opinionBy Emmanuel Edukugho
With the mass failure recorded in the NECO 2009 November/December Senior Secondary School (SSSCE), whereby only 1.8% of the total candidates who sat for the examination passed in five subjects including English and Mathematics required for entry into the university system, Nigerian basic education has degenerated to the extent that it is going to the dogs.
At the heart of this terrible malaise is the reckless irresponsible, ineffective parenting in a society that no longer operates along shared values, enmeshed in corruption which has become a way of life.
Following on the footprint of their parents, who had woefully failed to nurture the children at home on the need for hardwork, honesty, and integrity, the mass failure obviously is the result we are now getting. Apart from parental neglect, the young people have a tendency to be impatient to learn, highly undisciplined, loved the fast life, sometimes going into cultism, fraudulent behaviours, thereby compromising their education.
Teachers have become pseudo-traders, bringing merchandise to sell in schools, caused by poor salary, lack of motivation, unconducive learning and teaching environment. Incessant strikes by teachers for enhanced welfare conditions led to closure of schools and the students sent home. Training and retraining of teachers have been abandoned while education budgets are either stolen, misappropriated or diverted.
The NECO result is a national calamity to which managers and administrators of our education system, including the erstwhile ministers of education, and even our leaders, should hide their faces in shame. The result has made a mockery of the so-called reforms and roadmaps introduced in the education sector, calling to question the ability of Nigeria to be among the best 20 leading economies in the world by year 2020.
Human capital development will be imperiled when our children attend decrepit and strike-ridden public schools, particularly thousands of them from poor homes.
Bad governance, poor funding, poor infrastructure at all levels of our education and atrocious staff welfare and low morale among teachers are some of the factors responsible for the mass failure which must be properly and adequately looked into.
According to Professor Oyewale Tomori, Vice Chancellor, Redeemer's University, "each level of our education system is a fiasco in doldrums, a decapitated chicken running along the Ikorodu road on a rainy day."
It was pointed out by him in a recent lecture that, "long before the teachers in our education sector began going on strike, the original teachers - the parents - had gone on strike."
With the current horrible trend in the education system, especially the frequent disruption of school calendar, it will not be possible to use education for the full development of the potential of the Nigerian child. For long time now, government virtually at all levels, have been paying lip service to quality education. Their children and wards are either attending expensive private schools in the country or sent abroad to study.
The NECO result should send those in charge of the system back to the drawing board and re-strategise in order to pull nation out of the education precipice.
Another aspect is the frightening dimension examination malpractices have reached, tending to seriously undermine the integrity of scholarship with the sophistication of the cheating process. About 236,613 malpractice cases occurred which is highest in contemporary history.
Students must be prepared to study hard, shun immorality, be respectful, with good etiquette. Above all, government can set up an investigative panel on the result, to determine the causes, immediate and remote, responsible for this disaster, make appropriate recommendations to be implemented expeditiously for basic education to move forward.
It is widely agreed that education for young people, especially for girls, provides high social and economic gains and has become a precondition for youth empowerment. Special efforts should be made, particularly on the part of government, federal, state, local, NGOs to reduce the rate of failure and dropouts in primary and secondary education. But more tragic is the fact that about 10 million school-age children are not even attending school. This situation is compounding the problem of youth illiteracy in Nigeria, which has the highest rate of urban and rural youth illiteracy in Africa.
In September 2000, world leaders came together at United Nations secretariat in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty. They also agreed to a series of time-bound targets with a deadline of 2015 which have become known as the Millennium Development Goals or "MDGs" for short.
The MDGs are composed of eight goals to be met by 2015. Goal 2 is to achieve universal primary education. With five years remaining and the increasing number of children outside the Universal Basic Education system, Nigeria most likely won't achieve that goal.