The crisis rocking Nigeria’s education sector manifested again in this year’s May/June 2014 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) results, released a few days ago. The results showed a pathetic poor performance by candidates. Indeed, it was one of the worst recorded in recent times. This is a national shame that must never be permitted again.
A situation, where out of the 1,692,435 candidates who sat for the examination, only 529,425, representing 31.28 per cent could obtain credits in five subjects and above, including English and Mathematics, is disturbing. Majority of the candidates, numbering 1,163,010 or 68.72 per cent failed! This is a disaster deserving of a national emergency.
According to the Head of WAEC National Office, Mr. Charles Eguridu, who announced the results in Lagos, this year’s figures, when compared to the 2012 and 2013 May/June results, showed a marked decline in the performance of candidates.
For the past six years, there has been a steady decline in the performance of candidates in WAEC examinations. The May/June 2013 showed that 36.57 per cent candidates obtained five credits and above, including English Language and Mathematics. In 2012, the percentage was barely 38.81. In 2010, only 317,142 candidates or 23.71 per cent obtained five credits with English and Mathematics. In 2009, the performance was 26 per cent of the 1,373,009 candidates.
The worst result was recorded in 2008, when out of a total of 1,369,122 candidates who sat for the examination, only a meagre 188,442 or 13.76 per cent obtained five credits and above. The overall average for five years is just 31.27 per cent. This year’s 31.28 per cent fell within the same range. The consistent low performance rate is an indictment of the totality of education planning and administration in the country and something needs to be done urgently to redress the embarrassing situation.
Indeed, a calamity that threatens national development aspirations is what Nigeria now faces with the future at the risk of peril. Given the ugly state of affairs, a state of emergency ought to be declared on education to arrest the recurrent disaster. What is needed is concrete action – a redemptive action, to save the country.
The tragedy of the education sector underscores the level of un-seriousness in government, as no one seems to spare a thought for what becomes of the country in the next 50 years. With this decline in the nation’s education, upon which foundation is democracy going to be built?
The relegation of teachers’ welfare and teacher education to the background as well as the absence of adequate teaching infrastructure have contributed to the rot in education. This is exacerbated by corruption and loss of values in the country. The reading culture is not there anymore, while, instead, the children focus on electronic gadgets and things that are unedifying.
So bad have things become that parents are known to struggle to buy examination question papers and raw scores for their wards. This is tragic. The future is being destroyed. Nigeria now risks having a situation where there would be no skilled manpower to man the various sectors of the economy. The universities and civil service would have to contend with mediocrity, an unfortunate trend that is already manifesting.
There is dereliction of duty by both parents and teachers. The teachers’ competence is no longer countenanced or evaluated. Across the nation, unqualified teachers hold sway. Thousands of Youth Corps members, who are barely educated in the real sense are deployed to teach in schools. The result is a complete reign of mediocrity.
Many state governments don’t hire trained and qualified teachers. Worse still, qualified teachers, who are not “indigenes,” are not hired outside their state of origin. The states make do with Youth Corps members supplied on annual basis, who unfortunately are on a different mission. They are forced to teach subjects they know little or nothing about. How can Nigeria expect good results in this circumstance?
These are desperate times and there is need for desperate measures to be applied to rescue education. To start with, education should be made a national priority. Teacher training should be stepped up. In this regard, it has become necessary for graduates of other disciplines, to be prodded into teaching after going through a crash programme. Teachers, of course, should be paid well and motivated to attract the best hands.
The school curriculum should be straightened; teachers should have respectability and accorded honour. At present, the reverse is the case and that explains why nobody wants to be a teacher. In-service training should be re-introduced for teachers. Teachers are the fulcrum of education before other things could work. Without competent and committed teachers, every other thing would fail.
The rot in education has its roots in the primary level where policy inconsistency has been unhelpful. The era of inspectors should be re-introduced. With the right calibre of teachers and infrastructure in place, the situation would change. The time to take action is now. And this newspaper has today declared a state of emergency on education.