THE abysmal poor result of the May/June 2009 WAEC drew anger from Nigerians in general and the affected candidates in particular. Many candidates did not score credit pass in English Language and Mathematics which is the basis for gaining admission into the university.
As the anger appeared to be dying down, the November/December 2009 NECO examination result became a more devastating bombshell that sent the affected candidates dazed, exasperated and forlorn. According to news report, there was only 1.8 per cent pass representing only 4,223 of the 236,613 candidates that wrote the examination with five credits, including Mathematics and English language.
The dream of these ever struggling youngsters to gain admissionÂ into the university or secure a standard clerical officers grade level 04 post in the public/civil service has remained elusive.
This deplorable state of affairs should no longer be left unattended to since the danger of leaving the youths in frustration and exasperated can explode with disastrous consequences for the entire society. It is an old axiom that rules are made for the welfare of man and not the other way round.
The significance of the maxim is that when certain rules and laws are no longer to the best interest of the society or a target group, then the reasonable and most auspiciousÂ step is to review those rules and laws to conform with the stark realities on ground, human weal and welfare which is the essence of good governance.
It is very clear that the education standard in Nigeria has never been what it ought to be talkless of supposedly fallen. This mournful scenario is akin to a saying that he who has fallen down needs fearÂ no fall. One cannot talk about fallen standard of education in Nigeria because the civilian and military leaderships since independence in 1960 had never accorded education the desired top priority in the sectoral or budgetary allocations in the annual budgets and National Development Plans (NDP).
In spite of the realistic moral suasion of the United Nations that developing nations and emerging economies should devote at least 26 per cent of their annual budgets to the education sector, Nigeria leadership hasÂ remained adamant to the strategic guideline of the benevolent world body.
The brazen practice of a unitary constitution in the guise of federal constitution is a potent factor for the sorry state of the education sector in the country. Due to religious and ethnic bias to favour a section of the country, the 1999 constitution crafted by the military regimeÂ made it necessary for the Federal government to have a hand in the education sector and even other sectors that could be conveniently be handled by the state governments along with the local government councilsÂ whichÂ they ought to create according to the needs of the respective states.
For instance, the Federal government ought not to have anyÂ business with education, agriculture, health, environment, housing, roads in addition to certain sources of revenue like the Value Added Tax (VAT). The above sectors can be effectively and efficiently managed by states because for instance the collective aspirations of Bayelsa, Rivers, Imo, Anambra and Enugu people are not and can never be the same with the indigenes of Sokoto, Zamfara and BornuÂ States.
The total collapse of these sectors proved that the Federal government was never in a position to enunciate policies and programmes that would make the people to benefit maximally hence the vicious circle of underdevelopment, poverty and squalor in the country. In other words, these sectors haveÂ proved to be intractable to manage effectively and efficiently by theÂ Federal government.
The WAEC and NECO results have reiterated the need to practice full blown federalism otherwise the ocular proof of slide in education sectorÂ will further retard the nation’s quest for science and technological development encapsulatedÂ in the 7-point agenda and vision 20: 20 20. According to Professor Adebayo Akinde, a retired professor of computer science at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Anglican Bishop, no nation can develop without science and technology since it is the bedrock of development.
It is exhilarating to note that the constitution is being amended by the National Assembly but the collective amnesia, plain inanity or outright hypocrisy on the ever elusive Nigerian unity would never allow the legislators to embark on a drastic readjustment of the exclusive legislative lists and concurrent legislative lists where education and others enumerated above should be the responsibility of the states.
Reality also demands that the revenue allocation should be amended to make sufficient funds available to the states to operate those critical sectors with realistic policies and programmes to effectively uplift the weal and welfare of the people in their respective states.
In fact without fear of contradiction or dubbed a pessimist, education will continue to be in tatters in Nigeria until the federal government hands off this critical sector of the already comatose economy.
The first generation Universities with the high standard quality of graduates was destroyed when the federal government under the military regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo took over their control and funding. The twin destructive factors of religion and ethnicism in addition to the endemic corruption, insincerity and hypocrisy rubbished the enviable high standard of the university education.
These universities and citadel of learning became unwieldy to manage by the agency of the federal government which is the National University Commission (NUC) and the youths are now bearing the brunt of the failed standard of university education to the mockery of international communities.
It can be reiterated that there can never be meaningful and all round political, social and economic development in Nigeria as long as this obnoxious state of affairs is sustained. A section of the country has sworn to spiritually and literarily cage the development aspirations of other progressive states.
