Archives: Nigeria

When Children Question Everything

It is commonly accepted that kids say the darndest things (Bill Cosby’s Show; anyone?). It is also known that

Source: Google

Source: Google

kids ask questions about anything and everything. Some times, those questions are pretty uncomfortable, and sometimes embarrassing. There is often the temptation to brush them off and send them to go play a game or get some work done when they start pushing along certain lines. They are kids, after all.

 But perhaps, we can use the natural inquisitiveness of our children to help them learn to think and analyze. Can it be that we can find a place of balance in which we let kids be kids without stifling their curious and exploring minds?

 Experience hows that kids who question and poke at everything possible tend to develop into adults who can think through situations and concepts better. While it may be scary for some parents, it is also true that children who are much more outgoing, and often pushing the boundaries and crossing lines, tend to grow up into adults who are able to take the bull of life by the horns. They tend to be able to thrive even against the greatest odds. They are used to not conforming and taking no for an answer.

 It is that place of balance where we teach children the place of order and authority, yet let their minds and bodies roam in adventure and exploration that guardians, parents and teachers must find in raising and training children. Some parents lock down the child completely, insisting that a child’s place is absolute submission. Such children often grow up timid and incapable of coping when life’s storms hit. Other parents just let the child have their way a hundred percent. Usually, such kids grow up to become delinquents. Both approaches are fraught with problems. The place of balance is needed.

Do you remember how your parents handled your questioning everything and pushing boundaries? As a parent, how do you cope with this need to strike a balance?

Why We Must Invest More in Primary Education

We shall kick off today’s topic with a quote from an article that we saw yesterday on the subject of education:

“People with decent primary and secondary education are more likely to be the outliers that will thrive in spite of the university they go to. It may sound elitist but (if you were not one yourself), you probably remember that classmate at university (or three, or five or twenty), who struggled not only with grammar, but also with grasping every material concept your lecturers tried to teach. People who would throw a tantrum if they could not record the lecturer verbatim. People who had not learnt how to learn.”  Source: How Much Does a Bad Education Cost?

The above quote so captures part of the essence of what is wrong with the Nigerian education system as it is: we are not providing a solid foundation for students and the workers of tomorrow because our primary education is weak. It is at this level that the core tools that are essential to a lifetime of learning and skills development should be imparted. Once that stage is flawed and ineffective, pretty much nothing else works well going forward. Here are the key issues:

  • Children who do not get quality primary school education are more likely to struggle through secondary school, university and whatever vocation they pick later in life.

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    Google

  • Those who learn good comprehension skills, good study habits and good analytical skills at the primary level are likely to stand out even if what they are later exposed to at the secondary and tertiary levels are substandard systems. Why? They would have learnt the basics. They would have developed the drive and the skills required to learn by themselves.
  • This also often means that even as workers later in life, when in a less than ideal situation, they are able to display greater initiative

In architecture and building circles, it is a fact that once the foundation of a building is weak or bad, it doesn’t matter how grand or beautiful the structure built on it is, the building will fail. That is the very reason why we all – parents, guardians, educators and government – need to invest more in primary education right now. As it is, what we have on ground now mostly means that we will continue to churn out graduates who are unemployable and who are incapable of innovation on the job.

How Can Slow Learners Be Helped?

It can be a very frustrating experience teaching, training, instructing and observing the student who is unable to grasp the subject quickly or even at all. Every teacher or instructor faces this scenario at some point in time. There is that student that is slow to assimilate, process and apply information. In some cases, there are those who are unable to grasp certain things at all.

Image from Google

 

 

Looking through report sheets of various students over a period of time, one can easily conclude that some students are just not bright. What does the teacher do in such a situation? The most important thing to note is that a slow learner is not necessarily a dumb person. Perhaps this is not quite his sphere of intelligence. Perhaps his potential is a little different. Perhaps he has been lazy or hasn’t paid attention.

 

Praise Effort, not Results

Where a student has been diligent, the first thing we must do is praise their efforts. Yes; the results may be poor and unworthy of praise, but the effort put in by the student is worthy of commendation.  Be sure to note the distinction though: praising poor results is not only wrong, but will further ensure that the student does not do better. But by all means, do commend any god efforts.

 

Encourage Diligence

The student needs to be encouraged to put in more time and effort. While intelligence and natural ability are attractive, more often than not, hard work can catch up and in some cases overtake those.  Help build their self-confidence by pointing out that they can excel if they put in more effort.

 

Give Extra Attention

The teacher or instructor needs to pay extra attention to the slow learner and help them make progress. There is no easy way around it. But the true teacher will go the extra mile for the reward of seeing their student do well. Draw up some extra time for them. Give them extra reading to do. Sit with them to explain the difficult things to them. Make them comfortable. The teacher needs to be their go-to person when they get stuck.

 

All things being equal, with a little assistance from a teacher who cares, even slow learners can produce some really amazing results.

A FAMILY TRIP THIS HOLIDAY IS AN EXCELLENT IDEA

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It is easy to wave off holidays as times to give children a break from learning. However, this can be a grave mistake. While children should be given a break from formal learning and schooling, there are many fun ways of ensuring that they do learn even during long holidays.

