I have always been impressed by the old men and women in my village who are very fluent in English and well versed in Mathematics. These old men and women, I later learnt are Standard three or five dropouts. It's unfortunate that today, most Standard three or five students are illiterate. Recently, a viral video clip from a spelling bee TV program reminded us of this reality. We watched how students in Standards two, three, and five dismally failed to spell simple words like “book.” It is even more disappointing to note that these participants were the best pupils selected to represent their respective schools.
By watching the video, one can tell that these students don’t even know the alphabet _they cannot read or spell words even in Chichewa. This is just a reminder of the situation on the ground in our public schools. How low are our public education standards? What are these children doing in school if they cannot spell or read? When we say children are our future, is this the future we are referring to? Our illiteracy rate is already high, how high should it be for us, as a country to take action?
It is common knowledge that a majority of our population depends on government schools. Only very few parents and guardians can afford private education for their children. Why is it then that less attention is given to public schools? There is usually a shortage of teaching and learning resources like books, desks, and more, a very high teacher-to-student ratio, and an overpopulation of students in classrooms, among several other problems. Books, Computer and Science Laboratories are a luxury in public schools when that shouldn’t even be the case. Public schools are like a punishment that parents and students get for being too poor to afford private schools.
By Standard three, almost every pupil in a private school can speak, write and spell most of the simple words in English or Chichewa, sadly the same cannot be said for public schools. Very few students in Public schools can spell, read and write in English by the time they are in Standard three. A majority of those who can read or write are only able to do because their parents afford a private tutor, or take an initiative in homeschooling their children.
We say education is the key, what key are we handing over to our children? What doors will this key open if our children cannot spell, read or speak English and even do Mathematical calculations by the time they leave for secondary school?
There is a lot that has to be done in the education sector. We have to consider the kind of leaders are we going to have if this is the foundation we are laying out for them. Public schools should be reformed and adequately funded. Students should have access to learning materials, a conducive learning environment, and enough teachers.