By Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi
Erstwhile West African Examinations Council’s (WAEC) Head of National Office (HNO), Mr. Charles Eguridu, has listed four major reasons why many candidates fail the May/June Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
In his last major interview as HNO with The Intellectual in Lagos recently, just days before he retired, Eguridu also dismissed the notion that the high failure rate could be linked to too many subjects and the “very wide” syllabuses the candidates have to cover within a short time before the final examination. He insisted that even if a bad student was given just one subject to read for a whole year, such a student “would still fail” anyway.
The pass rate in the May/June WASSCE conducted by WAEC has been hovering between 25 and 38 percent since 2009. In 2009, only 25.5 percent of the candidates who sat for the examination obtained effective five credits, including English Language and Mathematics.
In 2010, only 23.3 percent did; 30.9 and 39 percent made it in 2011 and 2012 respectively. In 2014, 31.2 percent scaled through, while 38.6 obtained the effective five credits this year.
But Eguridu, who was appointed in October 2012, gave a detailed insight into why many students fail the examination. He said: “One, the value system of the society needs to be looked into. What do we as a people cherish? The craving for material wealth has made the craving for knowledge insignificant, because those that are recognized as achievers are those that have cash. So, you have non-performers being applauded in our society.
“The second problem is that the foundation is faulty. Look at the primary and junior secondary school levels. How are they managed? At the end of the Junior Secondary level, every state Ministry of Education organizes a final exit examination and it is done as they like. It’s now a money making process and there’s no national standard. So, you cannot say the JSS exit examination grade in Lagos is equivalent in terms of performance to another grade obtained in Taraba state.
“In other English speaking West African countries, they have what is called the Basic Education Certificate examination, being managed by an examining board. I am not asking WAEC to manage it, but let that uniformity be achieved, so that when students don’t do well in Junior Secondary School, they can seek solutions to their problems at that level, because the national policy did not envisage that every child that enters the primary school would end up in the University.
“At the end of the Junior Secondary level, we should be able to look at a child and say, this child is not having the aptitude to go to the Senior Secondary level, rather, he should go to a Technical College. But we are not doing that. Those who go to the Technical Colleges are, perhaps, those whose parents don’t have the money to sponsor them to the university. They end up going to Technical Schools, but there quite a number of them who don’t have the aptitude for technical education.
“Thirdly, a number of these states just give approval to anybody who wants to open a school. It’s now business, so people struggle to build schools but they don’t have the skills to manage them. They don’t have qualified teachers. They get anybody to teach, circumvent the process and get registered. When a mediocre trains a mediocre, he (product) will also end up as a mediocre. People recruit unqualified teachers. You saw the incident in Edo state, where the governor was trying to get a teacher to read something and she (the teacher) couldn’t do it. So, what type of students would such a teacher produce?
“Then of course, there is another societal problem. Parents have abandoned their roles. Everybody is chasing after money. They leave home at 5am, come back at 8pm or 9pm. The children are not monitored. They end up watching the European league, African Magic; they don’t attend to their homework, nobody to supervise them. Most of the schools don’t have boarding houses. So, what type of products are you expecting a society that is fashioned along these models to come up with?
“Do we reward achievements? No! So, nobody is motivated to become a professor or read well. But if you can play for the national team or a club side, the money you would make all your life as a Professor, you can make it in six months. So, why would you go and read for so long?”
Asked to advise the government on what to do, Eguridu said the government knows exactly what to do if it wants to sincerely fix the problem.
His words: “If the government is serious about addressing the problem, they know what to do. Let’s not pretend that the government doesn’t know what to do. I think the politicization of education is part of our problem.
“We should not play politics with the career and future of our children. The National Assembly should be able to sit down and look at the issues. I don’t think it is an issue for the Executive, because what can Mr. President do when education is not on the exclusive list? He cannot legislate for everybody. Even though the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme is there, the states are supposed to partner with the federal government to access the funds being made available. But go and look at the scorecard. How many states have accessed the funds? Even the few that accessed it, what did they do with it? They campaigned with the money!
“And the painful thing is that the elite don’t leave their children here, they send them abroad. A nation, any nation, deserves the type of leadership it gets. Forget about belonging to a political party, we are talking about best practices. It’s one thing to have a conference, it’s another thing to make recommendations and it is yet another thing for those recommendations to be implemented.
“Even when the implementation process is on, it’s another thing whether people stick to the rules in implementing that process. The problem with Nigeria is not with the constitution. It’s with the people.”