One of the main reasons humanity has developed formal education is to enable men and women learn from the experiences of others. This learning is supposed to enable the human person to be self-reliant.
Each one of us has been talented in one way or the other, and such talents are supposed to be used for the advancement of the society. Those who hide their talents will be condemned at the end of the day as the parable of the talents in Matthew Chapter 25:14-30 illustrates. In this parable, three persons were given talents, while two traded with theirs and gained profit, one hid his in the ground. His master came back and was displeased by his act.
Schooling then becomes an avenue to explore and use the talents God has given us. It is a place whereby we should be allowed to make mistakes and correct ourselves. But what is the situation in our institutions of learning? Do we encourage such act of learning to live life to the full, taking into cognizance the ups and downs of life?
At the end of the recently concluded Junior Secondary School Certificate Examinations in Benue State, I was taken aback from what I experienced as an insider.
On the day the examination commenced, being a newcomer in the system as the school I head was started in 2006, I had to ask the external examiner what was required during the examination. He told me that there are ethics guiding examinations, but then, they (supervisors) normally follow what various schools decide. I then told him that we are running a Catholic institution and our ethics say “no cheating” in the conduct of any examination. Any student caught cheating would be severely dealt with.
After introducing him to my students, I left for my office and then he intimidated that money be offered to him else he would present a report that would prevent us from having examination centre by the next academic session. I made the examiner to understand that I was not obliged to give him even a kobo because I had not employed him, besides, I had fulfilled all the conditions needed by the Benue State Ministry of Education and the Examinations Board, and that if he did not take care I would report him for immediate disciplinary actions as he was encouraging examination malpractice. I made him to understand it is not a guest who dictates how he should be treated by the host.
After that day this particular examiner did not come to our school after he had enjoyed our show of African hospitality to guests.
As the other invigilators came, they did their work and signed the visitors’ book. Two comments caught my attention: “I came for the JSCE Exams, the P.H.E. paper was conducted without a hitch. May the good Lord who gave this great vision continue to grant the grace sufficient for this move. No single soul should stain this vision. God’s blessings.”
Another one, which is the theme for my discourse was “All the students participate[d] fine but they also need encouragement.”
The question I asked after reading the comment was “Are students encouraged in examination hall or in the classroom?”
I am of the conviction that if a student is to be encouraged, that has to be done in the classroom and not in the examination hall. There is this Chinese saying that one should be taught how to catch a fish instead of being given a fish. Life is about problem solving; sometimes we provide wrong solutions to problems before we finally come to the correct answer. And the school system should be aimed at teaching our future leaders the art of learning how to solve problems themselves than depending on others.
My discovery is that our teachers are not helping matters. Most of our half-baked teachers, who do not have much to offer the children in their lessons, are those in the vanguard of “helping” children during examinations. They want to prove that they can also teach when such academically ill-equipped students “pass” their examinations well.
Our future is becoming bleaker and bleaker in terms of development because of our inability to learn how to teach our future leaders how to solve problems. Why should our most educated people run to other countries in search of greener pastures? Is it because we lack the natural resources? No. the simple reason is that we have failed to teach our future leaders how to look for solutions to problems within themselves.
Fr Indyer, CSSp, is the principal of Holy Ghost College, Sankera, Benue State ([email protected])
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