The timetable for the ongoing 2023 West African Senior School Certificate Examinations indicates that candidates will be taking their essay and objective examinations in agricultural science on Thursday, May 18, 2023, between 2pm and 5pm. Then, on Friday, May 26, 2023, between 9:30 am and 1pm, they are expected to be examined in practical agriculture in the examination.
With regards to the examination, especially in the area of practical agriculture, one begins to wonder how adequately prepared the candidates are, or will be, for the ongoing examinations in the area of practical agriculture, especially with the absence of school farms in the majority of our private and public schools in Nigeria.
It is pertinent to note that despite the important role that agriculture plays in our economy, many present-day pupils and students lack the knowledge of basic agriculture, agriculture business, and indeed the entire agriculture value chain – the process through which food gets from the farms to dining tables. It is indeed a sorry situation when schoolchildren in Nigeria – a country widely acclaimed for its rich agricultural heritage – do not have the privilege of experiencing practical agriculture during schooling. To curb this problem, the practical aspect of agriculture in the school’s curriculum should be given equal attention as the theory. This is where school farms play a big role.
School farms are not just spaces for growing food items. They are complete learning zones, which largely succeed in taking learning to new heights. School farms come in handy when it comes to teaching a variety of topics in agriculture, be it crop rotation, mixed cropping, inter-cropping, etc. For a successful school farm, implements and practical equipment should be purchased and distributed.
And, whenever the school records bumper harvest, the pupils/students can be fed from the produce, while proceeds from the ones sold can be used to develop the school. The knowledge obtained from practical sessions on the school farm helps not only to re-enforce what is taught in the classrooms, it also teaches pupils, and students alike, about eating healthy, about how food arrives in our homes from the farms, etc. It also equips the pupils/students with first-hand knowledge of how to run agribusinesses. This is especially important in inculcating an entrepreneurial spirit in the students.
In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, school farming was a major component of the schools’ curriculum, and there were no exemptions as to who participated in practical agriculture and who did not. All pupils and students trooped to the farms at the designated time. The idea behind this was to make agriculture an integral part of the school culture, so the pupils and students are well positioned to appreciate farming, and make it a lifestyle, even when they do not intend to specialise in it. It is important that schools be provided with necessary logistics for the successful implementation of the whole agricultural science curriculum, while the school farms serve as fields or laboratories for the training of the pupils and students, with the basic focus being on skills development and self-reliance.
Today, agriculture in schools should be handled in such a way that from a young age, pupils begin to take interest in farming. Efforts should be made to make farming a lucrative occupation.
This will help to reduce apathy toward farming. Agric-school clubs such as the ‘Young Farmers Club’ can also be encouraged, where pupils and students will be taught about farming and encouraged to own farms. These steps could help ‘catch them young’ and inculcate the love of farming in young ones. Participation in agriculture competitions could also challenge the pupils/students to perform better.
Also, qualified and competent agricultural science teachers should be employed, to help make their students appreciate the benefits of the study of agriculture in practicality. Apart from being qualified, these teachers should be aware of interesting areas of agriculture that will attract and sustain young minds. These teachers should also undergo further training, as this will enhance their teaching skills. The knowledge thus acquired by the pupils/students can stick with them for many years to come.
In view of the foregoing, it is important that both private and public schools at all levels establish viable school farms. Indeed, school farms are critical to meaningful engagement of students in practical agriculture.
Daniel Ighakpe, from FESTAC Town, Lagos, can be reached via email@example.com