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Published On: Sun, Sep 21st, 2014

Education system: Dead or dying?

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Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau

Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau

The recent mass failure in the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) highlights the need for Nigeria and Nigerians alike to rescue Nigeria’s sick education system which is on the verge of collapse, writes Ochiaka Ugwu.

In a town hall meeting organised in Abuja by Hallmark Newspaper last year, the Chief Servant of Niger State, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu opened the Pandora box when he narrated how he went to a primary school in his state capital Minna to discover many mistakes made by the teachers on the board. The bewildered Aliyu who lamented a situation whereby the teachers are not better than the pupils they are teaching wondered what will be happening in the rural areas of the state.

Continuing, Aliyu also informed the stunned audience how teachers use to set the pace in the past and students will be struggling to meet up with the standard, but today he wondered who will now set the pace since the teachers are not even better than the student they are teaching.

This will also bring one to what happened at the venue of the verification of certificates of primary chool teachers in Edo State, as a teacher in Asologun Primary School, Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area of the state, Mrs. Augusta Odemwinge could not read a sworn affidavit she purportedly tendered as part of her credentials.

The state governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, who paid an unscheduled visit to the State Staff Training Centre, venue of the exercise, said “if you can’t read, what do you teach the pupils, what do you write on the board?”

The recent mass faliure in last West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) is a case in point with only 31.2 percent (i.e., 529,425,000 out of 1,692,435,000) of candidates who participated in the 2014 May/June Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE) administered by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) recording credit pass in five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics, as against 36.57 percent in 2013 and 38.81 percent in 2012, it is clear that performance is dropping steadily.

The below 50 percent performance in the last seven years is also an indication that the Nigerian secondary education system is terribly sick and requires urgent and full-scale diagnosis, deserving education physicians.

The WAEC exam is the major certifying exam for students who have undergone secondary education in Nigeria, while the National Examinations Council (NECO) exam is the second. Performance in both exams has since been dismal.

The controversy this has generated between parents and teachers left more to be desired. While the parents have accused teachers of not doing what they are paid to do, teachers in the other hand have accused parents of not properly bringing their wards up capable of making them to imbibe what is being taught in schools.

Academics believe strongly that this high failure rate points to the poor quality of secondary education and the lackadaisical conduct of education authorities, teachers, parents and students, and consequently the total abandonment of the education sector by the government at all levels.

It should be known that WAEC result that recorded 30 percent pass in Mathematics and English is woeful, to say the least. The blame for this mass failure should be placed on government and stakeholders in the sector because they have not paid sufficient attention to education at all levels.

Although, students on their part are said not to be serious, the teachers are lazy and there is no sufficient control in terms of inspectorate division. Speaking on this topic, a youth delegate and the youngest delegate to the just concluded National Conference, Yadoma Bukar Mandara said at the plenary of the conference that student should not take any blame as they are not culpable. She said that you don’t blame the bread when it is not baked well, but you rather blame the baker who made the bread.

More worrisome is the fact that this decline in student performance has become a trend and government is treating it with levity, which points to the quality of leadership in the country.

If this mass failure was recorded in a country like Ghana or any other country with serious leadership, heads will roll with emergency declared in the sector, but nothing of such has ever happened in this part of the world.

While Nigeria has been basking in the euphoria of having the largest economy in Africa with a GDP of $510 billion, higher than that of Ghana, Nigeria’s dysfunctional educational system remains an albatross that may deny it of sustainable economic growth. Pass rates in Ghana; have been quite high in the range of 70 percent and above. No wonder most of their children are schooling there.

Nigeria is one country where teachers receive little or no support. It is no wonder why, irrespective of the poor learning environment in many secondary schools, especially the public ones, there is so much activity but little or no learning going on.

There has been so much focus on tertiary education in Nigeria to the detriment of secondary education. In some states, teachers in secondary and primary schools are the last to receive their salaries while their welfare and training needs are never given priority. It is important to know that foundation matters in everything we do as this will certainly hunt them when they go to the university as one cannot give what he doesn’t have.

In the 2013/2014 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general, states that an education system is only as good as its teachers, and unlocking their potential is essential to enhancing the quality of learning.

Her words “Evidence shows that education quality improves when teachers are supported – it deteriorates if they are not, contributing to the shocking levels of youth illiteracy,” Bokova states in the report.

Nigeria also is going through problems associated with the migration of our academicians and young people to other countries (brain-drain) in search of the elusive greener pastures, just as under-development, and general rot in the Nigerian society he set in.

The British school system we inherited at independence was a straight course to progress, but we have on our own introduced a labyrinth and a dysfunctional module that has seen most levels of educational system churning out half baked graduates that turn out largely unsuitable for any serious minded job and life after school. In the last three decades, education planning had been a knee-jerk enterprise bereft of feedback mechanism and control. It is like Markov chain in mathematics where future development of each event is independent of historical events. Each Minister of Education wants to be identified and glorified with a new policy even if there is nothing to offer.

It is usually said that the family is a crucial social institution that helps greatly in the socialisation of persons, providing proper direction and guidance for children. But the Nigerian family institution is in crisis, arising from a misconception of parental roles and the pursuit of crass materialism against the proper upbringing of the youths.

The failure of inspectorate units in the education ministries is a major hindrance to the acquisition and maintenance of education standards at all levels of education. Many Nigerians in their 40s upwards still fondly remember the activities of education inspectors and how their periodic schedule and un-scheduled visits pushed teachers and principals in secondary schools to sit up and ensure proper implementation of teaching activities.

But today, the education ministries hardly pay attention to inspectorate division. This is counterproductive and a reflection of the decay and poor governance standards in the education sector. The present government seem not to care.

With inefficient education ministries, schools with de-motivated and frustrated teaching faculty, students are largely left to drift until they drift away from the system into tertiary education or the larger society with poor literacy skills.

However, this government must make deliberate on programs that can salvage our collective dilemma, instead of the fruitless disposition of blame games. This way, we can redeem and “salvage what is left” from our endangered Education system.

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