Basing Teachers’ Promotion on Students’ Exam Results Promotes Malpractice – SM Adekanye
The death has been announced of a retired Director of Education and Principal in the Lagos State Ministry of Education, Mr S.M Adekanye. He breathed his last on Wednesday, March 20 2019.
A teacher, an author and examiner of English Language, Adekanye was respected for his forthrightness and commitment to duty.
It is indeed a great loss for the education community in Lagos State.
He once granted Demola Adefajo’s Blog (DAB) an exclusive interview where he bared his mind on many issues.
The interview is reproduced below for your pleasure.
Mr S.M. AdebisiAdekanye is a retired Director of Education who took his bow out of the teaching service in 2013 spoke with our correspondent on a number of issues impinging on education- examination malpractice, sexual harassment, failure in English Language, discipline in school and a host of others.
Enjoy the interview
How did the journey start?
I am Mr SM AdebisiAdekanye.
I started as an ordinary teacher in 1980. I started as a teacher of English Language and English Literature at Anwar-ul-Islam College Agege in the HSC classes and Class five. That’s where I started. After some time I became the head of department of English Language and Literature. I left the school in 1990. I was posted to Lagos Baptist College, OkeOdo. I spent few months there before I was transferred to Yewa High School, Agege in the same year. I was in Yewa High School as he Vice Principal of the school from 1990 to 1999. I was posted to FESTAC College, AmuwoOdofin as the Deputy Principal in 1999. I spent just a month there. I was posted to St Joseph Secondary School, Agege, where I also served as the Deputy Principal from 1999 to 2001 when the schools were handed over to the original owners. From there I went to IjaiyeOjokoro as the Deputy Principal.
After that I came to Millennium Secondary School, Egbeda in 2002 as the Principal of the school. I was there till 2007 when I was moved to Alimoso Senor Grammar School, Alimoso as the Principal. Then in October 2010, I was transferred to Lagos Model College, Meiran as the Principal. I was there till June 26, 2013 when I retired from the service.
Factors responsible for bad results in English Language
The factors are many. Let me start with the students. The students are not properly groomed in the subject. The subject is very demanding. From the school level, the students should write essays, do comprehension passages, do summary. Then we have the objectives and Test of Orals and Lexis and Structure. All these should be done within a week. But the Essay area is the only area the child would be asked to write something for someone to interpret. So the student should be properly groomed. If he can write a good essay, there is no way he would not be able to handle the other aspects.
As for the teachers: the teachers’ knowledge and enthusiasm. Don’t let me use the word knowledge. The enthusiasm in teaching the subject is low. From the beginning they find the subject a burdensome subject, very engrossing and demanding. And then if it is the lazy type, he or she would not be able to do what is expected of him or her. There are two categories of students. Those from educationally enriched background, from literate homes and those from homes where the parents do not have deep knowledge of English Language. The students from the homes where the parents don’t have deep knowledge of the subject and government bad policies worsen the situation. Eventually, the students record low marks.
These are the basic issues.
Let me pick the example of a public secondary school. If you give them an essay topic, before you can come across a student who can score 22 over 50 in essay writing then such a student must be a brilliant student. Most of them score between 12 and 18 in essay. The paper 1 carries 100 marks. Essay: 50, Comprehension: 20, Summary: 30. If a candidate scores 12 or 15 over 50 in Essay, if he is not properly groomed, he would not be able to respond properly in Comprehension. So in all, maybe he manages to scores between 30 and 35 in paper 1. The Objective is 80 questions which may boil down to 20 marks eventually. Then you get to test of orals, 15 marks. So the Paper 1 is the Paper that can do and undo the candidate. It carries the greater proportion of the marks. But a child that does not have control over the subject would just mess up everything and it would bog down to F9.
The problems are many. The problems are with the students themselves, the teachers and even the government.
The role of the government
The government is to create an enabling environment for teaching and learning. Then the government has to go about the training and retraining the teachers. Training and retraining the teachers is not just bringing ideas not relevant to the environment. It is a question of teaching them basic things like how to write good essays, how they will go about their comprehension, how they will go about their summary passages. If a teacher has control on all these areas, there is no way the child would fail. Even if the child is from educationally disadvantaged background, it doesn’t matter. The grading is from A1 to C6. He can at least get C6.
