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EDUCATION: FAKE CORPS MEMBERS IN THE LARGER PICTURE

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They arrest Nigerians and say they are fake corps members. Reports have it that they are students from distance learning centres of some of the nation’s universities. There are dozens of them, found in just one camp near Abuja. The fake ‘corpers’ and the man who trained them covered their faces in front of television camera that time, but their arresters glowed with pride at the achievement. Now, arrest of fake ‘corpers’ has become an annual event. But there is a question to ask: Why do increasing number of Nigerians attend unauthorized camps for the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, programme?

Where to start is the state of the nation’s education sector. This writer posed questions to a student who is enrolled for distance learning programme in of the nation’s accredited universities, as well as a practicing teacher. The university student says distance learning or sandwich programme that is originally designed for people who are employed, and are over thirty years of age now accommodate teenage students fresh from secondary schools. In Year 4, with one more year to go, names of students in distance learning programme are compiled along with those of regular students in Year 3 and sent to NYSC; that way, distance learning students are made part of the batch of regular students who are called to camp when they graduate in the fourth year.

Regular students don’t pay to be called to camp. But students in distance learning programme are required by their universities to pay as much as Fifty Thousand naira and above either to be called to camp, or in order to have letter of exemption from service, if they so choose. But why do distance learning students, as in the case of the latest fake ‘corpers’ saga pay as much as Eighty Thousand naira to attend ‘fake’ NYSC camps? The response of the student is that ‘students’ involved often use valid NYSC certificate that they receive as a cover for invalid academic certificates. Such include certificates from unaccredited universities, or accredited universities that run unaccredited courses.

Moreover, ‘students’ print fake academic certificates in business centers and place NYSC certificate on them. The cover is in the fact that most institutions, public and private, don’t do background check on some of the academic certificates presented to them at the point of employment. Here, the issue is that there is an education system that is fraught with problems such that there are as many fake universities as there are fake students.

The practicing teacher mentioned earlier teaches in a secondary school, and she has come to some bizarre conclusions in the wake of the new education curriculum that the Education Ministry throws at teachers in classrooms. Where the nation’s education system finds itself at the moment would lead to more poor examination results shortly, especially in school leaving certificate examinations in secondary schools, she says. This would undoubtedly throw up fake results, fake university graduates and fake corps members, and ultimately innumerable Nigerians would be in position of authority without the requisite qualifications. This is the case in the nation’s set up as things stand anyway. NERDC, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council replaced secondary school curriculum with a new one in September 2011. Students in secondary schools hardly grasped what they were taught using the old curriculum, did not have full understanding of all the subjects they were required to take, and teachers hardly ever covered syllabus. “The new curriculum is a disaster,” the secondary school teacher says.

She learnt of one of the university lecturers that designed one particular subject and that made her understand why NERDC designed curriculums that no teacher can cover in the time available, most teachers have no skill to teach, facilities are not there to teach, as well as the upgraded topics that are not even required by WAEC because that body is yet to change its syllabus. The reason for that is simple: WAEC takes care of some other West African countries too.

NERDC, for instance, has moved many topics down from the university to the secondary school; they are topics that universities don’t have the facilities to teach beyond the theoretical level. Courses such as GIS, Geographic Information System, that teachers themselves were taught as theory in the university, now has to be taught with computer in secondary schools that neither have computers nor electricity supply to power them.

Dozens of students have since run away from Geography class, the secondary school teacher says. And Mathematics that students fail en masse has been made more tedious too. Topics from Further Mathematics are moved into Mathematics. And there are additional subjects to be taught: Candidates must offer five compulsory cross-cutting subjects which include English language, General Mathematics, Computer Studies/ICT and one trade/ entrepreneurship subject to be selected from a list of 34 approved trade/entrepreneurship subjects. And four distinct fields of studies such as Science and Mathematics (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Further Mathematics) among others can be added to the earlier five selected. Secondary school graduates from this new curriculum are expected to possess relevant ICT skills and enterprise culture and become well prepared for their world of work or for higher education. Teachers have not been trained to take on those new roles, yet it is operation.

As things stand, most students in science class shirk away from taking Physics, Chemistry, Biology at the same time. And Art students are in for harder times with more serious Mathematics to cope with. The teacher that offers this professional insight says she is ready to get out of the teaching profession before schools begin to record more mass failure some four years down the line. And she doesn’t think private schools handle subjects so well such that many of them can claim one hundred percent success in secondary school leaving examinations. Parents call private schools Miracle Centers, so they withdraw their children from public schools, enroll them at these Centers because big fees are a guaranteed prelude to success.

Summits have followed summits in the education sector under the current dispensation. Days back, the Minister of State for Education said the president has approved the recruitment of three hundred mathematics teacher. Add the science teachers to the figure, it gets as high as one thousand. That, in order to turn around the situation whereby Parents Teachers Associations recruit teachers for schools on temporary basis.

But how come school got to the point that they lacked teachers in the first place? Don’t education officials do term-by term, session by session monitoring? Didn’t school principals write to inform education ministry about subjects for which they lacked manpower? So far, education summits are yet to translate into better results even though millions of naira are expended to organize them, and, from practical point of view, those in the field are convinced that the new curriculum the Ministry accepts from NERDC is a disaster waiting for the appropriate time to happen.

It is not in doubt that, like every other segment of the nation, the nation’s education is sick, and the blame can not be far from the administrators. They leave out the input of secondary school teachers who should know, and bring in university lecturers to draft secondary school education curriculum, for instance. Education Resource Centres that contribute in a way to all of this have personnel that do not have full appreciation of what a teenager is required to put in his head in one subject, and in nine places. Officials at the Ministry manage school calendar arrangements to the detriment of education, as well as their mismanagement of staff strength in schools such that parents have to step in, often in an haphazard manner. Those who run education are out of touch with what they run, and so the issue of fake ‘corpers’ is not an isolated one. It is the nation’s education sector as a whole that requires better synergy such that identified objectives can be achieved.

Written By Tunji Ajibade
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