities in most of the states while the untrained teachers were encouraged to undergo teacher training courses. In addition, the Federal Government has under the Millennium Development Goals Project directed the National Teachers’ Institute by the Act No. 7 of 1978 to organize programmes for upgrading and updating practising teachers. Many workshops had been organized on Innovative techniques of teaching and Improvisation of Instructional materials in the six geo-political zones since the implementation of UBE. Furthermore the Nigerian Certificate of Education (NCE) was fixed as the minimum teaching qualification in Nigeria. In the bid to encourage appropriate textual materials with illustrations taken from the locality, indigenous authors were sensitized and encouraged to produce instructional materials by the Federal Government through the establishment of Book Development Centre based at the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC). Another major academic landmark was the introduction of the Continuous Assessment practice into the UBE Scheme. The National Policy of Education laid strong emphasis on the use of continuous assessment practice at the various levels of Educational system, in preference to the former practice of single terminal examinations. Certification at the primary school level is now based on continuous assessment rather than on a primary school leaving certificate examination. Continuous assessment is viewed as the method of finding out what the students have gained from learning activities in terms of knowledge, thinking and reasoning, character development and industry. It takes into account the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of the pupils. In the cognitive domain, teachers assess the pupil’s knowledge of previously learned materials, his understanding and the application of materials in solving problems. They also attempt to evaluate the extent to which the child can make inference and assumptions from the learned materials. Pupils’ feelings, attitudes, emotions and other social behaviour are assessed in the affective domain while the interest is to evaluate the pupil’s manipulative skills in the psychomotor domain. Manipulative skills simply refer to the way the child makes proper use of his limbs and body and the degree of coordination involved in skilled activities. The use of continuous assessment practice gives room for teachers to combine the scores attained by each pupil in the class assignments, homework, weekly tests, examinations and various other sources applied during class instructions to obtain the overall score for a given period. With such overall scores, it would be possible to diagnose problems in the course of instruction. Teachers would therefore be in a better position to help their pupils overcome their individual problems.
PROBLEMS OF UPE IN NIGERIA
There are many problems facing primary school administration in Nigeria. It will not be possible to delve into all the problems due to obvious constraints. In effect, our focus shall be on the following problems:
- Inadequacy of Teachers and Quality Instruction:
Qualified teachers are necessary for teaching in the Primary schools. Unfortunately, there are not enough qualified teachers to handle the pupils. The government is ready to hire less-qualified teachers at the expense of the qualified ones. The teacher, pupils ratio prescribed in the National Policy on Education is 1:30. this however, has been jettisoned. It is not uncommon to find a class with between 40 and 50 pupils, even in Federal Government schools. There are cases where two classes are merged together, to be taught by a single teacher.
According to Ajayi (1995), no nation can rise above the level of her teachers. Certainly therefore, the quality of teachers will affect the quality of instruction. However, teachers can not be blamed totally for inadequate quality of instruction. The idea of a teacher handling 60 pupils or more has drastically affected the efficiency of many teachers.
- Poor Management of Primary Schools
There used to be two patterns of primary school management
- The Local Government Education Authorities took over the supervision and management of primary education
- Ministry of Education with different management organs supervised and managed primary school, thereby causing confusion and conflict of interest between the State Ministries of Education and the Ministries of Local Government, apitomised by diversion of education funds to other projects and irregularities in payment of teachers’ salaries. Folajin (1995) observed that Decree No. 2 of 1991 transferred Education to the Exclusive List while Decree No. 3 of 1991 transferred the management and funding of Primary Education to the Local Government Education Authority, thus defuncting the National Primary Education Commission. This arrangement adversely affected the management of primary education in Nigeria.
- POOR TEACHER PREPARATION
Some institution, (e.g Colleges of Education, Faculties of Education in the Universities, and the Departments of Education in some Polytechnics) are saddled with the responsibility of teacher training. So many things go into the preparation of teachers. However, one of the very important elements in teacher’s education is the Teaching Practice. Ajayi (1986) stated categorically that the internship given to teachers in training (i.e teaching practice) for a maximum of twelve weeks in a 3-years course, is grossly inadequate. If teaching is to be at par with other professions e.g. law or medicine the internship must be close to the number of weeks of internship in other professions. Lawyers and Medical doctors spend one year for practical training or internship. We in the education sector must look into this problem.
