Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Nigeria's crumbling educational system

By K.S. Owusu-Appiah

One other major issue that has not been tackled yet but is due to come up soon is the falling standards in the Nigerian educational system. In this article, the writer, himself once a teacher in Nigeria, reveals why the task ahead is going to be difficult.
The standards in Nigeria's Educational Institutions are crumbling very fast. According to the National Concord editorial of November 5, 1985, only 30 percent of the 314,913 candidates passed the last May/June West African School Certificate Examinations.

The National Teachers Institute also announced that in the May/June Grade Two Teachers’ examination, only 27 per cent of the 143,054 candidates passed their examinations. (Talking Drums of November 18, 1985).

In its attempt at identifying the basic causes for these poor performances, the paper blamed the poor students for going to discos and watching television programmes instead of studying. The paper obviously does not recognise that tele- vision is one of the major educational agencies and its proper and meaningful role in the child's formal education cannot be under-estimated.

The paper also blamed parents for rushing the 9-10 year olds precociously into secondary schools when they do not have the capacity to cope with the course work designed for 13 to 17 year olds.

The paper attributed the high rate of failures also to the poor condition of service of teachers. Teachers are ill-paid and their welfare has been neglected by state governments. Teachers are not paid promptly and during pay-days, they spend most of the school periods at their school management committee areas (SMCs) struggling for their salaries. The salaries of the teachers in most of the states have run into several months in arrears.

In September 1984 when the Lagos State government found it difficult to pay the salaries of teachers and other educational workers, teachers and other educational workers were instructed to report at their SMCS to collect their salaries in person. The exercise lasted for almost a week and there were no classes in Lagos state.

There is no advancement in the teaching profession in Nigeria. In August 1984 the Lagos State Schools Management State. Board (SMB) embarked upon mass pro- motion exercise and the whole exercise ended in complete failure. The funny aspect of it was that those who were promoted were the people who had either resigned or deserted their posts and those who had died several years back.

The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) which is supposed to fight for the welfare of the teachers is dormant. The NUT leaders always side with the State governments of the day because they receive their promotions rapidly and their supply of essential commodities is also on the priority list.

When the Buhari regime came to power on December 31, 1983 and during the 1983/84 academic year, the regime abolished the free education programme. in the States. Parents in the affected states were asked to pay for books for their wards.

In Lagos state, for instance, parents were asked to pay some specified amount of money to the heads of educational institutions so that the state government would supply the books at a very reason- able cost. Large sums of money were collected from the parents and deposited with all the 15 School Management Com- mittees (SMCs) in the State.

In the various states there are no proper and adequate learning and teaching materials. The last civilian administration began building science blocks in all the schools to save the schools from using mobile laboratories but the programme was abolished by the present Lagos State administration.

During the first week of September 1984 when the 1984/85 school year began there were no textbooks, so the first two months of the term passed without the use of books. The first term of the academic year ended without any effective academic work in all the schools in the Lagos

In most of the schools in Agege and Ikeja SMC areas, parents rejected the old books which had been issued out to the pupils during the Jakande administration, collected by the military government and sold out to the pupils. The parents even threatened to take legal action against heads of schools who tried to sell old books to their wards.

In the various states there are no proper and adequate learning and teaching materials. The last civilian administration began building science blocks in all the schools to save the schools from using mobile laboratories but the programme was abolished by the present Lagos State administration.

In the grammar schools at Omole. Ojodu, Oke-Ira, Ogba, Agbidimbi and Isheri there are no science labs, so the students who offer pure science subjects normally do their practicals at the African church Teacher Training College at Ifako in Agege in Lagos State.

During those hard-times when there were no textbooks in all the schools in Lagos State, the desperate state military government dismissed all non-graduate teachers from the ECOWAS countries without filling the vacancies created. In January 1985, graduate, diplomates and specialist teachers from the ECOWAS nations were also dismissed and that created more vacancies in all the educational institutions in the state.

The SMB began recruiting teachers to fill the vacancies created by the mass dismissals. In Nigeria there are no criteria for appointing teachers because teachers are considered as civil servants. Anybody who has academic qualifications without professional training as a teacher can be appointed. All those who were dismissed by the federal and state governments and private companies who had degrees, diplomas and higher school certificates rushed to the SMB and were employed.

There are no adequate desks and benches in almost all the schools in Lagos State. At Omole Grammar School where I taught for four years three students use one desk and one bench. The length of the desk is 1 metre. One desk and bench are meant normally for two students and this contributes to mass cheating during promotion examinations.

The heads of educational institutions are also a part of the reasons for the lowering of standards in the schools; they lower the pass marks so that more students pass their promotion examinations so that they will not be asked by the Commissioner for education to explain why many students failed to pass.

In April 1984 when I was compiling the Master sheet for mock examination for the Form 5 students at the Omole Gram- mar School, some funny things occurred. All the 47 students failed in Mathematics and 4 of them passed English Language. On the whole the students performed very poorly.

The principal called me to his office and ordered me to change all the marks in all the subjects so that the sheet would show more passes in all the subjects. The subject masters were against the principal's decision but could not do anything. The master sheets are always sent to the SMC to show the academic performance of the students.

During the 1983/84 promotion examinations Lagos State heads of institutions met and recommended the following percentages that a student should obtain before he could be promoted:-

From Class One to Two, 25 per cent
From Class Two to Three, 30 per cent
From Class Three to Four, 35 per cent
From Class Four to Five, 40 per cent in any four subjects. (In Nigeria they use "Classes" instead of "Forms" in secondary schools.)

The Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) which if effectively organised serves as a vital link between the home and the school is as good as dead. Parents do not attend PTA meetings and do not know what is going on in the school concerning their ward's education. There is no link between the home and the school in Nigeria. The lack of understanding between the parents and teachers has contributed to the lack of discipline in Nigerian schools.

Thus it can be seen that the falling stan- dards in Nigerian schools are not only caused by lazy students. In fact, any student who manages to pass examin- ations in Nigeria under such terrible conditions ought to be congratulated and those who fail ought to receive every sympathy. The tragedy is that while the failures might constitute individual mis- fortunes, the effect is future national disaster.

talking drums 1985-12-23-30 looking back at 1985