In recent years, the modern tutorial centre has found its way into Nigeria's educational system. It evolved from lessons, private home teachings and after school hours tutoring.

According to owners of tutorial centres or colleges, it is a modified remedial class, which renders services to different categories of people such as secondary school pupils, undergraduates, graduates, post graduates and even adults.

Some people believe that activities of tutorial centres have done much in filling the gap created by conventional schools. This, they said, can be attributed to the insensitivity of government to education system in the country. Others contend that many of these centres have shifted from positively developing the education system to something else. To this set of people, tutorial centres have done much harm than good. The motive of some of the owners, antagonists of these centres claim, is to enrich themselves.

Though, a teacher in Abibat Mogaji Millennium Senior Secondary School, Lagos, Mr. Olufemi Ogunsiji, supported the idea of establishing a remedial school in order to cater for those who would not be able to attend the formal school, he condemned the way many of these centres operated. He said, 'Tutorial centres serve as a complementary. Some of the present crop of executives in Nigeria today did not attend the formal school. It was at this remedial class they were tutored and were able to further their education. In addition, it plays a kind of transition role between the period a pupil leaves secondary school and the time he will gain admission to higher institution.'

However, he noted that today's remedial class had shifted from what it was. 'The objective of establishing these centres is more of making money than playing the expected role in the community or society. They realise the lapses in the education system and use it as an opportunity. Many of the owners set up a centre for economic reasons.

'So in view of the lapses in our education system, they lure these pupils to their centres with a promise that when they come, they will assist them in passing their exams. This is exactly what they do. As a result, they charge ridiculously. Invariably many of them are not contributing positively to the educational development in Nigeria,' he added.

In the same vein, another teacher from Stadium Junior Grammar School, Lagos, Mrs. Temitope Oseni, said she did not see anything good in what the centres were doing. According to her, the way they operate keeps on deteriorating the educational system. 'What they do surpasses what others do to perpetrate examination malpractice. They have even gone the extra mile. Many of these centres have their own special examination centre where they register their pupils. I don't know how an outsider will get a centre apart from the centres designated by examination bodies. I think some people should be questioned.

'In the real sense of it, they are destroying the lives of these children. During an examination you see them parading centres, giving their pupils photocopied answer scripts. What I do in this situation is to seize the scripts. As I do this, they make me look like a devil in the eyes of these pupils, but I don't care. In fact I have vowed not to supervise any public examination. Even in the presence of West African Examination Council officials, they distribute answers. In short the whole system is corrupt.'

Also, a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Mr. Sunday Oloruntola, said that there was nothing wrong in setting up an educational centre that could further enhance the knowledge of people, but the mode of operation in many of these centres was dubious.

Oloruntola said, 'The good aspect is that they have helped to prepare pupils for their examinations. But on the other hand, many of these special centres encourage exam malpractice. These ones are the bad eggs destroying the names of the good ones.'

The two teachers, however, suggested that there should be regulatory authority to monitor the activities of the tutorial centres. They also suggested that government should stand up to its responsibility of providing standard education.

Recently, the Registrar and Chief Executive of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Prof. 'Dibu Ojerinde, noted that unscrupulous supervisors and invigilators had in the past colluded with candidates to perpetrate examination malpractice. He said that the activities of these officials had impacted negatively on the image and credibility of the board and its examination.

But in an interview, a pupil, who pledged anonymity, said that these centres had made efforts to ensure that education was available to everyone. He noted that many pupils wouldn't have had the opportunity of going back to school if not for the efforts of these tutorial centres.

'For instance, many pupils that need to retake their papers will feel shy to go back to their former schools, so they come for lectures at tutorial centres. My centre has really helped, what I could not get in school, I was given here. I have made my O'Level, now I'm preparing for JAMB.'

While debunking the opinion of people on tutorial centres, the Director of Study, Citi Genius Nigeria Ltd., Mr. Kazeem Adigun, said, 'We have dubious people everywhere. In any society you cannot rule out bad eggs. If tutorial centres are involved in aiding exam malpractice, it is because the system created the lapses. If we have a very sophisticated and high policy educational system, there won't be examination malpractice.

'For instance, if out of one million pupils that sit for Universities Matriculation Examination, 90 per cent are admitted, there won't be any need for anybody to patronise tutorial centres. If a pupil knows that if he scores 200, he will be admitted, there won't be need to struggle unnecessarily. But if a pupil has to score 290 and above to gain admission to an institution of higher learning, you know it will no longer be a fair play. He will look for ways to solve it.

'To properly address the problem of examination malpractice, government must see education as a necessity and not a luxury. Education is a key that can liberate a nation. Government has not done enough to identify education as a key factor in the economy. Some of these tutorial centres are not the only ones perpetrating exam malpractice, even government officials and examination officials are solely behind exam malpractice. This issue has to be addressed from the top.'

Adigun, however, disclosed that the services of a tutorial centre were all-encompassing. He said, 'Tutorial centres are regarded as a bridge between the period a pupil leaves secondary school and the time they are preparing for admission to higher institution. They are a preparatory centre for these pupils. They accommodate secondary school leavers, under-graduates, graduates and even adults.

'Why we are different is that we attend to individual needs but in the conventional school, emphasis is on the class and not on individual pupils. Some of the problems they have may not be addressed by the school. The public school cannot effectively provide for the educational needs of these pupils. There is no school where pupils are prepared for UME or any external examination such as international examinations. This service is not available in secondary school. That is why there is the need for contribution of private partners.'

Also, the Director of Study, City Class Educational Consult, Mr. Idowu Obasa, said the activities of these tutorial centres could not be over-emphasised. 'A lot of academic activities go on at these centres. Pupils cannot perform well in external examination both internationally and nationally without going through these centres. Career counseling and guidance are done thoroughly there. Pupils are exposed to the challenges of higher institution, which is not available in conventional schools.

'The only thing is that government may come in to regulate their activities. They may give a guideline of registration and basic qualification. There must be a specific qualification an individual should have. I must tell you that some people wake up overnight to set up a tutorial centre, they do not have the necessary qualification. They are the ones engaging in all these nefarious activities. But some centres are well-disciplined and coordinated.'

On the kind of advertisement they make which says you can make all A's at a sitting and have a score of 300, Obasa said, 'We have a competitive market. But those that are doing that are not being modest in their approach. Though we have brilliant pupils, who don't need the assistance of anybody, we cannot dispute that. But you cannot have this in all situations, some of them will go extra miles to achieve it. Even some parents encourage it. We have had an A-Level pupil who finished with a first class.

'Some of these students cannot go any further when they gain admission to school. When I was in my final year, there was a lady given admission to study psychology at the University of Lagos. Throughout the federation, she was the third best student in the UME of that year. In first semester, year one, she was placed on probation, at the end of the second semester, her admission was withdrawn. It was later discovered that she scored the high mark through the aid of a tutorial centre.'

He, therefore, suggested orientation for everyone. 'We need re-orientation. It should start from the government because government too is part of it. Their children are guilty of it. They patronise and finance these centres. Parents and other stakeholders should be involved in the orientation.'