The authorities must do more to turn the fortunes around

The depressing state of education in the country was again highlighted last week when only 18 per cent of the candidates that sat for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) obtained marks that could get them admission into some of the reasonable universities. According to Olu Adenipekun, head of the National Office of West African Examinations Council (WAEC), 8,113 candidates representing 71.75 per cent obtained credits and above in two subjects in the recently released results. Some 6,375 candidates, representing 56.38 per cent obtained credits and above in three subjects, while 2,010 candidates representing 17.78 per cent obtained credits and above in six subjects. Performance in the key subjects of English and mathematics was down by eight per cent, compared with 26.01 per cent in 2017.

Whatever may be the excuse, the result reflects the long-standing decay in the education sector across the country. Indeed, the sharp academic decline over the years could be attributed largely to the utter neglect of the learning environment. Most schools lack the basic educational infrastructure. This is also true of staffing. Unfortunately, the sorry conditions are all-pervading, across the states. From Kaduna to Benin City, Kebbi to Sapele, the facilities in most schools have either collapsed or decrepit, while the quality of the education being offered is suspect .There are today, classrooms without teachers, or where there are, many can hardly differentiate between blue and black.

In Zamfara State for instance, one teacher has the weighty duty of teaching 300 pupils, of all ages. Indeed, the deplorable state of education in Nigeria came to the fore recently when Governor Nasir el-Rufai revealed that 50 per cent of teachers in Kaduna State failed the primary four test set for them. It is a problem replicated in the states, some in worse form. Those who are expected to impart knowledge are themselves illiterate. To worsen matters, teachers largely live in poverty. Their salaries are often held up for months, prompting strikes and shutdowns as vital ammunition to compel the government to listen. The fruits of this faulty process have been clearly visible for years.

Thus, as we have said severally in this space, our post-primary schools need complete overhaul. Government would need to place emphasis on the quality of teachers and teaching as an irreducible minimum. The conditions of service for teachers must be enhanced if the story must change in the education sector. There is need for education policies that would promote teachers’ capacity to meet the needs of the society. Moreover, the relevant stakeholders have to bear in mind that the mass failure in WASSCE which has become an annual fare is also partly the embarrassing outcome of decades of academic fraud spanning all preceding levels of the education system.

Indeed, as we also noted in a recent editorial, the crisis in our educational sector is so total and frightening that nothing short of a well thought-out strategy will do for any meaningful change to occur. It is not a mere declaration of “a state of emergency” across the state in April as Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education declared recently: “We hope that once this is done our educational sector will improve,” he said. It is more than that. The learning environment, quality of teachers, academic outcomes and the capacity of monitoring institutions are critical to the success of the sector.

On the whole, we need short, medium and long terms plan with clear objectives and measurable timelines to reform the entire educational system. We must fashion out ways by which the federal, states and local governments and stakeholders from the private sector would come together to save secondary education in Nigeria.