Agriculture is one of the earliest occupations of man.
However, despite the important role that agriculture plays in our economy, many present-day pupils and students are being denied the knowledge of basic agriculture, agriculture business, and indeed the entire agriculture value chain – the process through which food gets from the farms to dining tables.
It is indeed a sorry situation when school children in Nigeria – a country widely acclaimed for its rich agricultural heritage – do not have the privilege of experiencing practical agriculture during their schooling.
To resolve this problem, the practical aspect of agriculture in the school’s curriculum should be given equal attention as the theory.
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School farms are not just spaces for growing food items. They are complete learning zones, which largely succeed in taking learning to new heights.
School farms come in handy when it comes to teaching a variety of topics in agriculture, be it crop rotation, mixed cropping, intercropping, etc.
For a successful school farm, implements and practical equipment should be purchased and distributed. And, whenever the school records a bumper harvest, the pupils/students can be fed from the produce, while proceeds from what is sold can be used to develop the school.
The knowledge obtained from practical sessions on the school farm helps not only to reinforce what is taught in the classrooms. It also teaches pupils, and students alike, about eating healthy, and about how food arrives our homes from the farms, among others.
It also equips the pupils/students with first-hand knowledge of how to run agribusinesses. This is especially important in cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit in students.
In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, school farming was a major component of schools’ curricula, and there were no exemptions as to who participated in practical agriculture and who did not. All pupils and students trooped to the farms at the designated time.
The idea behind this was to make agriculture an integral part of the school culture, so the pupils and students are well positioned to appreciate farming, and make it a lifestyle, even when they do not intend to specialise in it.
It is important that schools be provided with the necessary logistics for the successful implementation of the whole agricultural science curriculum, while the school farms serve as fields or laboratories for the training of the pupils and students, with the basic focus being on skill development and self-reliance.
Today, agriculture in schools should be handled in such a way that, from a very young age, pupils begin to take an interest in farming. Effort should be made to popularise farming as an honourable occupation. This will help to reduce apathy towards the practice of farming.
Agric-school clubs such as the ‘young farmers clubs’ can also be encouraged, where pupils and students will be taught about farming practice and encouraged to own farms. These steps could help ‘catch them young’ and inculcate the love of farming in young ones.
Particiption in agriculture competitions could also challenge the pupils/students to perform better.
Also, qualified and competent agricultural science teachers should be employed, to help make their students appreciate the practical benefits of the study of agriculture.
Apart from being qualified, the teachers should be aware of interesting areas of agriculture that will attract and sustain young minds.
They should also undergo further training, as this will enhance their teaching skills. The knowledge thus acquired by the pupils/students can stick with them for many years to come.
In view of the foregoing, it is important that both private and public schools at all levels establish viable school farms. Indeed, school farms are critical to meaningful student engagement in practical agriculture!
Daniel Ighakpe, 7th Avenue, FESTAC Town, Lagos