The boy with the highest JAMB score this year won’t be going straight to the university after all; at least not to Unilag, his preferred school – he is below 16.
Some are boiling over and cursing JAMB, citing the contrast of ‘saner climes’ and how Unilag and schools with similar admission restrictions are backward and awkward.
Let me say that I support Unilag’s policy. Five years ago, before I had a child in a university, I probably would have seen the policy as anachronistic too, like others. People generally don’t get informed easily in Nigeria, especially in expert issues. Most expert knowledge is encased and inaccessible to the public. Child education is an expert knowledge.
Education is far more natural and expansive than most people think and it can put your child at a disadvantage and even risk if you ship them off into certain academic environments before they are naturally ready. In my days, you couldn’t be admitted into Primary 1 unless you were six, a standard still used in Germany. It obtained in Nigeria until the Middle Class grew into parenthood and mothers became collared workers who were no longer available for their children until 5pm. That was when Kindergarten schools took off, pretty more as Crèches or Day-Care. They were generally derisively called, ‘Jelesimi’, which means, ‘Spare the home some peace’, because they were designed just to keep the kids out of the home for a while and get them engaged. The intent was not to key them into mural education. However, things grew out of hands and kids began yo get drilled with arithmetics at the age of four. This happened mostly because the minders of those children were not professional teachers; they overburdened and over-educated the poor children.
And of course this seemed quite in order to our rabidly egoistic and competitive society: ‘My child is only six and he is in Primary 4, his age mates are in Primary 1’. Thats how we are all tempted to be. What the parent does not know is that a deficit is building up in the child.
Education is essentially polishing the flow of a child with society even as he recognises his individuality. In that process, the child is equipped with tools of thoughts, chief among which is mathematics – the pure language of rationality and science, English; the language of business, politics and of the international. As a child’s word is shaped immersed in that expanding pool, he is expected to be able to solve problems with increasing skills. At a point, he is expected to he able to identity and tackle problems common to the society at large. This process has humanity itself at the centre and in understanding humanity, age is important – experience comes with age. That is not something you hurry a child through or he will be good in the classroom but socially ill-adjusted. If your child is maladjusted socially, his education is almost meaningless – and there are many brilliant kids in that category today.
When your child gets into the university, he is absolutely in an adult environment. He will be confronted with all the isms at once. He will be up against atheists, drug addicts, revolutionaries, pacifists, extremists, sex addicts, homosexuals and a full assortment of characters and belief systems. He will meet with people who hate their parents, girls who have vowed never to marry, boys who think women are playthings. He will share intimate spaces with them. The university is a battle ground, not an environment you want to plunge a child into, is it? He may come out with a First Class, mind you, but he could be useless to himself and end up bitter with everybody especially those who sent him into that school too early. Some can cope of course, but they are few and I think education planners who have a duty to the public have a right to play it safe in this area and assume that those few kids are negligible in number.
If your child ends up finishing from school very early, let them go into a day school to learn programming, carpentry, piano or even ‘mechanic’. A fresh vista on life will be open to them and they will appreciate life in a way no money or ‘school’ can buy. They call it Gap Year and it makes sense. If will help make your child a lot more well-rounded. If you push them hard and ahead too fast, you may have to carry them virtually all their lives. That’s why you see so many of these students get pressed into dangerous lifestyles as soon as they get into school. One I know about, a girl, fell into a group smoking weed and all that. An unusual number are checking in for psychiatric treatment. When they get married, they report their spouse to their parents or pastors on weekly basis because their minds are cooked too rapidly. It is raw within, but done on the outside. There is a report out there that the most brilliant students are usually not very successful in life generally. So, parents, life is not just about good classroom grades and a total-racall intellect. Go for full-blown success, not just academic records. Doesn’t that make sense?