The New Challenge In Public Secondary School (Teaching Robot)
The New Challenge In Public Secondary School, It’s one of those days I wake up early but for some reasons, I find myself scrambling because I’m running late for work. By 7:15 AM, I am on roadside waiting to board a taxi. The distance is about 5 kms so even if I had all the time in the world, I will not contemplate walking.
But surprisingly, from when I board a cab to the moment I alight by the school gate, I keep seeing students walking individually and in groups to the same school. Some walk as far as 7,8,9 kms and it’s a daily routine.
First thing I notice as I cross the gate into the school compound is that every student who comes late, begins the day with punishment including those who trekked a long distance. It’s one of the days I have first period, so by 8:10 AM, I am in class, and for the next 40 minutes, I keep getting that “Please sir, can I come in?” interruptions. As early as it is, a few of them come into the class teary-eyed.
There are a few facts you need to know about these kids. Firstly, a significant number of them do not eat before coming to school. Yes, that’s very correct.
Many times, teachers are the ones who rescue these kids from hunger. Secondly, many of them come to school already exhausted and too tired to learn, while others are too rowdy and obviously not in the school state of mind. It takes the teacher a lot of effort to first stabilize the children physically and mentally before commencing the lesson. How to make the children assimilate the lesson is another thing.
Many people attribute this to age and temperament. While this was a valid explanation in time past, this can no longer be said to be completely true as emerging reality points to the fact that there is a new and more potent factor distracting these children in their academics.
I spend some minutes in school after the 2:00 PM closing time everyday to wrap up things, and when I finally hit the road, guess what I see? My students in plain cloths, selling by the roadside, traffic light junctions or running after pedestrians and taxicabs with buckets of sachet water, fruits, etc on their head. They do this till they either empty their stock or till nightfall. This is a daily routine too, but unlike school, this has no public holiday and no rest on weekends.
Having worked in the school as a class teacher for almost a year, I have identified a major malfunction in the system and can confirm that the biggest challenge to quality education in public secondary schools right now is no longer the lack of quality teachers, ineffective curriculum, poor learning environment, or unsuitable education policies.
The fact that the children who are the central focus of basic education are now molded in the likeness of robots by their parents, programmed to undertake complex and rigorous tasks, is the real immunity against effective learning within the four walls.
Formal learning, especially from the elementary to the secondary level, is a direct contrast of robotics. While the former is a tenderly, and well-guided formal process of acquiring basic knowledge of life, the later is a means of using advanced intelligence and enhanced energy to undertake tasks that are almost impossible with mere human efforts.
The increasing odd behavioral pattern among these students is less influenced by age and temperament. For instance, no age or temperament is responsible for a child’s continuous failure to do his or her homework but feels more convenient to be punished. They simply never have time for academics after school hours so their mind is always made up for the consequence, and in the long run, they are psychologically modified to adapt to that harmful life. “For children who manage to combine work and education, performance at school often suffers”, says the 2015 report on Child Labor and Education by International Labor Organization (ILO).
Children who engage in forceful labor after school display traits like regular absent-mindedness, unusual hostility and excessive weakness. From my interactions with some of them, I discovered that they frequently get distracted by the thoughts of after school experience. Some of them have adopted hostility as a survival instinct on the street and that plays out too in the class. Others are easily fatigued obviously from excess work.
Teachers take pains to keep the children out of harm’s way while they are in their custody, but the children keep coming to school with all kinds of untreated and irritating injuries. Where do they get them from? In a every class of 50 students, this reality reflects on almost half of the population. That’s too significant to be ignored. From the outside, one can hardly imagine this to be too much of a problem, but from the inside, the damage is very terrifying.
By my projection, in no distant time, child labor and deliberate withdrawal will oust poverty as a major cause of school dropout. This is true because so far, governments’ efforts towards providing free basic and quality education have only succeeded in bringing these children to school but hardly able to keep them as against the wish of the various factors pulling them out.
So, in few years, children might no longer be dropping out of school because their parents cannot afford the school fees but because they prefer to work or they are not just interested in school. Yes, it’s already happening. Students are skipping school for work.
Many teachers have devices various means to solve this emerging challenge, like engaging in open counseling and heart-to-heart talks with the parents, but at the end of the day, they can only be in custody of the child for about 6 hours every school day. The children belong to the parents for most of the day.
Parents are asking for too much when they keep engaging their children daily in activities that alters their psyche, interrupts their thought process and drains their physical energy and expect the teachers to mend all of these within the few hours they are in custody of the children. The fact that teachers have limited rights over the children is a blow to the learning process, and that the children are aware of this fact and it enforces their resistance is the sucker punch.
The validity of teachers’ performance, school curriculum, learning environment, and education policies cannot be truly ascertained if they are tested on the wrong people. Robots don’t learn because they are already programmed. They just act according to their programming. This completely contradicts the essence of education, which is to help people learn. It is assumed that children come to school blank and it is through education that they’ll be filled with the necessary knowledge.
If the aim of formal education from elementary to secondary level is primarily to lay foundation, then it will obviously be less effective on children whose mindsets have been severely twisted by a harsh reality. For instance, ask a child why he prefers to trek a long distance to school.
The answer will either be that he had no fare or he is used to it. You try to tell him the effect on his health and academics, then he innocently shocks you with the distance he covers on foot while hawking after school. So, how do you convince him to always use a taxi when he can trek comfortably and save the money for snacks?
In moving forward, stakeholders in the education sector/framers of education policies and education related laws must take this new challenge into consideration. Valid answers should be given to questions like, why do parents enrol their children in distant schools when public schools flood everywhere? What methods can be employed to effectively curb the menace of child labour? Public secondary schools are not rehabilitation centers, so for learning to be effective, the children must be in the right state.
Parents must deliberately make efforts to protect their children from unnecessary trauma, abuses and strenuous labour. The more the children are exposed to harsh conditions, the more vulnerable they become.
Parents should complements the efforts of teachers by prioritizing their children’s education and showing genuine interest in their academics. Truth is, there are no magical powers within the schools, just mere human efforts.