Education in times of recession: Home-schooling and other random stuff

So this is a leisure piece. There are a lot of distractions, but I hope you get the message. My direction changed mid-way through the piece, and the sense of targeted audience keeps fluctuating. But all in good faith, please enjoy.

I saw a twitter banter that went something like this: a parent received a teller for school fees. The parent, defeated by the amount, but strong-willed to get an education for his child, went to the school and started negotiating a reduction in the price, if a subject or two is removed. (It was a lot funnier on twitter, there was a picture and everything. But after the realization of the parent’s sincere intent hits you, you cry internally)

“The economy is not favorable. This man is not trying for us. This man has failed us. This man doesn’t know what he is doing. He has surrounded himself with fools and crooks. This man doesn’t have what it takes to rule. He fed us lies. “Wai, gaskiya neh zai ciyar da iyalan mu?” (Loosely translated as “Is honesty going to pay the bills?”). We are tired of this change.”

This usually marks the beginning of every such conversation these days among the average Nigerian. These are trying times, and the popular opinion goes along the lines of the president being clueless when it comes to economic policies. Personally, I feel too many unqualified persons blurt out statements without grasping the implications; the metaphor of a loose cannon serves nicely. For me as a student, the exchange rate of the dollar is off the charts, so my orders from Aliexpress have been doubled in price, for those items that are on the ‘need’ list. Well, the “want” list is virtually not existent anymore, because I can’t afford little treats anymore.

While it is glaring that something is wrong somewhere (I hope someone with expertise will dumb down this issue for us), I feel we should reserve our disparaging comments till when we fully grasp the intricacies of the situation. And even when we do, we should present it with more pro-activeness and decorum. I must confess, it is a bind; while it may seem the “opposition” are simply looking to point the finger, the sycophants (supporters) make it hard not to.

That is by the way. The point is, the times are difficult. And difficult times, make up for innovative ideas to take over… I guess (I hope). It is when facing adversity we get to tap into our problem solving skills. Engineering as a field is based on that. An aspect of it, is transforming already established knowledge into useful product. Another, is using existing ideas/technology to systematically provide solutions to existing problems. So I am taking the bold step as a pupil engineer to attempt said feat.

One afternoon, I came across a very fascinating discussion. The gentlemen in question, mid-forties, were discussing the implication of the recession in their personal lives. It was the same old boring “the price of rice has skyrocketed” etc. (I am in no way disparaging on the cries of people over a hike in foodstuff price; there just is nothing I can do about that). Then, it took a very exciting turn when the discussion focused on the implication on education…

It is in this time, that a one Mr Mathew laments over the increase in school fees for his children. “ya yi huci” is more the apt description. Infuriated, he barks at the untimely steep increase of the fees and decides to take it up with the school principal. He jokingly notions towards sitting down and teaching the children himself.

The crowd of course, laughed off the idea. That was simply ridiculous. It was then, a one malam Danjuma chips in to support the idea. “ai a turai ana yin haka”(It is a well-practiced convention abroad). But, he was quickly put down, “nan ba turai bane ai. Babu aikin da zai baka walawalan da zaka samu lokacin koyardasu” (It is almost impossible to find a job that gives you that degree of freedom to have time to teach your children in Nigeria). The idea gained a little momentum when oga Elayo gave his testimony of having coached his wife for her O and A levels examinations, which she passed in flying colours. This discourse went back and forth, some for, some against. And for me, that was just brilliant.

At that sub-level, here we have good honest Nigerians discussing home-schooling as an alternative solution to the crippling education system and in times of drastic economic recession. Following that discussion, a few of the problems facing the idea were highlighted. Firstly, the time and energy needed to carry out these activities. And since majority of the population are not self-sufficient, it becomes a problem. How do you get to teach your kids and still have time for work? How do we design a system that allows for individuals to simultaneously combine the two activities?

Well, for starters, we need a lot of data from research work. And we have to specify what level of education are we talking of. But on a general note, it has been shown that children should be left to sleep during the early hours of the morning, till say 8-9:30 ish. Also, learning is more effective when there are intervals between learning periods.

