It is difficult, very difficult writing about our education–the Nigerian education. Over the years, there have been a lot of “developments” in the sector. Of course at home and abroad, Nigerians have been making waves in science and technology, medicine and arts and so on. Nigerians, who were educated at home and abroad, have markedly proven to the world that like every other humans, we are endowed intellectually, and capable of making giant strides in all aspects of human life. Back home, we have a legion of scholars, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, warts and all, who are on a par with their counterparts round the globe. We have higher institutions whose number keeps ballooning, public and private schools, whose number equally keeps multiplying. Of course given our population growth, we certainly need more institutions of higher learning, more public and private schools, more educators at all levels of education and more funding for the sector. But the last thing we need is growth without commensurate developments.
Here I ask: do we really care about the quality of these institutions, these schools, public or private, sprouting all over the country? Are the quality control bodies up and doing in the discharge of their duties? Indeed we have regulatory agencies under the federal ministry of education mandated to ensure quality of our institutions of higher learning. In this instance, I am more concerned about our basic education, which is often the most neglected, anyway. At state levels, we have departments in the state ministries and other education agencies saddled with the responsibility of quality assurance. All these agencies and measures notwithstanding, there are obvious, disturbing problems with the quality of our senior secondary school products, which is by all practical purposes, the foundational, hence most important.
Someone may argue that even the quality of our university graduates leaves much to be desired. Yes, but that is a topic for another day as toady I am more concerned about our grass-root education. Like the primary education, the secondary education is now left to suffer undesirable setbacks with no measures to slow down the slide. In fact, more often than not, that level of education is fast becoming microcosm of all that is wrong with us. Students are introduced to corruption 101 at that level of education. Exam malpractice is fast becoming the norm. Schools both public and private are increasingly becoming “miracle centres”. School administrators care more about good names with the ministry as regards to high albeit false performance of their students or the public than inculcating virtues of honesty and hardwork in their students. Parents are eager to see their children pass in flying colours regardless of their performance. The exam bodies behave Nigerianly while the public celebrates the dishonesty that pass as exams. Teachers do not see exam malpractice as dishonesty because it helps them cover up their undoings and fills their pockets with peanuts. In some cases, it seems as if they teachers themselves are the target of our senior school exams. In other words, students only copy and paste the answers their teachers wrote for them.
We are all working against the system. Yet we shout corruption, embezzlement, dishonesty, theft, rigging and warts not! Believe it or not, corruption is cultivated in the minds our the young at such early stage. By making corruption in the conduct of senior school certificate exams the norm, by pretending that malpractice is no crime, we are all unwittingly eroding the values we spent years inculcating in our youth. How else do you convince the impressionable young students that leaked answers are perfectly normal? Or that allowing open misconduct in exams is not criminal? Of course, one may argue that the malpractice is not as bad as I am painting, or that it is not as commonplace as I appear to portray, but I dare say any keen observer of what goes on in the name of exams all over this country is beyond disturbing. Needless to mention the ever increasing “expo websites” that “help” students pass all senior school level exams. For God’s sake, these are future leaders of the country being groomed to accept dishonest practice as the norm right from an early stage of their lives. And we will be here preaching against corruption, rigging, and dishonesty, expecting our leaders to be different from us.
No doubt some schools abhor this practice of normalising exam malpractice. Some state ministries also take superficial measures to lessen the extent of this bad practice. But the exam bodies and the external hands recruited to supervise the conduct of the exams do not help matters. As it is the case with most things Nigerian, selfishness takes precedent over national interest. It is national interest to help Nigeria grow through doing your work accordingly. If all our political leaders, our public servants, our security operatives and all other anybody do their work accordingly, this country will be a lot better off in no time. However, those in charge of our education should be models in that regards. If any hope should ever be entertained, that hope should come from the all important sector. It is often said, and it is true, that no country can rise above the quality of its educators.
Author: Usman Zakari Ibrahim
08032602050 (SMS Only)