A considerable number of parents will choose private schools over public ones any day, any time despite the high tuition and the economic situation in the country. BOLUWATIFE ADELUA writes on the fears of this section of parents and draws a comparison between government and private institutions in the country.
VINCENT Oladayo, who went to a federal university, will send his children to private universities. For him, public universities are not an option. The financial implication of his resolve is not a factor. What informed Oladayo’s inflexible stance? In his university days, he spent eight years for a four-year course. Threats from cultists repeatedly kept him out of school.
Like Oladayo, many more people have hand-biting experiences of what turned out to be what could best be described as wasted years in their bid to make a future for themselves with the best education.
The unending tales of the anomalies covered by walls of government-owned universities that have put abrupt end to many academic careers are now more alarming than ever before.
Cultism in secondary school is as old as creation of formal education, one way or another. But how and why did the Nigerian student get so enmeshed in cultism?
According to a study, the number of known cult groups in Nigeria as of 1991 was 56. That number doubled 20 years after.
Apart from cultism, the obvious decadence in government-owned higher institutions has become a threat to Nigeria’s image the world over so much so that no Nigerian institution has ever made it into the global top 500 schools.
The ratio of student to teacher in government-owned institution is appalling and makes quality teaching watery.
While reacting to issues bordering on the quality of education in government institutions and prevalence of cultism, majority opined that they will go all the way to provide better education for their children that government owned institutions cannot provide.
Remi Ladigbolu is a parent and considers neither public nor private schools as immune to social vices. “It is a fact that cultism, drugs and prostitution have pervaded the society and neither the public nor the private schools are immune to the evils. Nevertheless, I will still choose a private school over a public school for my child. I believe private schools generally have a higher level of supervision and also pay closer attention to the social and moral wellbeing of their students. They also have fewer students whom are generally easier to monitor.
“Also, teachers in private schools are better regulated unlike their public schools counterparts who spend more time attending to their personal businesses to the detriment of their official responsibilities.
“Another factor is the increasing competition among private schools which invariably forces them to aspire to a higher standard. They strive to protect their reputation in order to attract greater patronage. Public schools do not subscribe to such standards because they know that they have nothing to gain or lose either way,” Ladigbolu said.
Another parent, Kola Olaoye, is convinced that there won’t be much problem if the government takes care of public schools enough. He said: “I went to a public school and I had a bad experience. I gave in to societal pressure and it affected my academics. I would prefer my children go to a private school because of cultism in public schools, incessant strikes, among others. It is not like there is no cultism in both sides but it is not as much as the public schools If the government takes care of public schools then I think there shouldn’t be much problem with public schools, but what we have is that there is no good welfare package for the workers in these institutions, how do they give their best?”
State and federal universities are no longer of quality standard. This is the opinion of a student, Yemi Adebayo. “I don’t know much about private schools but I think it is good for my children to go to private universities. Recently, while writing an examination, a boy was stabbed in my school during a supremacy battle between cult groups. I have never heard of such in private institutions. The reason people prefer going to private institutions is because the states and federal universities are no longer of quality standard. If I had the chance to go to a private university, I would. The school I am in right now, I can’t even allow my younger ones go to there or any other state or federal schools at that,” Adebayo said.
Mr Isaiah-Oye Aluko is a parent who is disappointed because Nigerian institutions are badly rated globally. He said things had turned upside down in the country. His words: “In our own time, we went to public schools and things were okay but all of a sudden things started nose-diving. People believe that only children sent to private schools are better and when you talk of private schools, they don’t go on strike, but what bothers me is that staff welfare package is not also good enough. When you send a child to school for a good future and joins cultism, smoking Indian hemp, they end up developing psychological problems and they are unable to get out of it in a rush. I really don’t know why some people join cultism, but I think there are more cult-related cases in public schools than private ones. Majority of these private universities are owned by religious bodies and they do all they can to instil discipline in their students just so they don’t soil the name of their institution and their belief. As a matter of fact, I am really disappointed because according to international ratings, no Nigerian university was among the top 100, not even the so-called private universities where people are paying millions.”
A corps member, Uche Onyegbule, expressed concern over what he called high rate of “drug abuse and cultism” in some public universities. “For instance, in my school, 80 per cent of the ‘freshers’ coming were either recruited or intimidated to join; they would fight for supremacy and care less if one is struggling with academics. In private schools, they might have cultism but they don’t practise it in school; they wait until they are on holidays. When it comes to drug abuse, public institutions have a higher number of cases, solely because nobody cares about how anyone is faring,” Onyegbule said.
In the opinion of another corps member, Ayoninuoluwa Oluwadare, there is better mentoring in private institutions. “I think I would rather want my children go to a private school because they would not be affected by strike actions,” he said, adding that “they will be better guarded and monitored.” He continued: “In a private school, they would get one on one teaching and mentoring from the lecturers then proper influence from other kids. There’s less cultism cases in private school, the drug use can be on the same level with the federal school, but in private school they have more strict policies for their students and all.”
Femi Adelabi is yet another corps member. He believes that in the end, everything depends on what the student wants out of life. “Both public and private universities have pros and cons but at the end of the day, you just have to do some balancing. I prefer sending my child to a private school not because there is no consumption of alcohol there or existence of cultism and drug use but because you can curb these things to an extent. But at the same time, going to a public school, there is more people diversification, so students tend to grow more psychologically. So, having more people in a university is just better than having less and at the same time the students still need their freedom to explore, which private schools don’t really have because they are always locked up in school. There is also the cultism, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, that’s everywhere, but at the end of the day it’s just the student mindset if he or she chooses to do those things he sure will do and there’s nothing you can do in the end. Personally I went to a public school and I met people who took drugs and all and I also met people who were sane and straight, not involved even though it was all around them. I just feel it is your mindset if you’re not interested you won’t do it. Have met people in private school who do drugs, party and I wonder why, but in the end it is about your home training and mindset,” he said.
Temi Jokotola takes delight in the fact that public institutions have produced world leaders. He is also a corps member. According to him, over time, people have trusted products of public universities, but private universities only came around in the last decade.
“In an education system such as the one in Nigeria, there is really no structure to follow. Personally, I think quality is something that has to be considered. In a situation where the lecturer has to teach like 200 students; he may not have enough attention for all the students, but in a class of 30 to 40 students you find out it’s easier for lecturers to manage the students.
“Every school has its faults and should really not be debated on, we can see that some government owned schools have produced important people in the Nigerian society and this has made them to be in the limelight while private ones, which are just starting, their product are just entering into the limelight and they really haven’t gotten a good stand in the economy compared to those that went to public or federal. Most private university were either born as a vision or passion because of a challenge they’ve noticed so there is a lot of passion running the institution unlike the public university which don’t really care or have passion for the student or the school. This private school may just focus on some aspect, that’s why we hardly have medicine law and such courses in private school, while federal has it all and still can’t maintain them. Private university has advantages and public as well but in the long run, private is always better; government just build up institution with no vision, mission and all but in private university a lot of consideration is it in place like the covenant university actually studied most ivy league schools to know what a top university should be like,” Jokotola said.