Concerns Over Pupils Skipping Primary Five For Secondary School

Many parents craved for it. Not a few are always ready to flaunt it to other parents that their children skipped primary six and headed straight to junior secondary school. Some even want their children and wards to gain admission to JSS1 from primary four. To them, this is a cost-saving method.

For nine-year-old Jason, his parents did not think primary five was important. They enrolled him into a private secondary school in Ifako-Ijaiye area of Lagos State. To his elated mother, her nine-year-old was mature and intelligent enough to start secondary school.

She said, “There is no need keeping him in primary school when he could be in secondary school. He sat for the entrance examination for the school and he passed very well. Moreover, I think he is mature. I see no reason why we should continue to waste money paying for his fees at the primary level when he could be in secondary school. I may not advise all parents to copy my move, but if a parent thinks his or her child is mature enough to start secondary school while he or she is still in primary four, they should withdraw him or her for enrollment in a good secondary school.”

Lanre Babalola’s small stature as a nine-year-old should make his parents think twice before enrolling him in the secondary school. Currently in primary four, his parents have enrolled him in a private secondary school in Lagos. To them, brilliance is what he needs to perform excellently and not stature. They have decided to alter the laid-down system of learning.

With the 6-3-3-4 system of education, each number represents the number of years spent at each level of education. The first six years are the numbers of years spent in primary school; the next three years are spent in the junior secondary school; the next three years represent the senior secondary school while the last four years are the university years.

Then, an amendment was made to the 6-3-3-4 system of education. Under the new Universal Basic Education system of 9-3-4, which replaced the former universal primary education scheme, pupils attend six years of primary school and three years of junior secondary, thus amounting to nine years of compulsory and uninterrupted schooling. This is followed by three years of senior secondary schooling.

In 2013, the Lagos State Government gave a directive that completion of primary six for primary school pupils was compulsory for all schools in the state. Any school that defaulted would be closed down. The order was given by the then Director of Private Education and Special Programmes, Lagos State Ministry of Education, Mrs. Sewanu Amosun at a forum.

Explaining some policies and position of the state government on private education, Sewanu said it was wrong for schools to force pupils into secondary school at primary four, or primary five, adding that children at such levels were still immature. Any erring parents, the government said, would have their wards sent out of the school and all schools must comply to show the seriousness of government to the new policy.

Despite this directive, some schools still allowed their pupils skip primary five and six. Some educationists claim that the Federal Government’s unstable decision on the education system forced parents to take certain decisions.

But a Montessori instructor, Mrs. Onaolapo Adeolu-Shittu, advised parents allow pupils undergo the fifth and sixth years of primary education.

She said, “It’s disheartening that parents are not ready to listen to us when we advise that they should allow their children continue to primary five, not to talk of primary six. It makes a difference. In Nigeria, the education system is graded 6-3-3-4. No matter the brilliance of a pupil, primary five and six is akin to putting the icing on the cake. They get more value out of education and learn more. What they are now cannot be compared to what they would have become were they allowed to complete Primary five and six.”

In the same vein, a lecturer, Prof. Abayomi Ayinla, said the only advantage a child who stops his primary education at primary four may have over other children could be that he graduates from college earlier than others.

“A child who enters secondary school straight from primary four could finish education early; however, immaturity could play a major role in that child’s life and performance. They may be exposed to certain behaviours which they may not be prepared for. Maturity generally plays a major role in a child’s performance in school. Parents should follow the right procedure and avoid knowledge gap,” he said.
For Mr. Femi Onah, a biology teacher in one of the Lagos State’s foremost schools, skipping Grade Six remains a regret for him.

“I sailed through my academic but I was picked on because I was smaller and younger-looking than my classmates in the college. Kids thought it was funny to grab me and bully me,” he said.

He was emotionally unprepared as well, “For the first few weeks, I was so homesick that I cried myself to sleep every night. I could not figure out why all the other kids were having such an easy transition and I was always on the sidelines — I didn’t fit in.”

Also, Mrs. Olubunmi Kayode, an educationist, said children who completed grades five and six become mature for secondary school life.

“These children are grounded. Primary six is not only about academics but getting the pupils more mature. They are prepared to face secondary school life. They learn good manners, etiquette, self-awareness, personal grooming, communication skills and how to make friends,” she said.

On his part, the registrar, Beacon College, Ifo, Ogun State, Mr. Aniedi Effiong, said parents bring underage children to secondary school because they think their wards are geniuses.
Every Nigerian believes that their children are very brilliant and talented.   I think that is good but they also need to be realistic. They need to know the dangers of not putting a child through the right foundation. Parents need to realise that the curriculum is written for age-related development,” he said.

Effiong, who said the ideal age for leaving a primary school is 10 years, however added that leaving at the age of 12 years is also favourable.
The school fee factor should not be ignored either. Parents pay through their noses because of the economic situation in the country and fees keep changing every term. Parents believe they would cut cost and rather pay for secondary school fees than paying so much in primary school,” he said.

Commenting on the issue, the Principal, The Bells Secondary School, Ota, Ogun State, Mr. Graham Meredith, said that Basic Five and Six classes play a crucial role in the life of a child.

He said, “For a child to fully develop physically, academically and socially, it’s essential the child completes Basic Five and Six. During one of the school sessions, I had 18 pupils in Basic Five, but at the beginning of the next session, I had just nine pupils. Basic Six is not a waste of time. Imagine parents enrolling their children into secondary schools at the age of nine. This is outrageous. I believe the minimal age for a child to get into secondary school should be 11 years. By then, they would be better prepared academically and emotionally to have a good grasp of their studies and environment.
My reason for using age 11 as a benchmark is because; the child would be mature socially and mentally. Second, by the time they are finishing secondary school, they would be mature enough to get into the university,” he said.

Besides, the Proprietor, Carol School, Ikeja, Mrs. Caroline Akintunji, said some schools connive with parents and their children to skip classes.
The policy is that a child that wants to enter Basic Seven (JSS1) should come with his or her continuous assessment from Basic One to Six. But what you have now is that parents just rush a Basic Four or Basic Five pupil to the secondary school.

“Nobody ask them for CA; the only thing they do is common entrance examination which pupils pass most especially in private schools because these schools are just looking for pupils and money. This is wrong. That is why bullying thrives in secondary schools and eventually translates into cultism in higher institutions because the vulnerable immature boys and girls are bullied into believing that they need protection from the tough guys. We should do something about this. It should change,” she said.

Akintunji, who stated that most pupils leave her school for the junior secondary school when they get to Basic Five, called on government and stakeholders to do something urgent to check the trend.

“Yes, a child may appear to be good in his or her studies, but maturity and emotional intelligence are needed to succeed. That is why developed nations such as Britain and the US have developed a system that ensure that their pupils passed through the entire system without the sort of double promotion we have here,” she said.
This article first appeared on Punch Newspapers.

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