Below is a thought provoking article by a young lady Vivian Beulah Igbokwe. It's her first time being featured as a guest writer on my blog and I hope it won't be the last especially on the issues she's raised in this post. Read, be enlightened about your communities and please do share with every one you know. You never know just how far this might go in getting the change we seek.
Pupils Or Labourers??? Because I can't differentiate between the two anymore in my place of primary assignment. Where I come from, children are treated as children: with love and warmth and kind words and hugs. All those things that makes you want to go back to pre-nursery, nursery and primary school.
I'm a Corper serving in Uruan LGA in AkwaIbom. A philanthropist in the area built a library for one of the primary schools and employed us, Corpers, to teach them reading and writing in English language. Our job is majorly to encourage them to come to the library and to help them read and write. A very tedious job but one we took up with joy because we saw in it an opportunity to give back to the society.
The first day at work, we went round the classes introducing ourselves to the teachers and students and coming up with a timetable to carry all the classes along. I went to primary two. I realized the children responded to everything I said with " Yes Madam" until I asked them to do something and they all sat down moping at me. I asked the teacher what the problem was and she said they didn't understand me. She interpreted to them and they started jubilating. We were scared by the work load because we are not only teaching them to read and write: we are going to them a language almost foreign to them.
The first time I took class, we were making good progress until one of the teachers came in and said we should hurry up, that the students needed to go out for manual labour. Not being too conversant with the system, I released the children although I felt bad. It was on a Friday morning. When they were all outside, I actually heard the Headmistress telling them " Exams will start on Monday. If you don't come to school with your knife, you won't take the exam." You won't be wrong to assume they will carve out the answers. Otherwise, why will a child need a knife to take exams. When they were done with the manual labour, they were too exhausted (mentally) to learn anything. We took them to the field for sports. It was beautiful seeing them run, play football and do their traditional dance. You could practically touch the joy on their faces. It was something they were unused to.
On Monday, I went to a different class to teach. After a little while, a teacher came in and told me that all the children are going out for manual labour. On a Monday morning by 9:00am, a school child was in the field doing manual work. My heart broke. We noticed one elderly lady who is not one of the school staff come to take some of the children to work on her farm which is close to the school compound.
We also heard the teachers quarrelling among themselves over the children working on their farms. These same teachers come to class and teach absolutely nothing and then write something on the board which they don't care if the children copy in their books or not. Those feel times I taught them, I found out that half of the class do not have writing materials. A few come with sandals, majority come with slippers or on bare feet. They look so dirty and scruffy. It was when we started setting up a reward system for neat students that we started seeing some of them come to school looking a bit clean. (The gradual process of change). Yet they have teachers. These teachers actually divide the children according to their (the teachers) number and send them in groups to their farms.
The Headmistress asked us if we needed farms, that the children would farm for us. I smiled when she said that. Today, in the Library, she brought our portion of the garri gotten from the cassava the children cultivated. At what expense? At the expense of their academic future? They say they want to become teachers, doctors, nurses and all the rest. How? With this death sentence on their academic life?
I look at the children and they are so short and muscular, and I wonder if they are pupils or labourers.
Article by: Vivian Beulah Igbokwe