Two weeks before candidates were to write the 2018 National Common Entrance Examination that admits students into the nation’s 104 Unity Colleges, the minister of education Mallam Adamu Adamu, lamented what he called “low registration for the examination so far”. The test was scheduled for April 14. As of April 4 when the minister made the lamentation, 71,294 primary 6 pupils had been registered nationwide. The number was 80,421 the previous year. As at March 3, 2018, Lagos State had registered the highest number of candidates, 24,465, followed by the Federal Capital Territory(Abuja) with 7,699, Rivers State 4,810. Taraba had 95, Kebbi 50 and Zamfara with the lowest, at just 24.
To raise the level of registrstion level, Adamu ordered the NECO registration portal be left open until April 13, a day before the examination. He explained the aim was to “guarantee access and equity”. Happily, the extension enabled more candidates to register. Lagos’ figure rose to 25, 800, but Zamfara still brought up the rear with 28, 4 above the figure it had on March 3. Reacting to the apparent improvement in registration, the minister of state for education Prof Uwakwe said, “In my assessment, the enrolment is very satisfactory; as a matter of principle, we must keep the doors open so that nobody will be disenfranchised. There is no problem of enrollment in Borno State; they even had the head start in the Northeast; 79,887 is the current figure of enrolment. The state with the highest enrolment is Lagos with 25,800 enrolments and the lowest is Zamfara.”
We laud the decision to have extended the registration deadline. That allowed for candidates to come forward. The salutary result from Borno reflected the weakening strength of the Boko Haram terror group in the northeast. In Zamfara, to the northwest, the reverse is the case; the insecurity there is on the rise, prompting governor Abdulaziz Yari to declare, out of frustration that he was “resigning” as the chief security officer of his state.If the low registration level in insecure places can be explained, what can we say is the reason for low registration in relatively peaceful places?
Perhaps, inadequate publicity. Or parents are not in a position to the fee for the examination, many of them out of work or never employed in the first place. However, as we see it, the problem is beyond that of numbers. It is a reflection of the rot in our education system generally. This malaise tells in decayed and decaying infrastructure, poor quality of teaching at all levels of the school system.Recall, earlier in the year, Kaduna State’s governor Nasir el-Rufai sackef 30,000 primary school teachers who failed a primary 4 test.The problems also are a reflection of the quality of government’s funding of public education which has dwindled over time. We, as a nation, must go to work immediately to get things right again. Time there was when the quality of Nigerian education was the envy of other African countries. Today, rich Nigerians are sending their children to be educated in Ghana, Benin Republic or even Malaysia in Asia. We have heard of medical tourism; now it is education tourism. What next?