“Such is the upsurge in moral decadence that educational institutions are fast failing in their duty to churn our model citizens and may in reality end up being breeding grounds for a whole new generation of Nigerians lacking in moral probity”.
In recent times two seemingly unrelated events have attracted my attention. The first occurred on 27th October, 2016 when some secondary school students went on rampage in Oyo State and in the process burnt their own school buildings. The grouse of the students was stated to be the decision of the state government to adopt a new policy by which automatic promotion would no longer be guaranteed and by which students would be required to score a minimum of 50% in both mathematics and english language to proceed to the next class. The students would have none of it and went into the streets. Reporting the event, one National daily stated as follows:
The Oyo State Government has set a new promotion policy which states that only pupils with 50 per cent in Mathematics and English language will transit to the next class.Pupils of Anglican Secondary School in Oyo reportedly unleashed mayhem on their teachers and destroyed billboards bearing Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s picture.The Oyo State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Banji Olowofela, lamented the poor performance of pupils in external examinations, saying public schools could no longer continue to breed substandard pupils.
“What government says is that there is no automatic promotion again. Our external examinations from1999 till date have been abysmally poor. If we push them to the outside world, we are not helping them. We are trying to give them the opportunity to rediscover themselves. The school has been closed indefinitely,”
The second event took place in Abuja on 1st December, 2016 when the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El Rufai publicly decried the danger posed by drug addiction to the youth particularly in the northern part of Nigeria. At the seminar themed: Substance Abuse: An Impediment to Gainful Employment, organised by the National Directorate of Employment, he was reported to have stated that “no part of Nigeria is spared of the malaise, including the rural areas,” and that substances that were once unknown have acquired notoriety among the youth, who now put them to some negative use. Worthy of note is the fact that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had some days prior to the revelation of the Governor, drawn attention to the worrying trend of drug abuse amongst the youth. According to it, Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, has the highest rate of drug abuse in the country going by figures for seizures of drugs, convictions of drug dealers and arrests of drug addicts. It alleges that in Kano State, 37% of the population are drug abusers.
I have earlier described the two events stated above as “seemingly unrelated”. However it should not require too much scrutiny to realise that these and similar events are indeed related. They disclose a new low in the general decline in discipline in our society. More importantly, these events paint a very grim picture of the high level of indiscipline prevalent amongst the country’s young generation. Such is the upsurge in moral decadence that educational institutions are fast failing in their duty to churn our model citizens and may in reality end up being breeding grounds for a whole new generation of Nigerians lacking in moral probity. It is for the above reason that I intend to examine this important issue with particular reference to its effect on our educational institutions.
Several years back the then Military Government launched what was tagged as War Against Indiscipline (WAI). The campaign was in response to what was perceived as a total breakdown in moral values in the society and general decadence. It was thought that Nigerians could by decisive action, often characterised by brute force, be made to bring about a change in their general attitude to obedience of simple rules necessary to keep the fabric of society intact. Thus it was not uncommon to see Nigerians forced to queue at bus stops and shopping malls, use pedestrian bridges, turn up for work early, undertake periodic cleaning of their immediate surroundings, often in a bid to avoid the numerous unpleasant consequences and penalties stipulated by the enabling law at that time. Whilst the campaign was accepted as necessary at that time, it was felt in some quarters that the force employed by the military in bringing about change was excessive and totally unacceptable in modern Nigeria. Indeed a popular musician and social critic now of blessed memory questioned the rationale of a government in pronouncing it’s governed as generally indiscipline!
In present day Nigeria it cannot be argued that indiscipline is still a problem that militates against the quest of the country to achieve full social, economic and political development. In a paper delivered by A.P Idu and David Olugbade on the subject of indiscipline it was stated that:
“Indiscipline is the negative form of discipline…..discipline in schools is respect for school laws and regulations and the maintenance of an established standard of behaviour and implies self-control, restraint, respect for oneself and others. A behaviour that contradicts the above becomes indiscipline”
Acts of indiscipline such as abseentism from work, vandalism of public property, truancy, wilful disobedience of simple traffic rules are still common occurrence in Nigeria. However it is to the educational institutions across all the tiers that one must look to find the highest incidents of indiscipline in Nigerian Society. A visit to many Nigerian schools will discover that acts such as cultism, drug abuse, assault, stealing, lateness to school, rioting etc are common place. Yet this was not the case in the Nigeria of old.
Discipline in times past
As I have stated in past articles under these series, the first secondary schools in Nigeria were founded by the missionaries. Schools such as CMS Grammar School, Lagos, Abeokuta Grammar School, Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, Christ School Ado-Ekiti, CKC Onitsha were noted not just for the quality of education given to their students but also the discipline inculcated in them. Much emphasis was placed on the building of character. Interestingly, the work of the schools was complemented by the society itself through the family which as unit of society enjoyed a prime of place and had not suffered the kind of relegation which is now its lot in modern Nigerian Society.
In those days teachers commanded a lot of respect from their students and no student would dare contravene an order of a teacher or regulations of the school. The few who were brazen enough to go against the accepted norm were rusticated or dealt with in some form. Indeed the story is often told of a young Prince from one of the most prominent ruling families in the then Western Region of Nigeria who was forced to leave one of such schools when the school authorities insisted on meting out full punishment on him for an infraction of regulations despite his royal status. But times have changed.
To be continued