By Helen Ovbiagele
For some of us who were classroom teachers at an era when learning and the acquisition of knowledge was much sought after and desired, and both the learners and their teachers were very interested in getting things right, the current deteriorating state of our educational system, is of much concern.
One had envisaged a nation of focused and knowledgeable people in the various fields of endeavour, and the passing on of the torch of progress from one generation to another of Nigerians.
Then in our old age, we would be contented that our country is in the capable hands of those who will do the nation proud. Sadly, that’s not the case. Down the line, the rot began to set in, to the extent that a large number of university graduates, not only do not have a good mastery of the English language, and in the courses they took a degree in, they’re poor in general knowledge too.
Fast going are the days when young people actually took pride in the knowledge they had acquired at school, and are eager to display it at any given opportunity. There just isn’t enough knowledge at present, to back up the educational qualifications that they have.
How were these ones able to go through higher institutions of learning actually absorbing the required knowledge? How did they get in, in the first place to do these courses they have no good mastery of? The fault lies in parents who would do anything to get admission for their wards, the government examining bodies which have their own agenda about admission, those supervisors and teachers of doubtful integrity, and the pupils themselves who would rather rely on cheating and ‘expo’ than on their capability, to pass. Preparations for examinations are no longer based on intense coaching on the syllabus and past examinations questions, but rather on how to cheat with mobile phones, concealed papers, etc., I’m told. What a pity!
Whenever I come across anyone who teaches, I ask if the pupils or students are interested in learning.
The answer I get most of the time is negative.
‘Oh no, they’re not,’ said a secondary school teacher. ‘Many pupils/students are intelligent alright, but they’re mentally lazy and lackadaisical about their studies. Some want to acquire knowledge, but the majority don’t care. They and their parents do all they can to ensure that they secure admission in an institution of learning, but once there, other things claim their attention and they’re like onlookers in the classroom.’
‘Why is this?’
‘Madam, it’s something in the society right from the primary school level or even the nursery classes these days,’ explained a university lecturer. ‘Many children are sent to school because, well, it’s the thing to do to keep up with other families. You watch children going to school in the morning.
From their sluggish attitude and the vacant looks on their faces, you know that they don’t appreciate why they’re going to school, and they’re not going to put themselves out to learn anything. They certainly don’t have that burning desire to learn, like we did.
That’s why they go late to school, don’t do their homework, and can play truant. I doubt if parents drum into their children, the importance of the acquisition of learning in educational institutions, and then supervise homework, projects, etc. So, the children go to school for going sake, and some parents are contented with that.’
‘That sounds a bit irresponsible, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, but it isn’t deliberate. Children know they have to go to school, and they have to pass the relevant examinations, but since they know that there are means by which they can achieve that goal without actually imbibing the requisite knowledge, they’re relaxed. Even in some primary schools, gangs are formed to threaten, terrorize and beat up teachers so that they can cooperate and give pass marks.
This goes right up to the university level. They know that as a body, they can use threats and violence to get good grades, so, why bother to apply themselves to their studies? I always tell my students, right from the start, that it’s in their own interest to face their studies squarely and acquire the required knowledge that would see them through their examinations; otherwise their work-life would be a failure, as they could be sacked for incompetence in their duties. ‘
‘Does that advice work?’
‘Some listen, some don’t. One can say the central admission system is faulty, as some young people who are hardworking and intelligent may not be given admission due to the dodgy cut off points, while those without the required capability, gain admission and cheat their way into acquiring their degrees. This may not be true of every annual admission exercise, but it’s the ogre that frustrate many applicants.’
Precisely. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to scrap JAMB, and allow the individual higher institutions of learning conduct their own entrance examinations and interviews. Affordable and qualitative education, tailored to meet the need and capability of every Nigerian child is our goal, but the truth is that not every institution is capable or even desirous of delivering on this. They each have their own mission and vision, so, it makes sense to allow them conduct their own entrance examinations.
Cheating and expo would gradually die out since children can sit for examinations into several institutions.
This would be a wake-up signal for our children to work really hard if they want to gain admission into the university of their choice.
A major worry in the scrapping of JAMB was what would happen to the workers. Thank God we’ve been told that they would retain their jobs as the organization is not folding up to tally, and they would still have their other duties; like overseeing what goes into university entrance examinations, to ensure that the contents are right.
As for NECO, I’ve never seen the importance of having a third body to conduct O level examinations. Aren’t the WAEC and GCE assessments adequate and reliable?