WAEC/NECO: Why students fail
The yearly mass failure recorded by students in both WAEC and NECO exams in the last seven years have continued to bewilder stakeholders. With most of them suggesting that falling standard of infrastructural facilities in the education sectors, the poorly motivated teaching staff, and the general indiscipline in the society where everyone wants the easy way out, are the possible reasons.
The aforementioned reasons, quite frankly are germane ones. The absence of one or all of them, is an obvious ticket to academic failures. But the problem I have with the analyses so far adduce by various stakeholders on this vex issue, is that they are all shying away from hitting the root cause of these failures, point blank.
The failure of Nigerian students in Waec/Neco is caused by what I would like to called an economic induced psychological tragedy. First we must understand that many of these failures are recorded in public schools. One does not need an expert to know that only indigent students go to public schools today, in Nigeria. And these public schools across the country with decaying infrastructures, poorly trained and motivated teachers cannot be good grounds for any meaningful academic pursuance. To worsen the situation, the poverty that pervade the families of these students add up in making their academic pursuance an impossible accomplishment.
The different symposiums that came up in the course of finding solution to this problem, have not been directing their search lights on the economic realities in the country. Even the various panels set up by government to find out the immediate cause of this perennial educational crisis, have only succeeded in wasting the scarce financial resources of the country. Some of them even advocate the use of mother tongue in educating these students. Their submission is that the students learn fast and better when taught in their indigenous languages. While not laying claim to any expertise in education policy, I strongly disagree with their assertion. To write in our mother tongues is not as easy as they are painting it.
If any seriousness is given to the use of mother tongues in educating students, perhaps the scholars advocating the policy should tell Nigerians how the exams will now be answered? Will it be done verbally or written? It will be impossible to have verbal exams for large numbers of students, so obviously the exams will be written. If the students are going to write these exams in their various languages, how do they intend to organise the answer sheets since the students would have answered the questions in their respective languages. Also there is the possibility of having an ethnic crisis evolving. For instance if Yoruba teachers are to mark Yoruba students, while those of igbos and Hausa do the same for their students, the possibility of ethnic solidarity in marking cannot be rule out. These teachers would definitely want their own tribal students to pass by all means; we should also be mindful that even those to supervise the teachers' markings will also be of the same tribe.
Back to the class room, what language will be use in a place like Lagos, which is more or less a mini Nigeria? How do they intend to teach Hausa or Igbo speaking students who are schooling in Lagos, since the adopted mother tongue in Lagos state would have been Yoruba? The same apply in all the states of the federation and FCT. And if the solution is to use one of the existing major language across board, which one will be use, that would not snowball into a major tribal crisis?
The major cause of failures in Waec/Neco is poverty. Most of these students are from families who find it difficult to take care of their basic needs like food, shelter, health care etc. Some of them spend quality time under excruciating sun trying to elk a living, when they should be studying or reading. Many are their families' breadwinners as a result of lost of jobs by their parents or guardians.
Though Obasanjo's government once adopted a meal per day policy in public primary school; the pesky question left by the policy was what happen after the meal at school? These same students would go back to the disillusionments they left behind at home. The policy has since been discarded, because the policy in itself is not self sustaining, and lacks any genuine desire of the said government to bring about real transformation in the education sector.
Another reason for failure in national exams, might be the lack of enthusiasm for educational laurels by students. This is surely a fallout of what they see on streets where graduates roam about looking for unavailable jobs. Most of these students who will not want to reckon with similar fate, would most certainly look away from education and seek other options to alleviate poverty in their families. The high level of disinterest in education for trading by boys in Anambra state, clearly buttress this assertion.
No matter the number of committees this government intends setting up to seek solution for the yearly mass failures in Waec/Neco, the problems will persist, until government is ready to face the truth about the root cause.
The family system has fallen in Nigeria. Indigent children are now the breadwinners in their respective families; the same society should therefore not expect these children to be mentally and psychologically prepare for the challenges of education. It is the garbage the Nigerian society is giving these children and youths that they are returning in equal measure.
Nigeria has failed its adult population, is presently failing its youths and if the trend continues it will eventually fail its future generation. There is only one visible solution to the perennial mass failures in national examinations in the country, and it is economy empowerment of the family units. Create the enabling environment for parents to take up their responsibilities again to their children, and these parents will be glad to assist their communities to put an end to the decaying infrastructures in schools, and monitor the conducts of their children and teachers; and ultimately these children would have the ample time to read their books in very happy, well fed and stress-free atmosphere, which is what they need to bring out the best in them.
Education policy formulators in this country, should be told this truth; to rescue the country's education from this abysmal decline, we must first save the family system from poverty. Any thing else will end up in futility.
By Olurotimi Adeola