Mrs. Patience Ibiwari Hughes, a mother of five, always brags to her children that both her primary and secondary schooling was better than theirs in quality. In what appears like buttressing her point, some analysts believe that indeed schooling in the olden times, especially before the 80s, is different in many ways.
They think that old time schooling, though not characterised by all the current sophistication and technology associated with today’s education, has so much to show in terms of virtually all aspects of learning or education which includes morals or even character build-up.
Mrs. Princess Emi Ibama, a retired principal and proprietress of a private school in Port Harcourt, who attended Kalabari National College (K.N.C), Buguma, in the early 60s, argues that students that schooled in those days were better in character and in learning. K.N.C was one of the pioneer secondary schools in Rivers State.
Ibama, who enrolled and graduated from the ancient secondary school, believes that discipline, respect, hard work among other virtues were strong values in learning those days. She regrets that those virtues are less emphasised in modern schooling and stressed that old-fashioned schooling was known for discipline and had broad-based education.
The retired principal firmly thinks that K.N.C is an epitome of old school and has several reputable old students to show for its aged standard and capacity to develop erstwhile students. She argues that a complete and high level training by old schools resulted in sound morals and preservation of societal values.
“These days you find students wondering in the streets. But in our days, if you were caught by the principal or a teacher in the school, you were going back to your parents. It sounds ridiculous but it paid off on the long run,” she says.
Another product of those days’ schooling, Mr. Benson Amadi, observes that the era when discipline was in school is over. He regrets that teachers, who used to be the drivers of qualitative education, have been despised and are no longer rewarded adequately.
He added that lateness to school was well penalised at that time while loitering was forbidden, as teachers worked with commitment to produce future leaders while students were disciplined, respectful and teachable with unquestionable loyalty to the school authorities.
“When it was school time, the teacher would stand at the gate when the bell rang; he or she would be at the gate to hold late comers and punish them. But today, you see students wander around and lackadaisically come to school even when it is past the time to report for school. We were taught to put in our best, which has helped in life”, Amadi says.
He blames the high moral decadence in today’s school system on parents, teachers and the government. He insists that parents and guardians have refused to pay enough attention to their children or wards. According to him, the tripartite monumental neglect has affected learning greatly.
For Mr. Robert Lawson, an author and a former lecturer, who completed his secondary education at Enitonna High School, Port Harcourt, in 1965, old-time schooling is synonymous with discipline and hard work. He blames the lack of discipline in today’s schooling on the failure of teachers to assert authority.
“It was a lot of fun but with hard work because we had to be the best in everything we did. Some teachers have allowed parents to dictate for them how to cope with their children. But very sadly, it was not so in those days. Once our children understand that hard work can make them comfortable, they will get there,” Lawson says.
A civil engineer and an old student of Okrika Grammar School, Okrika, Mr. Matthew Iboroma, agrees that education in the past was characterised by discipline. He blamed parents and observed that they have left much about their children’s training for teachers.
“Some of us did not realise then that it was helping us, but later in life, we realised that it inculcated in us the best values. Those days parents disciplined their children and didn’t leave that aspect for teachers.” He advised that “parents should create time to guide their children aright for a greater future”.
According to a clergyman, Rev Israel Maurice, who graduated from secondary school in 1979, old time schooling also provided spiritual, academic and social development of a child. The education offered by the time was complete and addressed the totality of the student.
He recalls: “We were taught civics, ethics and even home management. The girls were taught how to take care of themselves. For those of us who lived close to the school, we dared not buy sweets in our school uniforms; we got home, changed and bought whatever we wanted to buy.
“There was what was called the ‘standstill’ bell which was rung five minutes before the assembly. This would enable prefects to go round to search for those still in classrooms. Those found in the classrooms would kneel on the lawn; we were taught to excel in everything we did.
“We used to kneel on stones and gravels and we would not go home to tell our parents that we knelt on gravels because our parents would ask us what we did and add to the punishment. But these days, students will go and call their parents if you give them an ordinary punishment.” The clergyman also claims that the culture of keeping to time is not being imbibed by these days’ students.
Similarly, a legal practitioner, Mrs. Roseline Ibeku, admits that those who attended primary and secondary schools in the olden days always exhibit high level of discipline. She claims that the foundation of the present technology was laid by those who schooled back in the days.
She says: “It cannot be ruled out that schooling these days has lost the discipline of the 60s and 70s. But I experienced a bit of it.” According to her, schooling these days lacks some values and thinks that students need high spiritual, moral and academic standard to succeed.