For almost the entire first half of 2011, this column extensively discussed the crisis in the Nigerian education system. We discussed the nationwide strike by state universities and the matters that arose from it, the debilitating instability of policies and personnel [ministers] in the sector, the problems with private and illegal universities, the emergence of Goodluck federal universities and the politicisation of the university system. Recommendations were also proffered on the way forward. Since then, a lot has happened in the educational sector, but I decided to also pay some attention to other matters [after all, there are full-blown educational correspondents all over the place].
More state universities have been licensed even when most of the existing ones are grossly underfunded, understaffed and suffer unpardonable remote-controlled interference by the visitors who rarely visit. JAMB online exams have debuted even when the manual variant is ever crisis-prone and the story about scrapping JAMB and NECO [courtesy of Oronsaye Report] enjoys currency. The Boko Haram warriors have disorganised the educational system in the north: destroying schools, frightening teachers and their pupils and destabilising whole communities. The Almajiri school programme is still waxing stronger. It is another example of our usual penchant to throw money at problems without addressing the fundamentals – in this instance social habits and attitudes and political exigencies that fuel the Almajiri syndrome. The demand-supply gap for PhD holders continues to widen without any meaningful efforts to encourage fresh doctoral candidates or fast-track the programme for ‘resident scholars’ [after all, we have resident doctors!]. Some schools are even hiking the doctoral
school fees! Furthermore, in line with political calculus and our obsession with quantity, more Goodluck universities are emerging when even 10 percent of their budget will do wonders in existing universities. They are also ‘everything’ universities while one of the solutions being proposed for our educational crisis is the establishment of specialised universities.
Some disturbing developments have, however, drawn my attention again to the educational system. They may not be new developments as such, but as our people would say, one’s morning starts when the person wakes up [Achebe can confirm this even from the grave!]. On 15/5/13, a friend of mine who lives in Nkpor, near Onitsha, Anambra State, paid me an unscheduled early morning visit. We were discussing ‘this and that’ when his phone, that troubler of Nigerians, rang. He told me that he had to hurriedly get to Nkpor because his daughter had a WASC exam that morning and he needed to attend to her before that. When I probed further, he informed me that the daughter – and all her colleagues – paid N500 ‘service charge’ for every paper they wrote in the WASC exams, and for that
day it was N1,000 [probably the subject was English or Maths]. I won’t tell you the purpose of that service charge. A week later, I heard the pathetic and real-life story of a French language teacher in the Okota area of Lagos who was sacked because she refused to prepare answers to be used to facilitate EXPO for students writing the same just concluded WASC exams. She had excitedly told the proprietress that most of the things she taught the students came out in the exams and that even the averagely prepared would pass. But the proprietress was not impressed; she accused the poor and upright teacher of sabotaging her business interests and sacked her on the spot!
We have all seen the outcome of 2013 JAMB exams in which 85 percent of the candidates scored less than 200; they technically failed the exam, going by JAMB benchmark. I learnt that JAMB scrambled the questions in such a way that almost everybody had different set of questions and this made all cheating strategies useless. But that is not the issue. Bob Etemiku who agreed to teach English Literature to JAMB candidates in a tutorial centre few weeks to the recent JAMB had a very disheartening experience. Parents refused to allow the students to put in extra hours over the weekend [Saturday/Sunday] because the weekend was for rest and relaxation. 95 percent of the students in his class had not read any of the recommended texts even though the exam was a few weeks away. These 95 percent have, however, technically been admitted into the universities: the parents had made all the arrangements and what the candidates were expected to do was just to show face at the tutorial centre, go and write the exams and show evidence that they actually wrote the exams [Bob Etemiku, ‘Blame the parents’, Thisday, 16/5/13, p. 14].
Finally, as I was sweating it out in the suffocating traffic gridlock in the 200 metres distance between Triangular Plaza and Esuola Junction in Ago Palace Way, Okota, Lagos [which took me two hours on 28/5/13], my weary eyes caught this advert by a tutorial centre located beside First Bank in that same
Ago Palace Way: ‘SSCE: 7 credits guaranteed; JAMB: 280 and above’. How can this ‘wait and take’ outfit deliver this guaranteed result [irrespective of the brain-level and commitment of the students] through genuine efforts? So, what kinds of students are admitted into the universities? What raw
materials do the universities work with? If students did not acquire the culture of reading at the primary/secondary school and believe that they can pass without reading, how can they survive in the universities? And if parents/proprietors facilitate ‘success’ for them in WAEC/JAMB, how can they do wonders at the tertiary level? [Next week]
Meanwhile, on 22/4/13, I went to renew all my papers, both
those that had expired and those that were yet to expire. I never like to say ‘abeg’ unnecessarily. At the insurance office, they requested for my telephone number and before I received my certificate of insurance, I received a text from the insurer confirming the amount, the class of insurance, the policy and
certificate number, its duration and expiry date. Before I got to the car, I received another text from Nigerian Insurance Industry Database platform confirming that my insurance policy [stating all the details] was genuine. That is TECHNOLOGY at work and is particularly good for the insurance industry where the ghost and fake insurers outnumber the genuine by a ratio of 10:1.
Muo is a lecturer and management consultant in the department of business administration, Olabisi Onabanjo
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