A field trip is an excellent idea of a fun way to teach your children and /or wards in a hands-on way during holidays. By definition, a field trip is a trip made by students to learn about something

A field trip can be to places like nature spots e.g. water springs, water falls, rocks and nature trails, zoos, schools, museums, etc. It is fun, exciting, and yet educational. Here are some benefits of a field trip:

  • children have fun traveling and experiencing new places and things
  • children learn in a hands-on manner different from what obtains in a school environment
  • children get more exposure to the variety of peoples and customs that exist in the world
  • children get to know their country better

Holidays – especially to affluent Nigerians – often mean one or more trips to choice cities in Europe, North America, Middle East or the Asia – New York, Paris, London, Atlanta, Singapore, or Dubai. However, Nigeria is a large country, with lots of beautiful locations that all provide learning experiences. Those experiences include: historical, cultural, religious and scientific. Here are a few such places:

  • Olumo Rock, Abeokuta
  • Ikogosi Water Falls, Ikogosi-Ekiti
  • Arinta Water Fall, Iponle Ekiti
  • Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife
  • University Of Ibadan Zoological Garden (and the campus too)
  • Obudu Cattle Ranch, Calabar
  • Kainji Dam and Lake Kainji, Niger State
  • Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria

These are just a handful of places to visit. Each of them have a rich history that involves stories based on culture and/or science. Your children will see and hear things for themselves that will reinforce the theoretical classes they have had in school. A lot of things will be clearer to them. And they will have great fun while at it. You should give it a try these holidays.

Don’t forget to pick up one or more of First Veritas books with homegrown content that helps your children learn from the point of view of our local environment.

LEARNING SHOULD BE FUN

As adults, we may have been conditioned to believe that education and a serious face are inseparable. After all, learning how to get serious is a key part of growing up; right? Or so we are told. Yet, it has been proven again and again that the more fun even adults have at something, the easier they are likely to find doing it and the better they are likely to become at it. If that applies to adults, perhaps we need to review how we teach children and young adults.

Learning can be fun. Learning should be fun. We need a paradigm change. That someone is having fun at something shouldn’t mean that they are not learning or that they are unserious about their studies or work. Many people went through school without any inkling that learning does not have to be drudgery and uninteresting. For most, schooling was painful and something that they couldn’t wait to get away from. But if we make learning fun, there is no reason why anyone should want to run away from it.

  • The teacher ought to have fun teaching. How effective can a teacher, trainer or instructor be if they do not enjoy what they do? Do we really want to entrust the training of our children to people who do not enjoy teaching them?
  • The pupils and students ought to have fun learning. When they find their studies and classrooms fun, we will hardly ever have to chase them around and be able to spend our energies to more productive tasks and experiences. They will read and learn of their own accord more than ever.
  • At every tier of the educational system should be an air of fun. From the policy makers to administrators, the idea of learning being fun should be imprinted from the very start or else it won’t work.

Usually, we reserve learning as fun (or is it fun as learning now) for nursery and pre-school children. We expect that after that, learning should be sober and serious. While there is some sense in which that is true, what happens usually is that we squeeze out all the fun from that point on. A grave mistake. Make leaning fun and watch as more knowledge goes round.

TALENT VERSUS ORGANIZATION

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The semi-finals match between Germany and Brazil at the FIFA World Cup 2014 was a huge upset and a record breaker. No-one could have predicted it would go so bad for either of the two teams playing. Neither was an underdog at any level of football. Yet, when the match was over and the dust had cleared, Germany had carried the day with a 7-1 win over Brazil. Scandalous is a good way to describe it.

Someone has described it as a victory of organisation over talent. That is a good summary, and there are lessons to be gleaned if we break it down.

  • The Brazilian team was choke full of talented players
  • The Brazilian team was full of passionate players (did you see how they sang their national anthem lustfully?)
  • But the Germans were the better organised team
  • The Germans were the more disciplined team

It has been proven that important as talent and passion may be, discipline and organisation play a much more important role in self development and hence in succeeding than mere talent and passion do. In other words, the more disciplined and organised person stands a better chance of learning, developing new skills, getting better at a task, passing exams and succeeding in life.

Sure, if we have a talented, passionate person who also embraces discipline and is well organised, we would have someone who would be unbeatable. Michael Jackson sits at the top of the popular music world because in addition to his natural talent and passion, he imbibed discipline early in life and never walked away from it till death.

  • Draw up a study time table.
  • Draw up a reading list
  • Schedule your tutorial classes
  • Schedule your eating, rest and sleep periods
  • Schedule practice periods

Talent or not, you can excel. Talent or not, you must embrace a life of discipline. You must get organised. By so doing, you exponentially increase your chances of success.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT ON YOUR OWN RECENTLY?

Educational institutions and teachers are important and play a vital role in learning in every society. Yet, it has been proven that personal interest plays a very strong role in the learning process that life is. And if there is anything that personal interest does, it is that it motivates us to find out things on our own. It drives us into curiosity. It causes us to pursue knowledge.

It has been said that pursuit is the proof of desire. In other words, if something really interests you and you really want it, you will go after it.

