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.

You'll like this

May 27, 2019

When you think about Solomon Dalung, a number of things probably come to mind: A Che Guevara enthusiast and  cosplayer. A culturally non-binary fella. And then, of course, Our Honourable Minister of Sports. One thing that might not be immediately apparent, is a dark side we’ve all been mostly shielded from. Our Sports Minister might […]

September 10, 2020

On Wednesday, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the steering committee to oversee Nigeria’s new Agenda 2050 and the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP). But where have we heard this before? The Guardian says that this new agenda is borne out of the fact that Nigeria cannot meet its objectives of becoming one of the 20 […]

Boyin Plumptre

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

Watch

Now on Zikoko

September 28, 2020

If you have done any of these things on this list, then congratulations, you are a gold digger. 1) Refuse to split the bill when you go out How dare you refuse to spilt the bills on a date you were asked on? Gold digger… 2) Do not date the underdog So you have chosen […]

Recommended Quizzes

November 7, 2019

These days, everyone is always talking about how much sex they’re getting, or how little sex they’re getting, or how disgusting sex is etc. There’s just so much talk about sex, it’s almost impossible to know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. In anticipation of our new series about the sex lives of young […]

November 20, 2019

Last month, we thoughtfully made a quiz telling you guys exactly when you’ll marry, but some of you claimed that your spouse was nowhere to be found. Well, now we’ve created one that’ll tell you exactly who you’ll be dragging down that aisle. Take and start planning that wedding:

April 14, 2020

Every friend group consists of very different and specific characters — from the parent to the fun one — and it can be a little tough figuring out where you fall. So, we’ve created a quiz that lets you know exactly what kind of friend you are. Take to find out:

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:

More from Citizen

September 28, 2020

Remember (Senator) Elisha Abbo? The same person that physically assaulted a young woman in a sex toy shop n May 2019? Well, a court has just granted judgement that 50 million naira be paid to the assaulted woman, Warmate Osimibibra. In Suit No FHC:CV/2393/19 Osimibabra Warmate v. Senator Elisha Abbo, the Court awarded 50 million […]

September 28, 2020

Yesterday, we wrote on how the NLC and its 4 million members would go on strike if they did not reach an agreement with the federal government.  Well, the NLC has suspended its strike for two weeks, meaning some agreements were made for the meantime. This is everything the newspapers are not telling you they […]

September 27, 2020

The Federal Government will meet with leaders of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) by 7 pm this evening (Sunday 27 September 2020) over their planned mass strike on the increase in petrol and electricity prices. NLC and TUC have said that there is “no going back” on their strike […]

September 25, 2020

On Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the new Police Establishment Act 2020, aimed at making the Nigerian police force better. But the new law has generated sharp criticism, especially on social media. Many critics say that the law has now granted wide and unending powers to police officers. Reasonable Grounds, Reasonable Apprehension The […]

September 24, 2020

An explosion has occurred in the Ajuwon, Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos today. The explosion happened around 3:30 pm on Thursday 24th September 2020, with many people stating that they do not know the cause of the explosion. Video footages of the explosion have been circulating on social media: An eyewitness told BBC Pidgin that a […]

September 24, 2020

On Wednesday, 23 September 2020, Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council approved $1.96 billion for the award of contract for the development of the proposed Kano-Jigawa-Katsina-Jibia to Maradi rail line in the Niger Republic. The rail track will cover 248 kilometres, and will pass through seven cities in Nigeria: Kano, Dambatta, Kazaure, Daura, Mashi, Katsina, Jibia and […]

September 22, 2020

Hey, hope you didn’t buy the Nation newspaper this morning, because, technically what you would have bought was a birthday card. Big Flex Well, this man here bought the newspaper and here’s what he found – a national birthday card! And it slaps harder like a Nigeria soldier if you accompany it with a birthday […]

September 22, 2020

Remember the helicopter that crashed in Ikeja, Lagos on August 28, 2020? Well, there are new reports about the crash.  The Bell 206 B3 Helicopter with registration marks 5N-BW operated by Quorum Aviation Limited that crashed in Ikeja, Lagos on August 28 crashed due to fuel shortage reasons. Accident Investigation The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

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.
February 6, 2020
Who doesn't want to find love? In our bid to help, we paired up a bunch of single Nigerians, sending them on an all-expense paid date, and interviewing them before and after they met.
January 27, 2020
Nigerians Talk is what happened when a motley crew of young Nigerians were put in front of a camera and asked a bunch of apparently random questions about life, love, money and more.
September 24, 2019
A group of Zikoko staff go on a road trip to every mainland country in ECOWAS West Africa

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