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Where are school inspectors? (I)

A school inspector is technically a representative of government as it concerns education. He is also an adviser; a counselor; an examiner and an auditor…

A school inspector is technically a representative of government as it concerns education. He is also an adviser; a counselor; an examiner and an auditor who meticulously and patiently goes through all school records. Some of the numerous school records which an inspector is required to inspect include the Log Book, the Admission Register, Class Attendance Registers, Staff  Nominal Roll, Continuous Assessment Records, Students’ Report Cards or Academic Dossiers, Duty Rosters for staff and students (prefects), Curriculum for every school subject, Schemes of Work for every subject, Weekly Diary (of Work done by Teachers), Teachers’ Lesson Notes and Plan, School Time-table, Visitors’ Book, Time Book, the Stock Book, Transfer Certificate Booklet, Records of Activities of Clubs and Societies, the Punishment Book, Minutes Book, the School Garden or Farm records  and the School Cash Book.

Of course, this is not all because the list of school records is actually a long one. This reminds me of an inspection report I once went through during a research visit to the National Archives in Kaduna. The colonial file on Bida-Agaie-Lapai Joint Local Education Authority has a school inspection report dated April 7, 1953 documented and signed by Malam Umaru Sheshi Bida who took over from Mr. H. O. H Vernon Jackson, a colonial master. The report of the inspection that lasted 4 days was conducted on the Junior Primary School Etsugaie in Niger State is so comprehensive that it gives details of the reading and writing skills of pupils in various classes; assessment of their mental abilities in solving arithmetical sums; neatness of the school environment, pupils as well as teachers; state of toilet facilities; the school farm; craft works by pupils; parents committee and state of physical structures in the school. These are in addition to the report on all the school records checked by the inspector.

The professional duties of a school inspector which collectively empower him to be an adviser, counselor, examiner and an auditor are basically designed to enable him ensure that learners at the basic and post-basic levels of education are not only taught that which they ought to be learning at a particularly stage of the teaching and learning process but to further ensure that learners are taught at the right time using the right instructional materials under the most conducive learning environment.

What we see today in many schools as learning experiences and (by extension) learning outcomes depict a collapse of very important role of school inspectors due largely to the utter neglect of inspectorate services by government. The collapse of the inspectorate division also accounts for the poor monitoring of school activities by headmasters and school principals who are directly responsible for the close supervision of teachers and their duties. The direct consequence of this failure is the very poor quality of products produced at all levels of the system.

Should it be called inspection when the visit by a team of inspectors to a school lasts for just eight hours (8am to 4pm)? Such a visit, in my view, rather amounts to a ridicule of the exercise. If an inspection visit to a school entails thorough scrutiny of all school records in addition to watching students while they observe other school routines including dining, the quality of the meals cooked and served for students (in the boarding house) or the snacks sold to them by private or registered food records; even two days, I guess, would grossly be inadequate for any meaningful inspection visit (advisory or for recognition purposes) to be carried out and concluded. How could the inspectors even observe and report on students’ participation in games and athletics if their visit terminates at 4pm? I still find it difficult to also understand how an inspection visit to a school can be concluded in just eight hours given the large number of student and classrooms that characterize most schools in modern times.

Any way, if school inspection has today been re-defined to simply mean no more than visiting a school to sign visitors’ book and (may be) to also receive (where available) a “token of appreciation” from the headmaster or principal in lieu of the visit paid; then it is possible to conduct and conclude an inspection visit to school under an hour or even less. Such kinds of school inspection, as ceremonial and symbolic as they are, are impacting negatively on the quality of education received by learners in most schools across the country. While the practice of “token of appreciation” though cherished by both the giver and the taker is condemnable, it is worse to hear that the Federal Ministry of Education for three consecutive years made zero budgetary provisions for her Inspectorate Services Department! This disservice, which in my opinion summarily amounts to an act of “irresponsibility”, was revealed by the Minister of State for Education, Barrister Nyesom Wike, while discussing the crises in education in Nigeria during an NTA programme.

If the inspectorate services of the federal and state ministries of education had remained functional over the years, many of the irregularities that currently hold curricular as well as co-curricular activities of schools in ruins would have been effectively checked. Today, you find headmasters and mistresses especially in mushroom private basic education schools who cannot speak or write correct English. Yet, he or she (with all the deficiencies) is called a teacher and is allowed to practice as such in a job which the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) claims to be a “profession” in the country! We should be asking questions about how these sub-standard schools were accredited and given the authorization to operate. Garages and verandas in residential houses are still being used as classrooms in different parts of the country. Where, if we may ask, are school inspectors?

The column on this page next week, insha Allah, brings you a more elaborate discussion of other common but shoddy practices prevalent in public and private schools, which are manifestly due to the collapse of inspectorate services in the Nigerian education system.  May Allah (SWT) touch the hearts of our leaders and guide them to give education the attention it deserves, amin.

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