26 February 2013

Nigeria: Another Saddening Revelation in the Education Sector


Maiduguri — The story, last week of 1,300 teachers that failed tests meant for primary four pupils in Kaduna state was another embarrassing commentary on Nigeria's crumbling education sector. It speaks volumes about the depth of corruption and decay in the sector.

Despite the enormous public funds being spent by all tiers of government to improve the quality of public schools, success has been elusive, partly because those that are supposed to be held accountable for the resources take advantage of the government's failure to properly monitor the sector to divert the funds.

The heightened insecurity in the northern part of the country has made the federal and state governments too preoccupied to supervise not only the ministry of education and its parastatals, but other key government organs that play important roles in making the lives of average Nigerians better.

Perhaps some powerful interests in the government may not be happy if the government finally succeeds in crushing the insurgency that has consumed the nation, because it provides them with the opportunity to comfortably siphon billions of public funds without being noticed, let alone investigated.

Again, nepotism, cronyism and mediocrity are also partly responsible for the declining quality of education in the country. Qualified graduates roam our streets, knocking at any organization private and public in search of jobs without success.

Only those with powerful connections to those within the circles of power get the privilege of securing places, particularly in government establishments regardless, of whether they are qualified to do the jobs they are given or not.

This afflicts virtually every government agency.

It is claimed that corrupt government officials often use qualified candidates to pass all the hurdles involved in recruitment exercises, only to dump and replace them with other less-qualified and incompetent relations and friends.

For almost half a decade now, secondary school students across the country have been recording mass failure in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) and that of the National Examinations Council (NECO). Each time the students fail, the governments find it difficult to offer any plausible explanation as to the cause of the failure or what measures they would take to tackle the situation.

Even in private schools with their relatively 'more qualified' teachers, bribes are given to officials working for organisations conducting the examinations to give their students 'safe passage'. This is because the private schools also hire inept instructors in order to maximize their profits.

The failure of the Kaduna teachers to pass the very tests they administer to their pupils only reveals a drop in the bucket in terms of the systemic neglect and corruption that have gripped our the educational sector.

If the governments wish to know the true depth of the rot in the sector, it should also experiment by asking secondary school teachers and lecturers in tertiary institutions to also write the same exams they administer to their students; the results will be amazing.

Ruth Gabriel, Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri.

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