By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
The steady decline of the nationâ€™s education system became more manifest with the dismal performance of students nationwide in the recently released results of the National Examinations Council (NECO).
Among the thousands of students who took the terminal examination, only about 10% of them got credit in English and Mathematics, and indeed only about two per cent performed satisfactorily.
What factors are responsible for this poor result? Who should be blamed? And what can be done to halt this worrisome situation?
Professor Ademola Onifade, who is the Director of General Studies Centre, Lagos State University answers these posers in an exclusive interview with Vanguard Education Weekly.
According to Onifade, both the parents, the government, students as well as examination fraudsters are to be blamed for the poor performance.
Both the federal and state governments have, over the years, been paying lip service to education, says Onifade, as they have not showed commitment and will to fund the sector properly. As a result, the basic facilities for teaching and learning are not there.
According to the Professor of Physical and Health Education, the problem of the sector started with the gross neglect of primary schools which is the foundation, adding that students who transmit from very shaky primary schools cannot be expected to perform well at the secondary school level.
He stressed the need for government and school owners to allocate enough money for revamping the nationâ€™s primary schools.
Apart from the failure of government at all levels to put in place facilities for teaching and learning at the basic and senior secondary school level, teachersâ€™ morale are also low as they are not well motivated to do their job properly.
Prof. Onifade says: â€œTeachers are poorly paid and majority of them are not paid as at when due. As a result of this, most teachers in secondary schools are not happy to do their job. Government should motivate the teachers. Allowing teachers to go on strike while pressing for one demand or the other is not the best.â€
The students themselves are also culpable. Onifade says: â€œMany students are not ready to learn these days. They go to school very late and you can see many of them at bus stops in Lagos metropolis by 9 a.m. By the time they get to school at about 10.30 a.m. they are already tired. What can an outrightly tired student learn?â€
Closely related to this truant behaviour on the part of students is the failure of their parents to monitor their movement and activities during and after school hours. Many parents, says Prof. Onifade, go to work by 5a.m. and their children use this opportunity to play truancy.
â€œThese parents donâ€™t return from work until 9 p.m. and since their children are aware of their movement they resort to playing all sorts of pranks after schoolâ€™s hours instead of going home straight to read their books. At night, these students are tired and they go to bed without doing their assignment and without reading.â€
â€œLagos, for instance, is an hectic town because of heavy traffic on daily basis. The solution to this is to make schools boarding so that students will not be going through stress before getting to school. The other option is to build enough schools in every neighbourhood so that pupils and students will be going to schools that are closer to their places of residence,â€ he counsels.
Examination bodies like the West African Examinations Council and the National Examinations Council are also blameworthy. According to the Director of General Studies Centre, some officials of these examination bodies connive with teachers and students to perpetrate examination malpractice. And because these students know that these officials provide them with short cut to passing the exams via malpractice, they neglect reading.
He stressed the need for examination bodies to give their officials close monitoring to prevent them from perpetrating exams fraud.
Another way of rejuvenating the nationâ€™s education system is for government to make vocational and technical facilities available in schools so that those who are not interested in furthering their studies after the completion of Junior Secondary School can be trained in trade and entrepreneurship skills.
He however insists that the conduct of examination in schools should not be discontinued, adding that examination remains the only way of screening students.