Educate, educate, educate – The Nation

  • With Zamfara presenting only 28 candidates for Unity Schools Entrance Exam, we emphasise again, the importance of education

The dismal level of education, especially in the north of Nigeria has continued to present content for front page news. In the last five years, at least, states, especially of the northeast and northwest, have consistently made remarkably poor showing in all national examinations.

Be it the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams for university entrance in Nigeria or the West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE) and even lesser ones like the Common Entrance Examination into the Unity Secondary Schools, the results from the north have been dismal, if not outright ridiculous.

And it is not even only as concerns the examination results but in the number of candidates registered for these examinations. Last week, the Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu, expressed worry about the low number of candidates who registered for the Common Entrance Examination into the 104 Unity Colleges in the country.

Adamu was particularly worried that three states from the northeast and northwest – Zamfara, Taraba and Kebbi states have 28, 50 and 95 candidates, respectively, for the April 14 examination. So disturbed was the minister that a directive had to be given that the exam registration portal should be kept open till April 13 to allow these states mobilise more candidates.

But if you thought the prospects were few, have a look at the performance of even this small number in the examination. In last year’s result of the same examination, the cut-off mark for candidates from Zamfara was two marks out of a possible 150. Taraba – three, Kebbi – nine and Sokoto – nine.

This is against the cut-off for candidates from states like Anambra – 139, Imo – 138, Lagos – 133, Ogun – 131, Delta 131 ad Benue – 111.

This is enough to drive a state government into action and to say “never again.”

What this means is that candidates who have only two points as cut-off are in the same class with their colleagues with 139. Standards have therefore been drastically lowered to accommodate low scoring candidates. Further, many brilliant compatriots from other parts of the country who have very high cut-off marks would have to be denied places.

This is unacceptable but it is sad that it has been the pattern in Nigeria for many decades. Hardly any improvements seem to be taking place in many states save for perhaps Kaduna which has recorded remarkable positive changes in recent years.

Recently, the world was aghast at the fact that final year students of government secondary schools kidnapped from Chibok (Borno State) and Dapchi (Yobe State) could not speak a word of proper English. These were students who were to be admitted into tertiary institutions in a few months.

We understand the cultural and religious barriers which tend to hinder mass literacy in the north; for instance, the militant group, Boko Haram, which has been most destructive in the northeast in the past five years with its erroneous preaching that Islam is against Western education.

But regardless of these constraints, we are inclined to hold the state governments in the affected states liable for this horrific situation. There is no gainsaying that education is the bedrock of the modern society and at that, it evolves daily. The elite of the north understand this too well and many of them have acquired the best of education from across the world.

The onus is on them to aggressively revolutionise the education sector in their zone. An educated citizenry naturally imbues society with an enlightened populace, improved standard of living and elevated governance systems, among other benefits.

It would take a conscientious and visionary state government far less than 10 years to turn around the education situation of a state. Such basics as increasing education budget, focusing on early learning initiatives, compulsory child enrolment, creating more incentives for attendance and for the teaching profession as well as making education free at all levels would make a lot of difference.

We dare suggest that improving overall education system ought to be priority for all governments of the states of the north. Educate! Educate! Educate! Ought to be their war cry.

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