OPEN LETTER TO THE MINISTERS OF EDUCATION
By Otunba Dele Olapeju
March 26, 2016
Let me seize this opportunity (though belated) in congratulating the Ministers of Education on their appointments. As you may be aware, once again there has been a lot of disenchantment and furore over the ongoing conduct of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. Apart from the hiccups in the newly introduced and innovative Computer Based Test approach, the nation often looks askance when important issues germane to the enhancement of quality education come to the fore.
The primary object of my discourse is on the timing of the UTME. As Principal of King’s College, Lagos for six sessions, I had relentlessly advocated at every given opportunity that the timing of UTME was wrong and a gross disservice to the SS3 students, who account for more than 60% of the candidates. But the arguments posited in my official correspondences to the Ministry did not meet any favourable consideration. This was not, because logical reasons were not advanced; it was because the agencies and parastatals, which were set up as implementing agencies of government policies have taken over the primary function of the ministry in policy formulation.
Since the introduction of UTME and its conduct in either March or April every year, final year students of our secondary schools have been at the receiving end. They are victims made to skip classes searching different towns and countries for examinations centres either for UTME or post UTME. This situation got to a head in 2014/15 session, when some of the candidates had the dilemma of choosing between the WASSCE and post UTME, especially when some universities fixed their post UTME on a crucial date for WASSC Examination.
The crux of the matter is that the elite is always in a mindless haste. At a time when primary school is for six years, the elite abridges it to five years in private schools and ‘legislates’ the skipping of primary six.
The final year for secondary education in Nigeria rather that being used to conclude the cognitive activities and curriculum of secondary education is often used for various examinations. The students of SS3 literally transform from being students into candidates, crisscrossing various examination centres. The thirty nine weeks available for learning in the final year class are unjustifiable used up in examination writing rather than real learning. Two out of the thirteen weeks available in the first term of the session are consumed by end of term examination before the Yuletide and New Year activities. This is followed by another four weeks of studies interspersed with sporting activities, then two or three weeks for Mock Examination. Some of them also undergo trial testing by some examination bodies before UTME comes calling. With UTME, most students often take a week off normal studies to go through the rigours of identifying examination centres and eventually sitting for the papers.
After all these, and with the advantage of hi-tech, the results are promptly released to the tertiary institutions to fix their post UTME. Again, the students (candidates) now begin the WASSCE after which NECO Examination announce their arrival in June and July. Cursorily, the time for learning is reduced and this utterly affects the learner.
Need we ask further why there has been worrying comments and irritancy on the performance level of our children? The Education sector must rise up to the challenge of redefining final year class as not exclusively for writing examination per se. The secondary school curriculum must be strictly adhered to in order to reduce disruptions to teaching and learning and ensure concentration of students to their studies. The Federal Ministry of Education must direct the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to consider the needless pains and rigours our children go through and fix the annual UTME in late July when the students would have passed out of secondary school.
This was the situation in 2011, when owing to the voters Registration and the national election, JAMB examination was conducted in July. Barely a week after, the results were released and the universities and other tertiary institution thereafter fixed their post JAMB activities. It was that year that the performance level of the student became very outstanding. The introduction of CBT was intended to achieve optimal speed in processing the result of the examination result. Thank God that goal has been achieved abundantly. Candidates can know their performance rating almost immediately after the examination.
Let other educationists, parents and other shareholders join me in this campaign in order to restore the cognitive activities of our children and enhance proper leaning for their future. I hope you would give this correspondence the attention it deserves in interest of the future of our children.
Thank you for the courtesy of your attention.
Olapeju ( MNIM, FCIDA) is a Retired Director /Principal of King’s College, Lagos