Explaining An Unlearning Process

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Students in a classroom. Source: Twitter

De-Schooling Movement as a global protest Over 50 years ago, a global protest began to gather momentum with regards to the deficiencies and one-sidedness of the formal school system. A book titled School is Dead contained reasons for the protest. The philosophy of Emmanuel Sweden-borg and writings of Albert Schweitzer were instrumental to the protest. Schweitzer stated that: “The organized political, social and religious associations of our time are at work to induce the individual man not to arrive at his own conviction by his own thinking, but to make his own such convictions as they keep ready made for him”. A world of conformity is a dictatorship.
Schools as social institutions may not be dead in reality, but the schooling process has come under severe questioning and scrutiny with regards to the relevance and value in the light of prevailing global experiences. History of the origin of schools is quite interesting, especially at the primary level. Children are known to disturb a lot, and during the Industrial Revolution, it was necessary to keep them in check as their parents went out to work. So came into existence what was known as Dame Schools run by housewives who took care of neighbourhood children while their parents were at work.
In the modern times, crèches and day-care centres have become lucrative activities for entrepreneurs, as few mothers find it wise to be home all day. Even less than one-year old babies can be taken care of by entrepreneurs for some fees. Some public and private establishmnts also get compelled to provide creches and day-care centres for nursing mothers working with them. It is in rare cases that women become full-time housewives, with attention devoted to bringing up their children at home. Even with the services of house-helps, nursing mothers are rarely comfortable with such alternative.
Traditional purposes of schooling process
Religions and industries can be described as the traditional grand patrons of the schooling process. Historically, reading, writing and arithmetic were the cardinal emphases in early schools. Scriptures of the various religions were considered so important that human salvation was tied to the ability of an individual to read and know what the scriptures prescribed. Similarly, business transactions which were inevitable economic activities required the ability to calculate figures and cash and keep records of transactions.
The clergy and religious leaders were often obsessed with spreading the message of the scriptures that they established schools for the purpose. Here in Nigeria first organized schools were established by missionary bodies and trading companies.
Colonialism and its officials in Nigeria were obsessed with “taming of primitive tribesmen” to make them malleable for tax collection. Therefore, docility and conformity were the primary emphases of its school system. Expectedly, the cultivation of critical, logical and independent thinking among Africans did not feature as goals of education. One colonial officer even said that it was dangerous to foster critical and independent thinking.
Rote learning, coupled with a policy of “payment by result” made colonial education to be an instrument of docility and conformity. Since grants were given to schools based on pupils’ performance in examinations, that policy laid a foundation for examination malpractices and glorification of certificates. For promotion of practical skills, subjects such as handwork, singing (or music) and farm work were included in the school curriculum.
For secondary education, “Conjugation of Latin verbs” resulted in trivialization of the school system. Was the study of Latin of any relevance to Nigerian youth, apart from the arrogant boast that “I studied ‘Chem-bo-zoo’ and Latin in school”? After 1960, there were not much changes in the Nigerian school system, except that there were expanded opportunities for secondary and tertiary education. There were also expansion in the contents of school curriculum.
Failures and deficiencies of the school system
A major aspersion on the school system is that it is an elitist institution as well as an instrument of segregation and social control. The role of money in the education of children is quite obvious and so, only parents who had the means provided the opportunity for their children. A number of successful people all over the world had said that they were thankful for not having the misfortune of passing through schools as youths. This implies that schooling can become a hindrance in the normal development of natural talents in some youths. There are lots of “self-made” people.
To put it more bluntly, the school system has been described as a social instrument of mind control. Although key principles in curriculum development include relevance, validity and needs of society, there are always the questions of who determines what are considered relevant, valid and needful for society and whose interests are addressed most. Questions have always been asked if schools are need for the development of individuals’ natural talents and if schooling does not constitute hindrance thereto.
Are the best footballers and other categories of macho-sports men and women made by schools? At best, vocational enhancement programmes can be set up to groom and enable youths to actualize their talents. Vocational guidance programmes introduced in schools, intended to identify and encourage youths to go into lines of activities most suitable for them in accordance with their natural abilities are not functioning effectively. Similarly, special education for gifted, handicapped and hyper-active children cannot be said to be working well. Parents with money and political clout have been known to turn such provisions to their own best advantage.
The average Nigerian knows that there are so much hypocrisy and deceit in educational provisions and funds meant to bridge any gaps between the rich and poor segments of the populace. Be it “almajiri”, nomadic or education for migrant fishing and farming people, there have always been fraudulent political coloration in such apparently noble programmes and policies. From scholarship awards to quota employments and promotions, including admissions, the school system is characterized by unfair practices.
To be cont’d.

Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

Bright Amirize