BY LAJU ARENYEKA
The dismal performance of Nigerian students in the last Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations has sparked a round of blame games from the Federal Ministry of Education to the state governments and even to the previous administration. Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqquatu Rufai at the Ministerial platform held in Abuja recently implied that the Federal Government is not to be held responsible for poor performance at the basic/secondary level.
She said; “Most of the outcome you see at that level is not really a function of the Federal Ministry of Education or Mr. President. Many of these schools lie with the state and local governments; we are at the forefront because we are at the federal level. There is a limit to how much we can control, because the sector is a very large one, with over 100,000 institutions. We are, however, conducting annual conferences in education so that we can get off the hook as far as mass failure is concerned.”
Rufai added that “even though basic and secondary education is on the concurrent list, we have taken into consideration the fact that we have the highest number of out-of-school children in the world; about 10.5 million according to an external report. Our own figure is almost as close. With these kinds of figures, people will look at the country as a country and not as various state or local governments, so it is fast becoming our responsibility that things are done. But anything we do at the federal level, we hand over to the states, because we are not really responsible by law.”
The question, “who is responsible?” has made its mark in Nigerian history. Bad roads are shuffled between federal and state governments, and when it comes to abandoned projects, fingers are almost always pointed at the past administration. To a large extent, the minister is right. State and local governments are responsible for basic and primary education; but what about the Federal Government’s role of policy-making, supervision and regulation?
“Times without number, there have been accusations of the Federal Ministry of Education awarding licences to schools that are not qualified. What about examination malpractice at the national examinations level, who should be held responsible for that? Moving back and forth from one curriculum to another has even in this administration been a source of discomfort to stakeholders in the sector. But who sets the standard of education in the state? Is it not the Federal Government? Who shuffles public and private schools from one curriculum to another in a twinkling of an
“Who set the low cut-off marks for the last common entrance examination such that a state like Yobe had 2 out of 200 as its cut off mark for males and 27 for females? What about the institutions in the hands of the Federal Government, can they serve as an example to state governments on how to do the right thing? Very few unity schools give quality education and have adequate infrastructure; the tertiary institutions in the hands of the Federal Government delicate as they are, still leave very much to be desired.
During the ministerial platform, the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike also added that 80 out of the 125 Almajiri schools have been completed. It would be recalled that Wike had said that 100 schools would be completed by end of last year.
Now, nearly a year later, new deadlines are being set and the former ones forgotten.