A few days ago, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) officially released the May/June 2010 SSCE results for more than 95% of registered candidates. While details of the overall performance of the candidates are still sketchy, previous dismal results indicate that the Nigerian education is falling rapidly off the quality cliff.
Nigeria remains an ever-interesting country. All across the nation, the echo of accumulated challenges reverberates at highly resounding decibels, yet no one is paying attention, and when attention is given, it is usually for the wrong reason.
In the opinion of several eloquent writers, the Nigerian government is to be blamed for the deplorable state of the state schools. We often mention the dilapidated buildings, incessant teacher strikes and several other popular excuses that make reading online and newspaper articles quit boring sometimes. In the real sense however, everyone is to blame.
Governments at all levels are saddled with the responsibility of regulating the sector. This entails good policy formulation, establishment and enforcement of standards, as well as day-to-day operations of government-owned institutions. Overall, governments at all levels are inconsistent hence one cannot categorically state that the government is good, or bad.
Over the years, the Nigerian education sector has witnessed an immense infiltration in the form of privatization by private citizens. About 20 years ago, Nigeria as a whole could not even boast of over 20 private institutions.
Unlike the educational institutions of the ‘80s and early ‘90s where standards were appreciable, substantial and competitive, Nigeria now parade institutions whose standards are below the lowest. The worm first ate into the primary schools with the introduction of several ‘international’ private nursery and primary schools. The proprietors and proprietresses transformed education into marketing, maximizing profits without being checked by the regulatory bodies. Nowadays, dilapidated buildings now house primary schools, and such schools are adequately registered and present students for government-organized examinations where half-baked products are transferred to the secondary schools.
Like the primary schools, the number of secondary schools in Nigeria is alarming; government can’t even say categorically how many secondary schools we currently have. The enrollment criteria are mostly bogus and the quality of education, in a lot of them, is quite ludicrous. The demarcation between the rich and poor is well pronounced in the schools their wards attend. And the government is not helping matters.
We don’t have a minimum acceptable standard for our secondary schools and colleges. Virtually all sorts of buildings− flats, duplexes, bungalows, partitioned warehouses, even factories and uncompleted buildings− have metamorphosed into colleges where anyone can teach. The students are managed like failed banks and prepared, half-baked of course, for the SSCE and UTME.
University education is also gradually losing its quality owing to government’s inability to enforce standards. There is currently a gradual evolution of private universities to admit more students that are usually left out by government universities. Major inter-state roads are been lined by private universities. In various states, universities are admitting students and flaunting NUC approval in similar ways that herbalists present their NAFDAC numbers. Apart from the non-existence of incessant ASUU and NASU strikes, private universities are nothing more than improved secondary schools.
Apart from the government, the teachers and lecturers are also not helping matters. At all levels, negligence is gaining prominence, unqualified personnel are becoming “qualified” enough to teach, and the teaching service commissions are nothing more than moribund government establishments.
Recently, the Oyo state government conducted an interview for its teachers, and the results were quite shocking. It was funny to hear that a social studies teacher could not say what UNESCO stands for; an accounts teacher was unable to say the full meaning of PAYEE.
In addition, on the part of students, punctuality is gradually trading places with truancy. Astute studying is no longer a necessity and unserious attitudes are acceptable and examinations are no longer dreaded as they were in times past when education was what it used to be. Today’s set of students believe so much in their parents’ buying abilities, and the complacence of teachers and school administrators who understandably agree to the yearnings of desperate parents who will go to any length to get what they want, even if it entails bribing through the system.
Motivation in teaching is on the negative side. Few parents voluntarily allow their wards to go to Colleges of Education, and the National Teachers’ Institute is gradually becoming synonymous to Nigerian Police College. Free education has also been helpful in raising the standards of our education.
The South Western governors in desperation to sustain the free education initiative of Obafemi Awolowo and Bola Ige are taking the once respected education sectors from grace to grass. Students are no longer serious because government pays all the fees; parents are becoming uninterested in the education of their wards because it is costing them next to nothing; governors can afford to owe teachers several months of salaries because no revenue is being generated from the schools; and teachers can afford to be less serious with their classes because they are disenfranchised from the mainstream of the civil service.
Very soon, we will have torrents of the aftermaths of this collaborative innovation that has eroded our education sector of its glory- the type that once produced a world renowned Nobel laureate and several internationally recognized personalities. Sadly, the attention of the youths in public schools is gradually turning to the booming Yahoo enterprise.
Governments need to reassess their education policies. The quality of teachers being allowed to teach in schools should be looked into, and for Christ’s sake, let’s forget about free education. Free education is no education. Quality education comes with a price.
We all talk about UK, USA, Canada and other African countries like Ghana, Kenya and South Africa with stable and standard educational institutions, but we often fail to leave out the costs. Reputable universities of the world are autonomous, so should ours.
Paul Adepoju is a freelance writer