Thursday, September 22, 2016 9:43 am
By Ezinwanne Roseline Raymond
I recall my experience as a secondary school student in one of the leading schools in the Eastern part of Nigeria. My school was a renowned private day school seated in the heart of the town. It had two big buildings ,one for nursery and primary ,the other for secondary. The secondary school building was a three storey with spacious surroundings .We had a furnished library, a computer laboratory, music laboratory, cafeteria, well equipped science laboratories and sports facilities. My school was one of the famous schools at that time and so lots of students enrolled every academic year.
It was impossible to accommodate all the students of a particular class in one classroom, hence there were at least two classrooms for each class running the same subjects. We were divided into different classrooms according to our grades, such that a classroom accommodated at least 20students. For each class, there was the ‘fast learning classroom and the slow learning classroom’. Now this is my grudge against this class division system. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against we, being divided into classrooms according to our grades,rather I am against it being spelt out or rather tagged against such names.
Here was I, a growing teen girl building up my best confidence both in my grades and physical appearance (every teen girl wanted to be asked out) tagged a slow learner. I first thought my school would be a place of solace for me from the unhealthy comparison from my parents, but alas! , I was far from rescue. Learning became more difficult for me especially when our teachers constantly rang it in our ears how much of a slow learner we were. We were hurt. We were troubled .We sulked. We became slower. We got worse. We felt we could not do any better. We began to think something was wrong with us. We cursed God. We felt incomplete.
We accepted our fate. It was so gross that when one of my teachers saw my WAEC result (I made 8 distinctions and a C), he exclaimed: ‘I didn’t know you were brilliant! How demeaning! Now, we were tagged slow learning students, there were no extra classes for us, or maybe, rather thorough teachers, no extra instructional materials, no correspondence to our parents stating our strengths and weaknesses and recommendations on ways they could help the supposed improvement process. But of course we were expected to improve and get promoted to the much hallowed ‘fast learning class’ .No offence! It was a laudable ambition. But for the records ,less than 30% of us got promoted to the fast learning class.
The only savior for our dejected souls was the school’s Guardian and Counselor whose office was usually crowded with troubled students, often times busier than the school clinic. She always sat still and listened to us as we poured out our inner frustrations and she would encourage us with spirit lifting words. Other times, she would promise to do something about whatever we had complained about. Whether she did something or not, we didn’t care; all we enjoyed was that refreshing moment spilling out all our hurts without having a castigating look cast on us. We always had a dose of her lifting words every week until we graduated from junior secondary class and of course with good grades.This reminds me of the recent reply of a school owner when asked ‘how do you handle troubled children ‘? She said: ‘We discipline them’. Here is what I know; discipline is the least need of a troubled child. A troubled child needs love, attention, acceptance, and a listening ear.
Talking about learning methodologies, only a handful of schools are willing to sacrifice what it takes to operate a ‘child focused approach’ to learning. Montessori education is gradually swallowed up by the business mentality of our school owners.Every phase of a child’s life has its peculiarities and expectations which should be on the finger tips of every caregiver in our schools on which basis they can appropriately interpret each child’s mannerisms and behaviours,with the exception of the special ones demanding extra attention. From birth to 6years,a child is an explorer with absorbent minds assimilating every stimuli of his or her environment. At 6-12years, a child begins to develop the power of imagination, a moral sense and a tendency to socialize.
At 12-18years, a sense of justice and personal dignity dawns on the child (teen),awakening a crave for an externally derived evaluation of his or her worth. Now ,this was the stage I was and all I needed was someone to tell me I was just as beautiful as I can be, that I was just as brilliant as I can be, that I was just the best. But then… It is important to know that paying attention to every child’s peculiarities and giving his or her freedom within limits leads the child to timely self discovery which is key to his or her efficiency in life.
Admitting much students in a school with insufficient learning facilities is simply cheating the future without knowing. Until we go back to the system where each child is valued as a unique individual, learning at their own pace, advancing through the subject curriculum as he is ready and guided by the teacher, we will remain far from impact in the educational system. Let’s free ourselves from the pangs of commercializing education and be baptised with the zeal for eternal impact in our children.
Ezinywanne Raymond is a lawyer. She can be reached on: [email protected]