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School CP - June 2003

P.M. News, Lagos, 2 June 2003

Lagos Schools: Discipline Still a Long Journey

By Ganiyu Obaaro
in Lagos

Efforts at instilling discipline in Lagos schools remain largely fruitless. GANIYU OBAARO reports.

The past few years have seen the waging of a relentless 'war' on various acts of indiscipline, including absenteeism, truancy, shabby dressing, insubordination, fighting, gangsterism, etc., particularly in Lagos public schools (primary and secondary). Private school owners have equally taken up the gauntlet by enunciating a number of measures, including expulsion of students/pupils for various acts of indiscipline.

In fact, since the appointment of the immediate past commissioner for education in Lagos State, Professor Idowu Sobowale, the war against indiscipline has assumed a new dimension. Apart from taking the 'war' to the schools, which involves measures such as lock-out of late comers and meting out of various sanctions, including caning or suspension, a large number of students have been expelled from the schools for gross acts of indiscipline.

Even then, their teachers have not been spared the 'rod' too. Efforts at eliminating trading activities in the various schools, for which some teachers have been indicted or absenteeism, lateness to work etc., have been seriously pursued by the ministry, leading to teachers' reprimand, including transfer or summary dismissal. In fact, the efforts have been geared at not giving the students, teachers and school heads, including principals and headteachers any breathing space.

P.M.News gathered that apart from strengthening the monitoring units in the ministry as well as in the state Primary Education Board (SPEB) and Post Primary Teaching Service Commission (PPTESCOM), which oversee primary education and secondary schools, respectively, the education commissioner personally visited the schools several times to monitor students/teachers' attendance. He even imposed fines on recalcitrant students, even though some equally embarrassed the commissioner by hauling stones at him during one of his "raids" on them. Again, scores of students, (boys and girls), were disciplined after being caught in a hotel in the Lagos area indulging in immoral acts during school hours.

However, as laudable as these efforts were, it would appear that the problem has become hydra-headed. While the commissioner may have tamed the monster among the teachers and school heads as they now imbibe the culture of regular attendance, the same cannot be said of the pupils/students.

A visit to some schools, including Ahmadiyya Muslim Girls High School and Ojokoro High School, both in Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government, Bishop Aggrey Memorial College, Mushin, Ikeja High School, etc. indicated that students are yet to change their attitude, as poor dressing, late arrival, fighting, etc. still characterise the schools. At 10 a.m. some of the students could be seen roaming the streets, while others simply slept off in their parents' homes, unmindful of the importance of education in the pursuant [sic] of their future endeavours. More worrisome is the fact that the students resort to fighting among themselves upon the slightest provocation.

P.M.News witnessed a bizarre fighting scene in one of the public schools. The fight involved two females, who nearly stripped themselves naked, as their colleagues applauded loudly. Sadly too, onlookers just shrugged their shoulders while walking past. It was that bad! Or how does one explain a situation where students of two or more schools engage themselves in a 'boxing contest' after school hours, thereby disturbing the peace of people in the neighbourhood?

This particular situation is rampant among Lagos schools just as gang raping of innocent girls by boys continues unabated.

But Professor Sobowale beat his chest confidently that he has laid a good path for moral and academic discipline in the schools. He told PM News in a chat that he had no regrets for whatever action he took. He also vowed to continue with the 'war' if he is reappointed as Education Commissioner.

Professor Sobowale, however, admitted that the task is Herculean. "You see," he said, "we are dealing with human beings, so it is not easy." But Reverend (Mrs.) N. Okoye-Eze, Principal, Lagos State Progressive Secondary School, Surulere, is one woman who believes that discipline in schools should be total in all its ramifications. "Both the students and teachers must exhibit a high standard of discipline," she counselled.

She commended the Lagos State Government for "trying their best" to engender discipline in schools. Mrs. Okoye-Eze, however, laid the blame at the door steps of parents.

"Most parents do not bother about their children's education. They do not care whether they go to school or read their books," she lamented.

For Mr. Morounfolu Ojikutu, Principal of Badagry Grammar School, the efforts of the education commissioner would soon yield great dividends.

Speaking with PM News, the erstwhile principal of Igbobi College and currently the President of All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), Lagos State, said "government has identified the problem, I am sure the solution would be found soon." He commended Professor Sobowale for "creating greater awareness" as far as discipline is concerned.

But some of the students see the effort as a wasted one. According to Toyin, an SSS 3 student in a Lagos public school, government is on a wild goose chase.

'What can they do?" She snapped. Master Kabiru Salau, also a student, said efforts at instilling discipline are paying off. "They lock our gate at 8 o'clock in my school." He added that any one caught coming late is made to cut grass or given other forms of punishment to serve as a deterrent to others.

Several teachers spoken to, while hailing government's efforts, however, expressed scepticism about the immediate success of the endeavour. In the long run, said a teacher who preferred anonymity, government may succeed. Presently, the teacher added, it is still like a drop of water in an ocean. "The students are too stubborn. They won't come to the class, they won't do their home work," she said. Other teachers said they are simply helpless. "Some of the students are from rich homes and when you discipline them, their parents would object to the action," a teacher lamented.

It is instructive, however, that the issue of discipline at whatever level should not be compromised because a society which lacks good ethos and values is doomed.

Copyright 2003 P.M. News. All rights reserved.

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