But if the teacher is not properly equipped in these areas, the students would find it difficult to pass. That is why the government should train and retrain. They should not stop training teachers. If they want to train, they should look for relevant resource people. People who have gone through the educational system, who have been involved in marking of scripts and who actually know the demands of English Language syllabus. When all these are lacking, there is no way the student can pass English Language. Like I have said earlier, in a public school before you can come across a student who will score 40 over 100 is a difficult task.
Teachers not being examiners
As a teacher you should attend the coordination even if you are not going to mark. You should acquire the experience because the schemes vary from year to year. If a teacher is not conversant with all these things, he won’t know the right thing expected of him. For example, today in Paper 1 we have the essay, comprehension and summary. Most of the time they have been giving the students stories to react to in comprehension and summary. In essay, they ask the students to write personal letters. Most of the time they write stories that are not relevant fit into requirements. A teacher has to be conversant with all these things. When the teacher is not conversant, there is no way he can impart the needed knowledge.
Discipline of students
Discipline will break down in schools because in the home too it is not observed. The parents don’t insist on discipline. If a child is from a disciplined home, he would transfer it to the school. Maintaining discipline in schools is a very difficult area because of certain cases coming out of disciplining students. Government encroachment has been too much. Discipline in the school is necessary. It is the strength of every school. With disciplines school and disciplined administration you will have a very disciplined school. But discipline has failed in the society and at homes. It is very difficult to maintain it except you are the stubborn Principal who appreciates the necessity of discipline in the school setting. Even then, as a human being there are times you can make a mistake. If you don’t device a means of maintaining discipline it may be very difficult. Discipline is essential in the school but very difficult.
It is for the smooth running of the administration if students will comport themselves and be orderly.
When you misfire as an administrator you are in trouble. Disciplined and orderly school is essential for smooth administration and learning. When you get to a disciplined school you think you are in a graveyard. Everything is silent. Everybody is minding his or her business. It is quiet with no disturbance or students roaming about. Everybody will be seated and teaching and learning would be going on well. And the students will not come to school late.
When you want to maintain that as a Principal some of your teachers would be rebellious. They will consider it to be too harsh. The government is not helping matters. Parents are also not helping matters. Most of the young parents don’t beat their children at home. During our own time our parents beat us at home. So it was not strange if you were beaten at school. Even if you were bruised nobody would care. But these days the young parents would not want to beat their children and they would not want the teacher to beat their children.
If you say punishment, you can give the child imposition. But these days it takes time. And the government is not encouraging suspension of students. If a child has gone beyond bounds, you just give him a week or two to stay at home with the parents and return when he is sober. Government restrictions have made things very difficult for school Principals. The Principals have no authority. He is the school Principal, but if he is not diplomatic, he can incur the wrath of the society, the government.
Experience with discipline of students as a Principal
What I was doing was to call a meeting of the parents before curbing the excesses of the students. I would put a notice, inviting the parents to discuss at length. For instance on late coming, I would tell the parents “your children have been coming late and it has been disturbing teaching and learning in the first period. what do we do?” If they say we should curb the lateness, we would then deliberate on how to curb the lateness. I would take suggestions from the parents. Mine would be to implement the suggestions. The reason is this: there are some parents who have access to the ministry. They would just go and tell some cock and bull story. Eventually, they would start worrying you. They (Ministry Officials) would not let you concentrate in school.
It is better to start with the parents and give the children grace of, maybe, two weeks to adjust. You tell them “we have resumed today. If you come late to school two weeks from now, you would be sanctioned”. It is as simple as that.
You see, you cannot discipline the students without the parents’ consents because some of them may not agree with you.
So that was the way I was going by it. I would first of all invite the parents and we discuss and reach resolution. Then the students would be given time to prepare. By the time the grace period expires he would have checked himself and put some things in order. Eventually, you would have very few of them would fall into that trap. There must be consultation.
And you as the Principal must be an embodiment of discipline. If you tell the students not to come late, you too should come to school early. By 7 to 7.30 you are already in the school. If you do that, the children will learn one or two things from you. But you cannot sit somewhere, doing something different and expect the students to behave well. It won’t work. If you want to curb staff lateness, you come early to school. You should be one of the first arrivals in the school.
The problem is that the students are not properly equipped for the examination. So they panic when they want to go and write the examination. They don’t exude that confidence expected of them. That is why they go all out to look for easy way out. That easy way out is examination malpractice. They look for ‘live’ questions, solicit for assistance of some corrupt teachers to assist them in the examination hall.
