We are all appalled by the way standards of our schools from primary to tertiary have fallen off the cliff. In order to get into â€śgoodâ€ť schools these days, parents have to pay a great deal of money or be able to dish out foreign currencies locally or for education abroad. We have Nigerians also sending their children to schools in Ghana, Sierra Leone and other African countries not as rich or endowed but with cheaper quality schools. We also have some Africans sending their children, if they can afford it, to schools in Nigeria.
A solid Primary School foundation is paramount for children to excel in secondary and in tertiary education. Realizing Africans of all works of life for seek education, some rich people have taken over the schools and they are making good, reaping real profit out of it by providing very little in return. We had noted the recruitment of some unqualified expatriates and the homeless from abroad to become primary and secondary school teachers. Though these schools attract students especially from rich parents, their graduates can hardly read and write well while their English and American slangs are mimics at best.
If we start at the primary schools, in place of these schools exotic or glorified babysitting schools, we may be able to create our own Cooperative Community School. This is not new in Nigeria. We still remember Jakande schools that some hated so much but those that benefited most from it are unwilling to defend. It got to a point where Lagosians could not find house boys and girls anymore because Jakande provided poorly equipped schools everywhere, even on the water and swamps. The glass was either half full or half empty. We can all agree that primary education must reach greater heights.
Well, Cooperative School can be different from Jakande schools. It will borrow from the old lesson teachers of those days that supplemented those good schools during good times in Nigeria. We still have individual evening lessons like the good old days but the focus these days is in making money not penchant for teaching. Full time teachers in many of our schools are either not getting paid or underpaid. We may not be surprised that even in the exotic schools, homeless recruits from overseas get better paid than locals. The profit is sucked away from the most important contributors and poorly trained students.
The bottom line here is that we are not short of those critical components for the takeoff of Cooperative Community School in your own localities. We also have many retired or pensioned folks whose uses in the communities have been discarded. Some are teachers but so are accountants, lawyers, doctors, farmers, traders whose skills are still sharp. Some are willing to volunteer their time for little or no stipend to get the opportunity to pass on their skills and help our children; so that providers and receivers can be useful.
We also need a land where the Cooperative Community schools can be situated. If we have a land, we can start under the tree like the old days lesson, then to Jakande building and progress to adequate facility. Remember that most of the old evening teachers started that way until the number of their students increased. If you are wondering who is going to give land for primary school, it has to come as donations from the communities, the local government and the good philanthropists that are willing out of dedication and generosity. Dedicating their time can be as precious.
It may seem simple on paper but this is no small task. Each community effort is what will make the difference. There is no good school anywhere in the world, except those the community participates in and make good. Community participation is more important than money. Indeed, the more we rely on donations in materials and skills, the higher the chances of success. As soon as we focus on money, it will override community donation in skills and materials. People still remember how houses were built with individual and community effort. Believe it or not, the best houses in middle class neighborhood in the US are those of carpenter and plumbers as they help one another out to reduce expenses.
In a nonprofit organization like Cooperative Community School, administrative cost must never exceed ten percent and in this case administrators will get paid in credits and with donations in materials and stipend for their skills like teachers, janitors, cooks, builders, carpenters, plumbers and other that will build and teach in the schools. This is no small endeavor but it must start small and individually localized to attract donations in material, skills and talents. They must be able to learn from one another to improve strategies.
There is no way we can get up one day and start our projects without the approval of our local governments. We need them to also donate land while we recruit teachers and other workers. If we are good enough like those Jakande schools that people mistook in those days for private schools, we may be able to take over many of the school in disrepute today. But it must not be our mission to take over schools since there are rooms for many more good schools. How we deemphasize cash and rely mostly on exchange credits will have to be worked out. But credit must be given and shared equally regardless of skills.
The most challenging part of this project is how donation of skills and materials will be calculated into credits and how those credits can be used to enroll their children in Cooperative Community schools. As long as we understand that the schools are not free, parents have to contribute something into Cooperative Community School to be eligible. Each of us donates according to his or her means or talent. No service is too small or too big in terms of credits gained from our donation. A retired accountant with grown kids may donate his credit to the less privileged that wants to attend a Cooperative Community School.
We cannot over emphasize that the success of each project of Cooperative Community School depends on what is put in and taking focus away from money as the basis of founding. Once looter realize money is not there for them to make, the project will be left to dedicated individuals. What may look good on paper may turn out to be useless if it is not properly implemented. The advantage is that this is not brand new; it is revitalization of the good old days when education belonged to dedicated people only.
God created each and every one of us with a talent; there must be a useful need for each parent in each of these schools. If you cannot be a teacher, you can be a janitor, a sowing mistress, okada, a trader or market lady. If you are rich enough, you can donate a highly skill needed teacher but salary will be negotiated between the teacher and the donor. If you cannot donate anything because you are disabled, others can donate their credits to your child. We must try as much as we possibly can to eliminate or reduce our favorable dispositions.
Ideas are just that until it is implemented. If you know willing participants in your communities, please pass this along. You never know who is going to own it and turn it into reality. Sometimes it is what one, two or many people are thinking about and what others can run with. It can be modified, improved on, rectified but the goal is to provide local quality education for our children with full community participation devoid of greed. It will allow us to focus on the need of the children and the culture of the communities since we will have limited resources.
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