Before this age, if you needed to learn by yourself, you had to visit a library every day, looking through the available book titles to sift which one has what you needed, then sit down for long hours day after day gleaning as much as you can from the titles you eventually selected. Sometimes, you had to repeat the process again and again till you found what you wanted. Today, technology has made it easier to learn by yourself.

Here are a few pointers:

  • using Google or other search engines, you can find out quick and dirty articles to break down any subject to you at whatever level of understanding you are – beginner, moderate or expert levels.
  • You can enrol online for a variety of online courses that allow you to learn from anywhere you are and at your own pace and in your own time.
  • Again, with the use of any search engine, you can find book titles that fit your learning needs in a matter of hours and you can order them right there online and have them delivered to you where you are

Learning has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. Now, even in situations where you have the benefit of a teacher, you can easily augment what you are learning from your instructor and become a much better equipped person.

So, here is the question: What have you learnt on your own recently?

NIGERIA NEEDS A MUCH STRONGER EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

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Being custodians of our children’s education, teachers play a very vital role in the society. From the creche all the way up to higher institutions, teachers are at the core of the education of our children. This is why the subject of training , evaluation and re-training should be taken as a serious one.

It will not do to have teachers whose spoken and written English are below standard. That would be very counter-productive, as students will end up learning the wrong things. That is why the training of teachers should be a priority, and not an after-thought.

It does not help either that many people who end up studying education at the higher institution level do so as a last resort. Unable to secure admission for the courses that they are really interested in, they settle for Education because of lower cut-off marks and easier entry requirements. Perhaps something is wrong with such a system? We end up with teachers who are not particularly wanting to teach in the first place, but are teachers by reason of circumstances.

That is bad enough already. Consider also that many of them are unable to put a flawless sentence together in English, and the issues quickly get compounded. We also live in a world where things change fast. As such, the need for evaluations and re-training as often as possible. The idea is to spot individuals who need to be chucked out f the system, as well as individuals who can get better with some more training.

If anything, Nigeria needs a much stronger educational system, and not one in which any and every one can walk in to teach. Things are already bad as they are. Implementing strong evaluation and re-training processes into the system can only be a good thing. Otherwise, we can say goodbye to any hopes of things getting better. Without sound teachers, there can be no such hope.

CONTINUOS DEVELOPMENT FOR EDUCATORS

It is a fast-changing world that we live in. It is one in which everyone, regardless of their vocation, need to continually develop themselves. As educators of everyone else, teacher especially need to continually brush up their knowledge and polish their skills.teachersDev

These can be done in a number of ways:

  1. use free web-based resources to keep abreast of new developments and to broaden exposure
  2. purchase audio-visual materials for use at home
  3. find ways to increase exposure to modern teaching and learning tools
  4. enroll for training courses and developmental programmes. For example, First Veritas runs a  Teachers Institute that offers a suite of structured and comprehensive professional development Programs for teachers as well as school leaders delivered in books, workshop settings and digital/on line access.

In Nigeria at the moment, education is experiencing huge growth and there is a dearth of qualified hands to take on some of the new openings. Many qualified hands too need a wider exposure to international best practices.

While educational institutions need to do whatever they can to provide ongoing training to their teachers and instructors, individuals must also take responsibility for their personal development.

  1. If you are an educator, are you able to use an internet-connected computer proficiently?
  2. Are you able to use the internet as a library and research tool?
  3. Are you up-to-date with the latest discoveries in your field?
  4. Are you able to use a mobile to search out information on the spur of the moment?

These are personal skills that will give you an edge in today’s fast-paced world. The ability to search out information quickly and the ability to stay on the cutting edge will set you apart as an excellent educator. At the end of the day, our passion to improve ourselves is perhaps the most important factor.

WHAT WERE YOUR CHILDHOOD DREAMS ?

We were all once children, and like all children, we had childhood dreams. Many of those dreams changed weekly or monthly. Whatever the intervals, they certainly changed. From wanting to be pilots to policemen, and then engineers, children swing across a range of desires and dreams. This is perfectly healthy, and no adult should have sleepless nights over such childhood fantasies.

Sometimes, a child would come home and announce that when she grew up she would want to marry her father! Kids do say hilarious things. We should never have knee-jerk reactions to such things. It is all part of the process of discovering and becoming. Eventually, with time, everyone settles down with a few things and apply themselves to those things. Years later as an adult, a person may end up adopting a vocation that he never even fantasized about as a child.

Because of the rapid changes going on in the world, especially in the field of technology, certain jobs and roles didn’t even exist ten years ago. As such, it is essential that we keep exposing children to keep them abreast of new developments. Thankfully, the internet is there. Also, there are books and periodicals that serve the purpose as well. Television, if well channelled, can also serve to help continually expose children to how the world is changing. There are television channels devoted to scientific developments and current affairs. Along with educational TV shows and audio-visual products, these are potent resources for ensuring that whatever it is that your children dream of today, they are best equipped for the realities of tomorrow.

In the meantime, over to you: what were your childhood dreams, and how many of them have you embraced as an adult? Do share your stories in the comments section below.