The so-called Universal Basic Education (UBE) has not made any meaningful impact on the social and economic upliftment of the pupils and students. Rather the public funds in addition to that from donor agencies have been flowing into the private bank accounts of top officials and political appointees in the Federal Ministry of Education and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
In states Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB) headquarters, the members of the Board become millionaires overnight by awarding contracts at unconscionable costs. For instance the so-called VIP toilets which can hardly allow frail body of a pupil to enter which would ordinarily cost less than N80,000 would be awarded in the neighbourhood of N500,000.
If the quantum inflow of money from international donor agencies under the auspices of the United Nations the cash counterpart contributions (CCC) and the budgetary allocations in the federal and state budgets are at the disposal of the states, each state would fashion the type of educationÂ policy or system amenable or conducive to their people and the environment.
For instance in Igbo speaking states, UBE policy has subjected children to unimaginable hardship. Schools built by communities through the town unions for a five year secondary system have been separated into the so-called JSS and SSS segments of secondary school system and scattered leading the students to trek several kilometers with the attendant hazards.
There was nothing wrong with 5 year secondary school system, what was needed was adequate funding, facilities, motivation of teachers, official quarters vehicle advance and adequate remuneration in line within the current price index in the market controlled economy.
If contemporary reality is anything to go by, the time-honoured rule that compels candidates to have credit pass in subjects especially English Language and Mathematics for university admission should be abolished. A pass in subjects should be adopted because events have amply demonstrated that WAEC and NECO have ruined the academic aspirations of the youths in Nigeria.
There are paucity or dearth of both educational and critical facilities for learning and skill acquisition to ensure fraud – free examination; and the regular victims are the brilliant ones who, when they score A in subjects would be perceived as beneficiaries of examination malpractice.
On the other hand, candidates in the so-called special examination centres would have credit pass in English language and Mathematics and have their results released because the invigilators and the teachers that will mark the scripts have been surreptitiously settled handsomely.
These scripts markers or examiners would not score them 80-99 per cent but would give them 50, 60 and 70 per cent ostensibly to make sure that they have their results released. It has become an open secret but the WAEC and NECO authorities have chosen to close their eyes to the sordid reality or pretend to be helpless and weak-knead.
Examples are many: there was a case of a brilliant indigene of Amawbia, Anambra state who sat for WAEC and NECO for more than three sittings but had his results withheld due to vain suspicion of examination malpractice.
The boy out of exasperation has taken to trading thus having his divine destiny of being an accomplished intellectual truncated. Another boy was the Editor of the school magazine as he was very good in English language. In 2009 May/June WAEC, his English language result was withheld because of suspicion of examination malpractice.
They probably after scrutiny, the result was released with B score. In spite of his performance in Mathematics, he was scored a pass and was unable to gain admission in the university in spite of high scores (B) in science subjects to study medicine.
Time has therefore come for a review of the credit pass mantra; in university admission. Cases have shown that it is no longer a realistic and credible measure of capability to cope with curriculum in the institution of higher learning.
The youths who are the leaders of tomorrow should be allowed to enter university with pass in the subjects. In the 1970s, people who did not have credit in subjects but have people to fund their education overseas, are now doctorate degree holders, professionals and specialists in various fields.
What matters is the state-of-the-art academic infrastructural facilities in the universities and the motivated lecturers.
Credit pass or pass have been empirically proved to be of no effect on the academic performance and success in the university semester examinations. Of course there are people with A and B credit passes in all the subjects and passed JAMB through malpractice but fail semester examinations and have not been able to graduate. This irrational calculation should stop so as to save the youths will not be driven into mental crises which lead to anti-social gambits.
If they are admitted into the institutions of higher learning, the incidence of kidnapping, highway robbery, prostitution, internet scam and sundry social vices prevalent in the Nigerian society today will be minimized to a considerable degree.
It is time to abolish JAMB and allow institutions to conduct their own entrance examination. Candidates should register for entrance examinations based on the amount of money at their disposal; the rational for saving cost through JAMB has become a ruse to marginalize a section of the country to acquire higher education.
The whole problem emanated from the high – handedness of a section of the country which has held the entire nation to ransom in educational advancement of other states of the federation. States should be left alone to formulate their education policies and programmes in addition to handing over the so-called federal universities to the states.
The problem in the education sector is on the same pedestal with the sad security situation in the country. Until the education and the security sectors are left to the states, there will never be security and good standard of education in the country.
These who call for the dismemberment of the country have these two sectors in mind- and these sectors are crucial for the overall growth and development.
Mr. Onwubiko is a public affairs analyst and Deputy Director (Administration) Ministry of Justice, Awka, Anambra State.