HistoryOCT 19 EDITIONTrending

EARLY EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

By: Florence Azike

Early education was to develop the physical skills, character, intellect and sense of belonging to the community as well as inculcating respect for elders, education entailed vocational training and understanding / appreciating the community’s cultural heritage. Informal education in Nigeria was very progressive where children especially boys grew up understudying their parents or masters of various skilled occupations ranging from farming, trading, craft fishing, cattle rearing ,drumming, traditional medicine and so on.

Before the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, formal education in the north was strictly religious and supervised by mallams who drilled children in the study and memorizing of the Quran and Arabic alphabet while in the southern coastal areas of the south; western education was introduced as early as 1842 with the aim of propagating Christianity. The recipients learnt how to read bibles in English, interpret, trained as school masters, catechists and so on.

The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates brought people of different ethnic groups and faith together hence necessitated the adoption of federal structure of education which was based on the British system of education called form six. This system divided grades into six elementary years, three junior secondary years and two senior secondary years. Passing out from senior secondary with good grades necessitated the adoption of federal structure of education which was based on the British system of education called form six.

Laying foundation stone of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka by HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent while Dr. Michael Okpara & Wife, Premier Eastern Region looks on, 5th October 1960

This system divided grades into six elementary years, three junior secondary years and two senior secondary years. Passing out from senior secondary with good grades enabled learners to undergo two years of university preparatory program otherwise known as A level (advanced Level), before they could gain admission into any of the few universities in the country.

Western education in the 60s was primarily intended to prepare its recipients for job opportunities as administrators, teachers, clerks, clergies, interpreters, nurses, skilled technicians and such jobs as necessary to aid the smooth transition & translation of the aims of the colonial experience.

Group Photo Saint Georges Grammar School Obinomba in the Old Gongola Region of Nigeria 1966

Teachers were strict disciplinarians and lived their lives as role models so much that everyone in the community looked up to them as owners of knowledge especially in the south while in the north parents who sent their children to acquire western education were seen as very foolish especially in the case of girls. Some interesting characteristics of education in the 60s and early 70s until when the 6-3-3 -4 educational system was introduced include.

-Learners were expected to produce all that the teacher taught by memorizing at examinations. A student could memorize a whole novel, poems, multiplication tables and recitations, dramatic presentations were highly applauded.

-There were no nursery schools; children were not taken to school until they were of age, at age six or at least when the child’s left hand could touch the right ear.

Major subjects learnt in schools were spelling, writing, drawing & such that were meant to inculcate administrative qualities in them. -School teachers were very strict; they disciplined children by flogging to the extent that even when children disrespect or engage in unlawful acts at home, their parents took them to teachers in their neighborhood for discipline. In most traditional settings teachers were seen to be proficient, intelligent, honest citizens whose character was worthy of emulation and their advice was always sought for in development matters.

– Schools prepared report cards stating the children’s performance as arranged in positions, on the last day of school, result are announced in assembly halls and children who fail (do not perform up to the standards or expectation) are punished and made to repeat such classes. There were no rooms and instances of skipping classes and examination malpractice was a taboo.

-Academic excellence, worthy and good behavior were part of what is looked out for not before award of certificates and qualifications.

-To make the acquisition of western education easier, some schools made it two sections resulting into morning and evening schools. Common sports include netball, football, Athletics and so on. The short and long breaks were always very exciting times when individual children  (possible from an elite parent) bring balls to school for play, automatically plays in the teams activities which comes to an end whenever the owner of the ball decides to go home.

Football pitches in those days were not so grassed, the goal post are marked with stones kept apart and then balls going over the stone were called over stone and not over the bar as we say now. The writing materials used in those days include slates & chalks for the pupils and black boards & chalk (blackened with charcoal and cleaned with dusters) by the teachers as opposed to laptops and projectors now. Fountain pen ink- known as Quirk & other gel pens were very fashionable and only pupils in upper primary school used pen.

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