v. The Body:
Most candidates do not do well when they write formal letters. One reason is that they cannot cope with the level of language demanded by the formal letter. Many write formal letters using informal language. It must be noted that language is the lifeblood of the essay. Therefore, if the language is unsuitable, the essay is unlikely to succeed. So, if you cannot muster the appropriate level of formal language, do not write a formal letter in the exam. Another reason why many candidates do not do well in the formal letter is that they fail to strike while the iron is hot. In a formal letter, more than in almost any other kind of writing, it is essential to get to the point quickly and keep to it. The writer has to be businesslike.
Suppose that candidates have been asked to answer the following question:
You feel concerned about the large number of jobless school-leavers in your local government area. Write a letter to the chairman of the local government, highlighting the consequences of unemployment among youths and suggesting ways in which his government could create more jobs.
– WASSCE, November, 1999
In attempting the question, many candidates would, in the fashion of the informal letter, begin this way:
I am pleased to write this letter to you. How are you and your family? I hope you are doing well. If so, thanks be to God.
It must be borne in mind that the formal letter does not admit the familiarity expressed in the lines above. The candidates are required to go straight to the issue of unemployment and keep to it till the end of the letter. In doing so, they must use language that sets the correct tone for the recipient and the situation. In other words, while the writer needs to be polite, he must avoid being too humble and familiar.
vi. The Complimentary Close:
The only acceptable form is:
Ensure that you sign all formal letters. In modern practice, no formal letter is treated seriously if it is not signed.
viii. Full Name of Writer:
Immediately below your signature, write your full name, thus:
Thomas Etim Bassey
Study the question below along with the model letter that follows it.
The last nation-wide strike by secondary school teachers affected your school adversely. Write a letter to the Minister of Education, suggesting at least three ways of preventing future strike actions. -WASSCE, June, 2001
National High School,
Ideato South L.G.A,
12th December, 2001.
The Honourable Minister,
Federal Ministry of Education,
Preventing Teacher’s Strikes
I am writing to bring to your attention the sad and disruptive effect which the last nation-wide strike by secondary school teachers had on my school –National High School, Ntueke. It is my hope that this letter will assist you in tackling this recurring national problem.
For twelve full weeks, that is, from April 2001 to June 2001, the gates of my school were firmly shut. There were no teachers to be seen anywhere near the school premises. They were all trying to engage in one form of business or the other. The students too had, after a few weeks of waiting for the teachers to return but to no avail, gone home to their parents. Teaching and learning, the main business of the school system, was temporarily put on hold. An uninformed observer could be forgiven if he thought my school was on holiday. On the contrary, the period was the third term of the school year, a critical period in the life of every secondary school. What was the matterScience meaning: Matter is any substance (often a particle) that has mass, and also volume (occupies space). Matter exists in three states, solid, liquid and gas and is made up of... More then? Secondary school teachers all over Nigeria were on strike!
The teachers had gone on strike to protest the non-payment of their salaries for six months, the non-promotion of some of the teachers for several years, and the lack of facilities in the school. For my school, the strike ensured that there was no academic work for the period it lasted. There was no teaching, no learning, no continuous assessment, and in fact, no promotion examination for the term. The worst affected group of students were those of us in the final year class. In spite of the strike, we were to write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in June 2001. You can imagine how ill-equipped we were!
Apart from the disruption of academic work occasioned by the strike, my school also lost in another painful way. Three of our beloved teachers and five students could not return to school when the strike was called off. They had lost their lives in different road accidents during the strike. Such deaths could certainly have been avoided if those teachers and students were engaged in school work.
Honourable Minister, sir, the incidence of teachers’ strike has unfortunately become a recurring phenomenon in our school life. In view of the enormous loss, the nation suffers whenever teachers embark on strike, especially in terms of the devastation of the educational system, I wish to proffer a number of solutions that will help stem the tide of incessant strikes in the country.
In the first place, teachers should not only be well remunerated, their wages and other emoluments should also be paid to them promptly. We should not wait until teachers, or any other category of workers for that matter, go on strike before their salaries are paid. There is wisdom in the saying that the labourer deserves his wages.
It is sad that some teachers have to spend upwards of ten years on one grade level. The government should realize that such neglect impacts negatively on the psyche of the average teacher. A well-motivated teacher is one who is eager and willing to do his best for his students. So let teachers be regularly promoted like workers in other sectors of the economy.
Finally, the unpardonable lack of facilities in school should not be allowed to continue. Teachers cannot be expected to put in their best when they have no offices, no teaching materials, and other facilities and equipment that enhance their work. The government should promptly ensure that basic facilities are provided in schools.
I believe that these suggestions if painstakingly implemented will help in permanently solving the perennial problem of a teacher strike.
1. Oral English Without Tears by I. Udoka
2. New Oxford Secondary English Course for SSI by Ayo Banjo et al
3. School Certificate English Language by I. Udoka.