• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Failing grades, failing system: A call to revamp Nigeria’s education

Failing grades, failing system: A call to revamp Nigeria’s education

The recent disclosure by JAMB, revealing that a staggering 1.4 million out of 1.8 million students who undertook the examination scored below 200, serves as a stark indictment of the state of education in Nigeria.

This revelation not only reveals the depth of the crisis but also underscores the urgent need for decisive national intervention. It is a clarion call that reverberates across the nation, signalling a state of emergency that demands immediate and concerted action on a national scale.

Beyond mere statistics, this revelation lays bare the profound consequences of systemic failures in both governmental investment in education and the role of parenting in shaping the future of our youth. It is a wake-up call that compels us to confront the harsh realities facing our education system and to redouble our efforts to address the underlying issues plaguing our society.

Q: “Critical stakeholders in the educational sector and, indeed, society must understand that children and youth constitute a critical aspect of society; thus, they must not be exposed to flawed beliefs that now resonate with their brains.”

I recall with nostalgia how I was brought up as a child from a poor background through values that were rooted in our culture and tradition, such as hard work, productivity, honesty, chastity, decency, and good neighbourliness, amongst others. Unfortunately, parents today are now socialising their children into a vile culture of corruption by hiring surrogate candidates to write exams for their kids. Parents have now failed to set aside the possession of virtues such as probity, honesty, perseverance, and love of education, among others. It is disturbing!

Critical stakeholders in the educational sector and, indeed, society must understand that children and youth constitute a critical aspect of society; thus, they must not be exposed to flawed beliefs that now resonate with their brains. This is backed up by a Yoruba maxim “Kekere lati npeka iroko”, which is interpreted in English as “the branches of an Iroko tree should be pruned at nursery to prevent future damage.” This popular Yoruba maxim states why a family is expected to teach children good morals in their early lives.

Unfortunately, as against those days when corrupt and evil-minded people are viewed with contempt and disdain (irrespective of their attainments in life), the corrupt individuals are whom our children look up to for engagement and orientation. The Nigerian society of today now looks forward to the glitz and glamour of a reckless life without questioning the way and manner in which individuals amass their wealth. We now glorify material possessions while moral values are vilified. Even parents now say, “What will your moral value bring to the table?” They say this to the hearings of their children.

In Nigerian society today, wherever you turn, you see parents and stakeholders downplay education. Parents and musicians now tell our younger ones that all the talks about school being the gate pass to a life of comfort are all lies, which now reinforces the mantra “education is a scam.” There was even a time a musician, while glorifying the scourge of Yahoo, released a track where he asked, “What have you become with the education you got?” While the question could have been thought-provoking, it was actually to mock the educated because our reward system in Nigeria is in itself flawed.

Your child is not a dry cleaner yet brings bales of cloth home, and you, as parents, do not ask questions. This JAMB failure, as much as it talks of the government’s failure to invest in education, brings to the fore the question of parental functions.

The insidious influence of Nigerian politicians exacerbates the already dire situation as they continue to exploit and manipulate impressionable young minds, luring them into the murky waters of social vices like election violence. This Machiavellian tactic not only corrodes the fabric of our society but also perpetuates a vicious cycle of instability and turmoil. By preying on the vulnerabilities of the youth, politicians sow the seeds of discord and division, further deepening the societal fissures that contribute to crises such as the widespread failure witnessed in this year’s JAMB examination. Their actions not only betray the trust of the electorate but also betray the future of the nation, condemning countless young individuals to a cycle of despair and hopelessness. It is a tragic indictment of the moral bankruptcy that pervades the corridors of power, where self-interest and personal gain take precedence over the well-being of the nation’s youth. As the tendrils of political corruption continue to ensnare our youth, it is imperative that we confront this toxic influence head-on and strive to build a society where the aspirations of our young people are nurtured and safeguarded, rather than exploited for political gain.

To change the sad narrative we have seen, our political class must henceforth celebrate academic excellence by showing that the government recognises education as a key driver of societal growth and progress. We have been fed with ugly scenes of graduates and even first-class products driving Keke maruwa and engaging in some petty petty works while society and even the government celebrate mediocrity over excellence.

This mass failure, which has just been recorded in JAMB, calls for not just sober reflection but immediate radical action from the Federal Ministry of Education. The government must acknowledge the fact that Nigeria’s current educational policy or even the posture of the government is neither satisfying the yearnings of its teeming youths nor delivering the needs of the labour market.

At Asanke, Ibadan, I grew up to know and see students attend Government Technical College, Orita-Aperin. Those days, the country had technical schools across the country where students could learn vocational studies and specialise in whatever area of interest they were good at. At the Technical College, they had building, hairdressing, carpentry, welding, etc., and the colleges were so equipped to standard with practical workshops to provide these vocational courses.

According to what we later learned, the idea of the technical colleges was that every child could have the chance of proceeding to either senior secondary school or technical school after the completion of their three years of junior secondary school. Students did not have to waste time by finishing senior secondary school or sitting for UTME because education goes beyond grabbing white-collar jobs.

I expected that the Minister of Education would have by this time called for an emergency educational summit. Such a summit could bring together educators, policymakers, students, and private sector leaders to analyse the root causes of our educational woes and develop a comprehensive plan for improvement.

The Nigerian government must prioritise a holistic approach to education that goes beyond rote memorization and standardised tests. We need a curriculum that fosters critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creativity—the 21st-century skills students need to succeed in the global economy. This means equipping students with the ability to “use their hands, heads, and hearts,” as you rightly point out.

Furthermore, the government must demonstrate a genuine commitment to education by allocating sufficient funding to revitalise our schools and libraries. Imagine the transformative impact of well-stocked libraries with qualified librarians who can ignite a passion for reading in our youth. Investing in our educational infrastructure will not only benefit current students but also send a powerful message to younger generations that education is valued.

Finally, we must address the issue of graduate unemployment, which discourages many young people from pursuing higher education. The government and private sector need to collaborate on initiatives that create job opportunities for graduates and incentivize businesses to invest in skills development programs. By prioritising teacher welfare and ensuring competitive salaries, we can attract and retain talented educators who will inspire and guide the next generation of Nigerian leaders.

A revitalised education system is not just a pipe dream; it’s the cornerstone of a brighter future for Nigeria. Let’s work together to ensure that all Nigerian students have the opportunity to thrive and contribute to the nation’s success story.

Nigeria must be rescued!

Kazeem Olalekan Israel writes from Ibadan, Nigeria.