Prof Adekunle Akinyemi
Nigeria education has once again suffered a bad blow as the NYSC has just reported the presence of illiterate graduates on its roll. Three Corpers serving in Abuja, Lagos and Kogi States, all graduates from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology are reported to have “displayed glaring lack of academic ability and intelligence level expected of genuine Nigerian University graduates, which were consistently exhibited by the three Corpers.” They were said not to be capable of teaching even pupils at the nursery primary school level.
Only last week I wrote an article in the Nigeriaworld online news, which I thought sounded alarmist, as per its title ‘Disaster as Nigeria’s Exam Malpractice Goes Digital!’ Little did I know that a worse report was coming to corroborate my views on the seeming decline of our educational standard due to the corruption of our educational system. In that article I also hinted about the presence of the ‘China Professors’ and ‘Internet Professors’ in some Nigerian Universities. Could these bad breeds of Professors be producing these new illiterate graduates? This problem is real and fundamental. It is embarrassing to say the least. It is perhaps next to the ongoing killings around the nation as it will kill Nigeria Education very slowly but surely, even before the corruption canker worm kills us!
What a way to have our nation listen up and hear the loud sound of the cries of the helpless business entrepreneurs shouting on the top of their voices that there is ‘fire on the mountain top’ of Nigeria’s educational system? These small and big Business outfits and Entrepreneurs had been raising this alarm for a long time that graduates interviewed and hired cannot read and write. No one listened. They spoke and wrote in the national papers that our nation was breeding half-baked graduates. Nobody listened and if they did, those in charge, never did anything towards arresting the situation. The damage which Nigeria education is now starting to feel is therefore not new. It had been long coming in the last few decades. We had only refused to give it the necessary attention until now.
Before a graduate is detected to be an illiterate he/she must have gone to school for at least sixteen years (six years primary, six years secondary, four years University). It is expected that the first six years of schooling (primary) should have furnished a child with the basic ability to read and write in the Local language (Mother Tongue) as well as English language which is the language in common use. If for any reason, this communication skills had not been acquired, the second six years of education (secondary) should be more than adequate to furnish him/her with the requisite communication language skills. It thus becomes an aberration, an anathema, to be lacking in the ability to read and write in English, as a certified graduate of a University in Nigeria. What a shame and disgrace! I need to be told about the exact location of the missing link. A lot must be wrong with our educational system which need urgent attention. We need to fix it immediately.
However, there are fundamental problems and questions which need to be asked. How did these illiterate graduates pass through the three tiers of education (Primary, Secondary and University) undetected? Can we not suspect foul-plays in the Common Entrance Exams, WAEC, JAMB and University Exams from levels one through four? Did they do any projects for any Lecturer/Professors in the University in any course? How did they get certified in character and in Learning to be conferred with Degrees? Did they buy their certificates? Nigerian Educators, Educationists and Institutions need to wake up. This is a serious indictment. Is anything wrong with the quality of our University Teachers and Teaching in the Ivory Towers? There is need for a shakeup in the Nigerian educational structure before it completely collapses. This is a wakeup call. The time is now to act.
This is a serious indictment on the Academia, Universities, NUC, Ministry of Education and education in general. Let no one try to extricate him/herself from the mess, we all have been smeared. It is only just starting to stare us in the face as Government Agencies (this time around the NYSC) have now started to feel the pinch, albeit through their extended Agencies and Beneficiaries – the Small and Big Businesses and Schools at all levels. What a damning report card (feedback) from those who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of our long cherished educational system! I bet some of these children from well-educated families, might even be capable of teaching these pseudo-teachers and counterfeit graduates, now teaching at the Primary School level how to construct and write good English! Please do not think I am over-exaggerating. There are already Nigerian children (below ten years of age) who are published Authors.
While I salute the prompt reaction of the NUC and other authorities in trying to unravel the truth, one will admonish this government Agency to go a step further. They should not only do the verification of the ‘integrity of the Degrees’ but also try to validate the progression and ascension (A&P) structures of Universities. Gone are the days when it was ‘fashionable’ to retire as a Senior Lecturer or even Associate Professors, if and when it became difficult to climb to the full Professorial cadre. The truth is that even as a Senior Lecturer or Associate Professor (READER), a University Lecturer can earn more salary than Professors to a point. Today, everybody tries by all means and at all costs, to become Professors, even at the shortest possible time.
It has now become an ego and prestige struggle. No wonder there are Pseudo-Professors, Internet-Professors and China-Professors! This may be part of the suspicions of the Federal Education Authorities by writing that ‘there may be a wide-ranging scam which may have been going on for years’. Could this scam have taken roots in the academia? This may entail a long process of purging the entire University system, if we are to ensure that our Universities are ‘clean’. This may be necessary to be able to live up to the name and attributes of being called University – Universal (Worldwide).
Our major concern now should be where do we go from here? What can we do about the situation in which we now find ourselves? The most dangerous thing to do is to pretend not to see it as a problem or fail to take steps that are enduring. I see the need to find an immediate solution to stem the tide, as well as be proactive about the good future of our education. We have to redeem Nigeria’s image as an intellectually strong nation. We are the greatest supplier of Human Resources to the Diaspora because of the acknowledged high quality of our educational standards. This explains the brain drain which Nigeria has suffered in the last four decades or so.
I will like to suggest the following measures to contain the problems and prepare for a solid educational future of education in Nigeria.
- A new Graduate Competency Examination (GCE) or Graduate Literacy Competency Examination (GLCE) may need to be instituted on a national level or restricted to the NYSC. It is hoped that with this exam, those who are not well ‘baked’ could be sieved out for further training to prepare them for the industries/factories.
- Need for more stringent quality control to be instituted by the National Universities Commission (NUC). There may be need for legislations on the University structures, as it relates to Appointments and Promotions in Universities.
- Need for a high-Powered Commission on Education to revive and revamp our educational system. Retired Men and Women of character and integrity should be constituted on part-time basis on the new Education Commission. Veteran Professors, Educators, Teachers, Administrators, Professionals, and Technocrats should be invited or allowed to volunteer to serve on this Commission.
- Criteria for operating educational establishments need to be reviewed. Glorified non-performing Schools and Institutions should be closed down, collapsed as Campuses/Branches or have their mandates renewed with revised set of criteria.
- Government should pay a special attention to the issue of corruption in all dimensions in the educational system. Malpractice in all ramifications must be made a taboo in all educational environments. We need to legislate against educational malpractice and various misdemeanors in our educational system. Scapegoats must be severely punished and flushed out, to serve as deterrents to others.
Our educational situation calls for immediate solutions which will redeem us from the mess which is being brought on us as a nation. Gone are the days when our first-Class graduates were respected all over the world. Today our certificates at all levels, have been severely devalued as our image has been dented severely. In recent times, our products are being relegated/demoted in the US to enable Institutions verify the truth of the credentials of our graduates before being allowed to function in deserved capacities. Nigeria certainly has talents in all areas. We should not let the unscrupulous individuals bring down our reputations and worth. Long live our dear nation – Nigeria.