For NYSC, I Taught At A Rundown School. Here’s What I Learnt.

September 24, 2019

To get a better understanding of Nigerian life, we started a series called ‘Compatriots’, detailing the everyday life of the average Nigerian. As a weekly column, a new installment will drop every Tuesday, exploring some other aspect of the Nigerian landscape.

This week, a former corps member gives a brief recount of his experience as a teacher in one of Nigeria’s neglected institutions and the lessons this experience taught him.

In 2015, freshly graduated with a degree in Environmental Science from a rather pricey UK university, I returned to Nigeria for my service year. In my estimations, I had one year of rocking poorly-tailored khakis with fanny packs, community building projects and shouting ‘corper wee’ without provocation, cut out for me. My heart was brimming with excitement.

What I didn’t plan for, however, was having that excited, hearty real estate, getting overrun with disappointment, when I was posted to teach in a school so neglected by the government, its most modern amenity was coloured chalk.

If you recall, 2015 was the year the naira and the hopes of Nigerians locked fingers and took a simultaneous jump off the back of a former dictator turned president. Our currency had just crashed and it appeared the only change our president was capable of bringing was bus fare. And yet somehow, I stayed optimistic, excited even, for my return to carry out the NYSC programme.

Which is why rather than ‘runs’ my way through three weeks of camp and the entirety of the programme as was repeatedly suggested to me, I spent three weeks in matching whites ⁠— learning drills, dodging soldiers and unwinding at the mammy market, leaving my posting and the rest of my service year purely to chance. When fate struck and declared my place of primary assignment as *SunnyVille Group of Schools, located in a never before heard of part of Ogun State, I was only too happy to oblige.

[

On my first trip to my PPA, I had no idea what to expect, so I let my optimism get the best of me. When the bustling, traffic-heavy landscape of Lagos gave way to the lush greens of Ogun State, I was thankful for all the fresh air I’d be taking in. When we arrived at the buka-laden community where the school was located, zero fast-food restaurants in sight, I whooped at the opportunity to eat only traditional meals for a time. But when I came face to face with what was to be my workplace for the next year, my good cheer started to glitch.

Imagine a shoe box, scaled up for humans, but just barely. Per a rusty, rundown sign outside of it, SunnyVille was a primary and secondary school, a fact I had to confirm by venturing in, without any permission.

To my surprise, this government approved school had students between the ages of 10 and 18 learning in classes divided by thin planks of wood to maximise space. Signs written in chalk announced doors leading to three classes: basics, junior and secondary schools all jumbled together. The floors were made of  untiled concrete, the kind you had to water before sweeping. There were almost no windows in place, and the school was lit purely by natural light. A disconnected line outside and subsequent communication informed me that Sunnyville and its students had been without electricity for close to a year.

When I found my way to the proprietor, I asked what kind of extra-curriculars were in place for the students, to which he confusingly responded that all his pupils were hard working. He informed me that Jss 3 and SS 2 were in different terms from the rest of the school, and yet somehow didn’t think it odd that students were learning in such an unsuitable environment. To him, they had to make do with what they had. 

And since 1973, the Nigerian government has been reading from the book of ‘Making Do’ — placing incompetent corps members in charge of the formative learning stages of student life. It is how I, a grossly unqualified Environmental Science degree holder came to teach civil studies and basic science to primary school students. And agriculture, geography and biology to secondary school students. The remainder of the Sunnyville teaching staff consisted of even more corps members and only four permanent staff members.

In my service year, I taught classes of students who were tickled by the thought of learning with computers. Who couldn’t help but shy away from a laptop when I brought it in to demonstrate its teaching and learning possibilities. Students who genuinely believed their requirement to clear surrounding grass with hoes and rakes in the generation of lawnmowers was a necessary part of their education. Who remarkably, showed great patience when classes had to be paused when darkened rain clouds prevented visibility.

And yet somehow, like flowers blooming through concrete, these same students amazed me with their brilliance. In the latter part of 2015 and for the majority of 2016, I had the privilege of teaching children who never failed to ask the right questions, or give the right answers. Whose eagerness to learn, in spite of stifled conditions showed a resilience beyond their years. Under my charge, there were aspiring doctors, lawyers, engineers and even a writer. Aspiring professionals whose optimism and fiery ambitions could not be put out by a government or an educational system unconcerned with their progress.

If ever I needed an indicator that success could be made in spite of Nigeria, I only had to look to the rusty sign of the Sunnyville group. 

*Name has been changed.

Boyin Plumptre

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

February 3, 2017

There are over 7 billion people in the world. And if you are not careful, you might not know how to relate whenever you come in contact with them. so that you both have a nice life. To make things easier for you, we came up with this list that will help you understand people. […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

April 14, 2021

Quick-fire camera flashes, hot stilettos and distinct music characterized the cool ambience at the venue of Desperados’ celebrity influencer showcase. The beer brand, which was first launched in Nigeria last December is known to be the charm of celebrities who dared to stand out from the crowd. It was no surprise that Mercy Eke, Timini […]

April 14, 2021

If you could transform your love for music into a full-blown career, which would it be? Let’s give you some pointers. Take this quiz. A career in music means you’ll most likely work to bring amazing stuff like Jameson’s Confluence Project, curated by Mainland Block Party. Go here to stream and enjoy the mashup vibes. […]

April 14, 2021

For the average African man, the assumption is that there’s marriage somewhere on the horizon once they are in the twilight of their late twenties. Playful jests of “when will you marry” start to chime in from all angles. However, not all men believe in for better for worse, nor in death doing them part. […]

Recommended Quizzes

how tall are you
March 11, 2020

Did your parents give you enough beans when you were growing up? If they did, then you’re probably around 6’0″ and above. Either way, we created a quiz that can guess your current height (pretty accurately, if we do say so ourselves). Take to see if we nailed it:

November 28, 2019

There are so many talented and stunning Nollywood actors that make it hard not to fall in love with them. So, while we all know the likelihood of us ending up with any of them is super low, it’s still fun to imagine a world where we actually stood a chance, and that’s why this […]

October 30, 2019

2010 was a game-changing one for Nollywood, with our movies making serious cash and getting international acclaim. So, which of these hits released between 2010 and 2019 — from the pace-setting The Wedding Party to the divisive Trip To Jamaica — best suits your personality? Well, that’s what this quiz is here to answer:

November 27, 2019

Do you have a face that could make angels jealous, or should you really be walking around with a nylon bag over your head so you don’t scare children? Well, this quiz is here to answer that by telling you exactly how good-looking you are. Take and find out: 11 Quizzes For People Who Aren’t […]

February 26, 2020

Are you all set for marriage, or are you still figuring it out? Well, if you’re curious to know the answer, then this is the quiz for you. All you have to do is create your own ideal Nollywood wedding film, and we’ll tell you if you’re ready to say “I do”. Go ahead:

More from Citizen

April 2, 2021

Today’s subject on Abroad Life started her process to leave Nigeria for the USA for school in 2017 and didn’t leave until two months ago. She talks about how money, COVID and visa problems delayed her travel plans. She also talks about arriving in the USA in the middle of a polar vortex and having […]

March 22, 2021

Victor Emmanuel is a queer Nigerian YouTuber with simple demands: He wants the Nigerian Government to repeal the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA). On March 20, 2021, Victor published a video on Twitter, explaining the reason for his decision. He made it clear that he was going on a hunger strike until the SSMPA […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X