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HOW TO TRANSFORM NIGERIA'S EDUCATION SYSTEM (1)

By NBF News
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• Protesting students of Tai Solarin University of Education

A senior lawyer asked a junior lawyer in his chambers why an assignment he gave him was not executed. The junior lawyer replied, 'I forgetted'.

This is a true story and it is not an isolated event. Data from Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) shows that only about 23per cent of students, who enter Nigerian universities have a credit pass in English language and Mathematics. With very poor foundation from the secondary schools nationwide, most of our university students are poorly equipped for focused and productive intellectual academic pursuits.

Many buy passing grades from unscrupulous lecturers with money and sex. Therefore, many university graduates in present day Nigeria are just like the junior lawyer who 'forgetted' to do the assignment that was given to him.

But our problems as a nation are even worse. Apart from an overwhelming number of adult illiterates, numbered at over 40 million, 90.8 per cent of eligible early childhood students, 30 per cent of primary school children, 65 per cent of Junior Secondary School children, and 61 per cent of senior Secondary School children are out of school, deprived of the benefits of education in a country where the Constitution demands free and compulsory basic education as a mandatory law of the land.

An illiterate population is a fertile breeding ground for terrorists, tribalists and dangerous, gullible, volatile superstitious miscreants in society who can be manipulated by disgruntled elements to ferment and ignite great havoc in society. Nigeria therefore direly needs to educate her citizens throughout the country as a matter of great priority. A revised education curriculum that includes the study of the Nigerian Constitution at all levels of education will be a potent tool for nation building. Great national values such as Democracy, Social Justice, Equality, Non-tribalism, Human Dignity, Accountability, Rule of Law, Respect for Diversity, and Tolerance, can be taught as part of the educational curriculum, and brought to life in the classroom in a manner that will transform each student into a valuable and decent citizen, permanently.

Specific problems and roadblocks in our current educational system have been highlighted and discussed briefly. A number of these problems and issues can be dissolved over the next four years to bring true sanity to our educational system, and to our national life and polity.

SOME SPECIFIC PROBLEMS WITH NIGERIAN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

1. THE PROBLEM OF MASS FAILURE IN WAEC
The following data from West African Examination Council (WAEC) on the performance of students nationwide in WASSCE over the past six years revealed that the percentage of students with five credits including English and Mathematics ranged from 13.76per cent (2008) to 27.53 per cent in 2005.

PERFORMANCE IN WASSCE, 2005-2010 (Source: WAEC)
YEAR NO OF CANDIDATES %WITH 5 CREDITS INCLUDING ENGLISH AND MATHEMATICS

2005 1,091,676 27.53
2006 1,184,348 15.56
2007 1,275,330 25.54
2008 1,369,142 13.76
2009 1,373,009 25.99
2010 1,351,557 24.94
The NUC and WAEC-reported percentages nationwide include data from private and exceptional schools where students generally do well. If you isolate private school excellent results from the above data, it should not be difficult to understand the tragedy in our public schools where most Nigerian students receive their education.

Education in Nigeria is structured in three tiers: Basic education, Secondary School education, and Tertiary education. Traditional Basic education offered to children between ages three and 14 in Nigeria consists of three years of early child care and development education, 6years of primary education and three years of Junior Secondary education. Non-traditional Basic education includes educational outreach to nomadic and migrant children, Almajirais, and mass literacy intervention. Traditional Basic education is followed by 3years of Senior Secondary School and then Tertiary education.

SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM OF MASS FAILURE IN WAEC
The problem that shows up as mass failure in WAEC every year is only a symptom of a bad disease that was there all along which could have been diagnosed and treated by standardized and nationwide exam from Junior Secondary school (JS1). Academic weaknesses of the students will be detected earlier. Poor performing teachers whose students do poorly on the standardized exam will be warned and assisted to do better; but if the teacher continues to perform poorly, he/she will be replaced.

There will be no more automatic promotion. The performance of each student on the standardized national exam or a local repeat exam after remedial studies will be a factor in promotion to the next class. If, at every level of their educational experience, both teachers and students put in same level of effort that they expend every year in preparing for both Junior and Senior WASSCE, the outcome of their learning experience will be remarkably different. By the time a student gets to SS3 under this structure and discipline, the performance will be better and WAEC mass failures will be history. We will still work on teacher motivation and commitment, improvement of facilities and infrastructure where possible and necessary.

2. PROBLEM OF ACCESSIBILITY AND ENROLLMENT IN SCHOOLS

The Nigerian Constitution states that 'government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy, and to this end, government shall, as and when practicable, provide:

• Free, compulsory and universal primary education
• Free secondary education
• Free university education
• Free adult literacy programme
In spite of the constitutional mandate to eradicate illiteracy through free and compulsory education, the education ministry in Nigeria has not applied imaginative initiatives to enforce free and compulsory Universal Primary Education. Recent data from a 2009 report by the ministry show that of 22 million children expected in early childhood schools, only 2.02 million are enrolled, leaving a short fall of 19.98 million out of school.

For primary school, out of expected enrollment of 34.92 million, actual enrollment is only 24.42 million, leaving a short fall of 10.5 million children at home. For Junior Secondary school, expected enrollment is 9.27 million; actual enrollment is 3.27 million, leaving a short fall of 6.0 million children out of school. For non-formal adult education, out of 40 million illiterate adults, only 500,000 are enrolled, leaving a short fall of 39.5 million. The problem of accessibility and non-enrollment is even more severe in Senior Secondary schools. Out of a potential enrollment population of 7.2 million, only 2.8 million (28 per cent) are actually enrolled. At the university level, it is reported that only sixper cent of students who want university education are admitted nationwide. [to be continued]

•Nwangwu, a professor of pharmacology, toxicology and clinical pharmacy, presented this paper, titled 'How to Transform the Educational System in Nigeria for the Immediate Benefit of the Nation', at the 2011 National Youth Summit, held at International Conference Centre, Abuja.