The first solution to examination malpractice is to prepare the children very well. If the child is very well prepared, half of the problem is already solved.
Then with the staff, all of them cannot be corrupt. You have one or two teachers you can trust who would not compromise. These are the teachers you choose to lead the invigilators. There would be more than two who are honest who would not tolerate malpractice. They are the people you make the chief invigilators for each paper. Some of the teachers, the young teachers especially, collect money. They would even collect money for even tests,
Prepare the children well and you will need some disciplined and honest teachers who will invigilate.
So if you have the honest teachers leading the invigilation, the deviant ones cannot do anything. If they want to do anything unusual they would be curbed.
Involvement of school Principals in examination malpractice
The pressure for that is from the government. When the school result is bad they indict them. In their meetings they say all sorts of uncomplimentary things about such schools as if the school is not being properly manned, when such pressure is mounted on them, they will go to the extent of aiding and abetting. Promotion of the staff should not be based on the performance of the students. Once you do it like that, you are indirectly creating an atmosphere conducive for examination malpractice.
How have you been spending your retirement period?
I have been going round some schools, assisting them on the effective teaching of English Language. I want to establish a consultancy service where teachers would be trained in the teaching of certain subjects- English Language, Mathematics, Economics and some other subjects. The teachers would be trained by the best hands you can find in this country.
Sexual harassment in schools
I heard some cases like that. It is a very delicate matter. In the first instance, when something of that nature happens in the school the school would be divided. You would have some members of staff who would say no and others would say yes. Some would be supporting the accused teachers. That is why I say it is very delicate matter. If a teacher is using his position as teacher of students to be harassing those students sexually, the best thing to do as a Principal is to request for his transfer from that school. If he goes to another school and he does that, they also would agitate for his transfer. By the time he goes round about ten or twenty schools, he would eventually be sober
Teachers who write anonymous petitions
What you should do as a Principal is to have record of everything in the school. Some teachers want to operate in an atmosphere of confusion. They don’t like well-disciplined place where things are done in proper manner. I can give you one simple example: if at the end of every term, the Principal would call for the marks, the continuous assessment marks, have a copy with him and a copy with the teacher, and do that for all the test and take the pain to vet the CA marks and ensure they agree with what is in the marked scripts, teachers would find you very strict. Some would commend you. But those who live on collecting N500 from students and so forth would gang against the Principal and write their petitions
The Ministry of Education is operating a system I will call an absentee landlord. When the landlord is not living on the premises, anytime he comes and people tell him about some things going on he would consider all the tenants as being bad. And he would just be doing some things the tenants will not like. That is what they do in their investigation. They come for investigation. They don’t have their facts. If the person who wrote the petition has been able to make himself available, it would have been easy to investigate.
Some teachers basically are cowards. They can’t call a spade a spade. If you see that the Principal is doing something bad and come out with your facts, it would be very easy. It would solve a lot of problems. You see when the Ministry officials start their investigation, if you are not careful, innocent people would be brought to their investigation because they would mention their names somewhere. By the time you get to know they would start asking foolish questions. That is what I see in the whole idea of petition writing.
A Principal who would not be subjected to anonymous petition would be one who has given them the laxity to do whatever they like. Once the Principal is disciplined and say this is what I want for my school, a lot of the teachers would commend the Principal. But you would have three or four who would be very rebellious because they cannot operate in that atmosphere. So certainly they can write a petition against the Principal .
Life as a retiree
The entitlement was delayed. But it has eventually been paid. I am sorry to say one thing, Fashola’s government was basically an anti-pensioner’s government. His emphasis was on other development, neglecting the pensioners. Ambode has been very good to the pensioners. If he can continue to clear the backlog, once someone retires they can get their entitlements within three to four months. But once there is backlog there is no way you can pay someone who has just retired. It is very painful when you retire and you don’t have any means of livelihood. You were once collecting a salary and the salary was okay for you. But when you are retired you don’t have anything. Not even N5000. It is a big money to you. And you know you are growing. And this environment when you are growing all sorts of ailments would be emerging- diabetes, hypertension. All these things would start coming. That is the time you have to take good care of your health. And when you don’t have the financial wherewithal what do you do
I believe you should do your best and leave the rest to God
It is a personal matter. I am not enthusiastic about religion. Not that I condemn religion but I have read a lot about what religion can cause in the society. Very bad people hide themselves under the cloak of religion and become hypocrites. So I am not so keen. Not that I don’t believe in God. But I am not so keen about religion.