Related to this is the attitude of most students on Teaching Practice, which is usually unimpressive. Some of the students teachers do not show up in their practicing schools in time. Student teachers are known to have developed the habit of coming to school when supervisors are around and to disappears as soon as they have been supervised. In fact, there are many other problems concerning students’ behaviour during teaching Practice, which are too numerous to discuss in this paper.
- POOR IMPLEMENTATION OF PRIMARY SCHOOL OBJECTIVES
The general objectives of Primary Education (Fed. Rep. Of Nigeria, 1981) has been well stated in the National Policy of Education. This includes:
- The inculcation of permanent literacy and numeracy and the ability of communicate effectively.
- The laying of a sound basis for scientific and reflective thinking.
- Citizenship education as a basis for effective participation in and contribution to the life of the society.
- Character and moral training and the development of sound attitude
- Developing in the child the ability to adapt to his changing environment
- Giving the child opportunity in the society within the limit of his capacity; and
- Providing basic tools for further educational endeavour, including, including preparation for trades and crafts of the locality.
Looking at the various objectives, it is obvious that the government wants to provide sound education for its citizens. Some scholars (Ukeje 1986, Ajayi 1987, Onwuke 1985, Nwangwu 1985, and Fafunwa 1987) have also come up with similar statements on what primary school education in Nigeria should aim at, because a huge and heavy structure cannot rest on a weak foundation. The objectives of primary education are laudable, but its implementation has been far below expectation. Education and Politics
The governments play politics with education. Education generally, and primary education in particular, needs a lot of finance for the objectives to be achieved. But the governments’ priority at various tiers, most of the time, is not on education. It is not uncommon to find out that the budget for defence is far more than the budget for education. Teachers’ population does not increase; rather it decreases (Adesina, 1986). Many people leave teaching due to poor remuneration for teachers. Fafunwa (1991) noted with dismay that the objectives of Primary education is difficult to achieve in Nigeria due to poor funding.
INADEQUACY OF INSPECTION
There are many problems facing inspection of Primary Schools in Nigeria. First and foremost, inspectors have problem in carrying out their job. Their problems include lack of vehicles to travel to schools, shortage of personnel (inspectors), lack of equipment, and politicization of education.
Also, the inspectors are not motivated enough to be able to carry out their duties. The remuneration for school inspectors are always poor. Due to shortage of funds, the inspectors cannot carry out as many inspections as possible in a school year. Hardly do they inspect schools in rural areas due to the weather and road conditions of the rural areas (Ojuawo, 1990). The attitude of teachers to inspectors and inspection is not encouraging at all. Teachers see inspectors as a threat. They are therefore very hostile to school inspectors.
In order to effectively administer our Primary Schools facilities must be made available. Such facilities include:
- Instructional facilities (teaching aids)
- Physical plants e.g. School buildings, classrooms, libraries, staff rooms, assembly halls laboratories etc.
- Recreational facilities e.g. football field, lawn tennis, table tennis, net-ball, indoor games, judo, ayo, draught, chess etc.
- Health facilities e.g. First Aid Kit, School Medical Centre.
According to Aderalegbe (1987), the state of the nation’s primary schools is very bad. It is common to find primary school with dilapidated walls. Pupils sit on the floor or on cement. Many schools are without adequate play ground and recreational facilities, and teachers and pupils hardly get the necessary text books.
Universal Primary Education (UPE) is a goal stated in many national development plans and pursued with vigour by governments of most developing countries. Primary Education is seen as the first step in laying the foundation for future educational opportunities and life long skills. Through the skills and knowledge imbued, primary education enables people to participate in the social, economic and political activities of their communities to their fullest potential. It is also seen as a basic human right that frees human beings from a state of ignorance and helps to reduce the negative effects of poverty, relating in particular to health and nutrition. In an increasingly competitive global economy of free markets, a well educated high quality workforce is seen as vital to a country’s economy in order to attract foreign investments that generate jobs and create wealth. Hence, good quality primary education is increasingly recognised as an important foundation for economic growth and seen as instrumental in the attainment of other development objectives.
Its pursuit as a goal by development agencies acknowledges its dual function as a factor in economic growth and in reducing the incidence of poverty (World Bank,1990a and 1995a). The humanistic and liberation goals of primary education are featured most in the work of some development agencies whilst the instrumentalist and economic goals emerge more prominently in others.
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