A regular school starts by say 9am after all the assemblies and other little activities, and closes by 1pm. taking out breaks, we have about 3 regular hours of study periods per day. So assuming a regular government worker, you go to work by 8am and close by 4pm. In this proposal, you split these 3 hours into morning, afternoon/evening and night sessions.

When you wake up for morning prayers, you dedicate an hour after that to teach. The kids then go to sleep afterwards, only to wake up around 10am ish. They play, they eat and have their siesta and go over what they’ve been taught. Your companion may hold an afternoon/evening session for another hour. This gives you time to rest up after a day’s work. After Isha prayer, which is around 8, you have another session for an hour.

This of course could be made more flexible if you have another family that is interested in such a system. Preferably a little community which could implement this order of things. Having a community take up this project splits the work load and makes it easier on the individual. The idea of closely monitoring the growth of your child’s education is very essential in the elementary stage. This gives room for special attention which is otherwise lacking.

At a larger scale, there ought to be a standardized curricular which is to be followed. Hopefully, a revised curricular that captures the world we live in today. That explains science with a passionate drive. And insists that maths doesn’t bite. This makes it very easy to teach the right thing at the right time. With the internet, there is access to a lot of teaching aides. This is key, especially to diversify approach to content.

This barely scratches the surface of the prerequisites and implementation process. I merely wish to bring this alternative to the surface. The idea is to have creative responses to problems, and at our various sub-levels have a system in place to implement the little bright ideas we come up with.

“Every great society, is a fruition of meticulously planned social engineering process”. Or something along that line. Our problem solving skills determine whether we succeed or perish in times of adversity. The ability to conceptualize and think thoroughly is the building block that every creative mind should have. We must resist the urge to point fingers and become “wailing wailers”. Yes, we must call out the faults, but in a proactive way with the aim of finding a solution to it.

Hopefully, someone else may take up this idea and design a suitable system applicable in the Nigerian context. And hopefully, more creative responses to our way of living.

Correspondence:

So I shared this piece with a closed group of people and they generally liked the idea. There was a general positive welcoming to the idea. And there were a few suggestions that were made and I shall share them. I found the process very engaging and fruitful. These discussions will hopefully continue until we come up with a system that works.

It should be noted that home-schooling is not a new concept. Some that have tested it locally, time and again, testify on its positive impact. In the UK for example, we have communities that are increasingly joining the home-schooling trend. You have a large support community to help with resources, guidance and the like.

My first correspondent raised the issue of impracticability in implementing said system in the rural areas, due to lack of educated populace. On a more positive note, the correspondent suggested an incorporation of youth involvement. This may probably take shape through coppers volunteering as part of their community development service. Or in just another form. Although the rural area was not my original target, it could benefit from the fruition of the system.

My second correspondent saw this initiative as means to tackle unemployment and reduce cost on parents. He applauded the initiative, but made the following suggestion: for all these graduates looking for jobs, they can be involved in the process and serve as instructors. With a stipend of say 30K, they will have the little to sustain their livelihoods and perhaps venture into other commercial activities. So in a community, every parent pays say 2k as fees and that’s it. This is also certainly something worth looking at.

My third correspondent believes that the success of this scheme is in sharing the responsibility. That on a family level, it should be more prudent to delegate a lead teacher and a sub. One parent goes out to work and earn a living, and de facto becomes the sub, while the other parent stays at home to be the lead teacher. This makes it a more balanced scenario. But with social/gender roles shifting, we can’t generalize and conclude which parent is going to do what. He brings out a problem facing home-schooling, which is he calls the socialization process. He argues socialization process is lacking in closed-door (isolation) teaching environment of children seeing only their parents’ day-in, day-out. That is certainly not what we are suggesting. He goes on to proffer a solution by engaging a network of neighbouring families which will take turns to educate the pupils.

On a more different note, another correspondent points out to a study which showed that children showed magnificent aptitude in the classroom when home-schooled during their early years and especially when they concentrate on memorizing the Qur’an.

Another correspondent insisted I share this with the world. I hope you enjoyed.

I’ll be looking forward to more correspondence.

Written by Bugaje Al-amin Bashir

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