John Bull My Son...,--Nigerian Education Malaise
--"John Bull my son, I send you to school, you don't know how to spell your name...” Old nursery rhyme.
Over the week, I could not make it to the office, I had kept a young university graduate waiting, one of those hectic travel days, was on transit. He just finished his course of study as an Economist in one of the federal universities ...he sent me a text message, after waiting, which read "I has be waiting since for you sir".
I could not reply for a while, because till this moment "I has be trying to understand" what he meant to say. Whatever he wanted to say, he reminded me we are a nation with short fuse memory, we forget after all the noise, show little or no outrage and move on. Only last month over 1.5million wrote the JAMB exams and barely 500 passed enough to merit a university spot.
It will get worse, if it has got to the point of “I has come". Failure is recorded at mass level, one wonders how after 6 years in Secondary school and qualifying exams in WAEC, and or NECO, JAMB and post-UME we record monumental failures which culminate in “I has be waiting since for you sir".
Is it the teacher, student, curriculum, infrastructure, the English premier league or blackberry phones?
WAEC as an exam body decried this situation of "John Bull who cannot spell his name...after going through school". The examination body through a committee, comprising representatives of stakeholders, met and looked at the reports of the Chief Examiners and Aptitude Tests, as well as the Research Division of the organization.
In its communiqué the committee revealed the repeated flaws made by candidates...they insisted the question papers not only met the required standards, but also ensured the council's certificates to be worthy of international recognition. They noted the questions were also unambiguous and within the scope of the syllabuses.
“The marking schemes were exhaustible and comprehensive enough to accommodate all possible answers,” it stated.
"However, apart from the dearth of basic instructional materials and infrastructure, poor remuneration of teachers, among other social factors that are facing particularly public schools in the country, the committee noted candidates' weaknesses as contained in the Chief Examiners' Reports".
"One could not help but observe many candidates had shallow knowledge of the subject matter, poor command of the use of English language, poor knowledge of the examination techniques, as well disregard for correct interpretation of questions before attempting them".
“We also observed that many candidates lack requisite mathematical and manipulative skills for subjects involving calculations, while handwriting of some are illegible and their answers scripts are full of spelling errors.”
Describing the condition as unbecoming it was disclosed "that many candidates try to cut corners by engaging in various forms of examination malpractice in order to obtain marks".
Despite all these lamentation, one good point "I has noticed" was the girl with nine A1s in WASSCE: reports say she is so brilliant her teachers feared her result would be seized. Miss Tolulope Falokun, an indigene of Ondo State; she emerged as the overall best candidate in the 2011 West African Senior School Certificate Examination
17yr old Tolulope had distinctions (A1) in all the nine subjects she attempted, she was described as intelligent, hardworking, serious-minded and above all, highly disciplined pupil.
In an interview Tolu had told reporters, “Our teachers prepared us early for the exams. We had special lectures everyday more than four months into the exams because we had covered our syllabus since first term SSIII.
My Government teacher designed a timetable for me which I followed religiously to make sure that I cover all my subjects. Our teachers also set up study groups for us and I did not miss any of these arrangements. I prayed hard and worked hard, using my timetable as a guide. I denied myself a lot of things especially social events.
I used to have a Ghanaian teacher who is very good in English language and Mathematics and he really taught me well when I was in the primary school".
Tolu scored 290 in the 2011 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and emerged the second overall best student in the Post-UTME conducted by the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile –Ife with 336 marks.
The result of a Tolulope is a 24-year-old graduate from Zamfara State, Muhammad Usman, who would be presenting a paper at the 2012 session of the World Renewable Energy Forum (WREF) scheduled for May 13 -17, in Denver, Colorado, United States.
Usman's paper is entitled "Rural Solar Electrification-Renewable Energy Potential and Distribution for Development in Nigeria". He is a 2010 Economics graduate from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Programme Officer at the Gusau-based Centre for Energy and Environment in Zamfara State.
Two sides of a nation--hope and despair, either a case of "we can" or "we can coming". While we battle the scourge of local terrorism, bad leadership, kidnap, health, and countless issues, there is need to come up with some measures that could help both the students and schools to improve on their performance in future examinations, by extension resuscitate a nation's dying if not dead educational sector.
Our students need to develop a good understanding of questions and also learn the basic rudiments of English language for better and clearer presentation of their answers. The sex for grade, bribe for certificate syndrome needs to be checked.
There is need to ensure the appropriate textbooks in all subjects are procured and studied side by side with the examination syllabus, syllabus should be completed before the commencement of examination. Libraries need to go info-tech, not littered with books of 1914. While practical on-hands learning away from just examination should be incorporated
There is need to provide basic infrastructure, and conducive atmosphere in schools, only qualified and committed teachers who will teach their subjects effectively and guide students to become exemplary in their studies should be employed. Not like the teacher in Bauchi State (SUEB) that inherited his grandfather's grade II certificate and was teaching with it or University dons that have become experts in plagiarism, selling handouts pirated from other works.
The question of whatever happened to the old school inspectorates system should be addressed. If these and even more rigorous steps are taken, we may be saved the irony of "we has failed" in the future--Time will tell
Prince Charles Dickson