There is no good news in 2015 WAEC examination results. There are no silver linings. The trend from 2013 to 2014 to 2015 showed decline in the percentage of passes or number of candidates or both.
2015 WAEC examination results have attracted commentaries from those who want to divert attention from it for whatever reasons, and those who want to prove the superiority of one ethnic group over others, and from others who are history challenged. Diversionary tactics deployed include publication of one school renovation by a group of alumni in a state where success in the exam was one of the lowest (18%); what a revised curriculum would look like; etc.; as if these were the reasons for the poor performance or what the way forward should look like. Gloating tactics included “my stuff is better than yours”, or I am drinking to this, etc. And history deprivation is exhibited by most who even though they took “Cambridge” and London University GCE exams in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s forgot what the standards were and where bragging rights were established.
In an earlier commentary I mentioned some high schools in Eastern Nigeria that consistently scored 80-100% over decades and where anything below 80% was cause for shame. Similar schools existed in the Western Nigerian and in the North. These history depraved commentators ignored the fact that Osun state in Western Region of Nigeria is among the bottom 10 even though Osun is part of Western Nigeria, the region where education was first taken most seriously, with free education at the primary level, and a state that probably has more serious academicians than most other states. They did not explore this aberration. Is there any field of human endeavor where 60% success rate is applauded? Would you see a physician that loses 40% of his patients, an engineer that builds houses that only 60% stand after a storm? I will not, not even when they are the only engineers or physicians in town.
With my anger laid to rest let us objectively look at the message that the results conveyed and the way forward. I will ask three questions
- Where are the missing children? Those who did not take the exam
- What is the reason for the failure of the entire Nigerian education system?
- Which way forward for Nigerian education?
A. The story of the missing children. In 2014 1,692,435 students took the exam but in 2015 the number was 1,590,284. Where are the rest? The population has grown through births. Are they all Chibok girls? Kano with a population of 9.4 million could only field 62,511 candidates while Edo with a third of the population 3.2 million had 68,000 students. Where are the missing kids? Most of the “high performing” states have also more students per capita taking the exam. Abia, Anambra, etc. with very low populations fielded more candidates. Lagos with comparable population to Kano had over a hundred thousand sit for this WAEC examinations.
The policy implication is horrifying. The missing kids will show up very soon in unemployment/underemployment figures. Those bent on mischief such as Boko Haram, would have ready and able recruits. In 4 or 5 years those who go to colleges would graduate and ceteris paribus would present themselves for employment. If Abia alone presents 52,000 candidates and they are hired, is anybody deaf enough not to hear Igbo domination? And if they are not hired will we not hear Igbo marginalization and shrill cries for Biafra? Below is a cross section summary of statistics:
# of WAEC Students
And here is the trend report:
# of Candidates
B. What is the reason for the failure of the entire Nigerian education system? There cannot be any doubt that the system has collapsed especially when you look back. Cambridge exam was a worldwide exam conducted by University of Cambridge. As mentioned earlier DMGS, CIC, etc. would send their pupils and they (100% of them) would pass. And when they show up at Ibadan, Cambridge, Harvard, LSE, etc. they will march all other students from all over the world. My first thought was that the failure has to do with the quality of school teachers, equipment, infrastructure etc. But upon further examination by trying to pick up schools that would be comparable in terms of teachers, equipment, etc., I still find unexplained differences. Federal Government high schools would be where all things ought to be equal. Yet you have this sorry example:
Meanwhile, the federal Government Girl’s College, Benin outshined the others with 230 of its 232 candidates meeting the University requirements in the performance register for the 104 Federal Government colleges in the same examination.
From the statistics, it was observed that of the 74 candidates that sat for the examination at the FGGC, Bajoga, no one got the basic admission requirement. It was the scenario at the FGGC, Bauchi and Gboko. Whereas 143 candidates sat for the examination in the Bauchi school, 144 females did the same at the FGGC, Gboko. For the FSTC, Kafanchan, of the 40 candidates, comprising 29 males and 11 females that sat for the examination, no one also obtained the minimum entry requirements to the university.
Not one person qualified in for admission in 8 Federal High Schools. What a waste! Consider how much was spent over four years and not one child could qualify. And this:
Of the 26 Unity schools occupying the bottom positions on the performance chart, 22 of them are located in the North. The other four colleges are the FGGC, Ikot Obio Itong, Ukam at 89th position; FGGC, Calabar (92nd); FSTC, Uyo (93rd) and the FGC, Idoani, Ondo State occupying the 96th position
My conclusion is that the would have been high performing students are those that are missing from the section above. If those hundreds of thousands of missing kids I asked for before, were in schools the performance would have been different.
The policy implications are obvious. Nigeria is losing the crème de la crème of our kids to the streets as beggars, to BH recruiters and mischief makers.
The war against BH must be waged by denying BH recruits especially the high performing kids missing in our schools. The good war should be searching for the kids and bringing them into classes. That is the more important war. As for the beggars, the solution is a bit simpler. They beg because they are hungry and MUST eat. This makes the case for investment in agriculture as opposed to chasing thieves (corruption) that have escaped. Let us hunker down and bring these kids in, feed them, and put them to work in the classrooms in Nigeria.
C.Which way forward for Nigerian education? Policy wonks will talk about curriculums and other esoteric subjects that are ultimately important for a good education, but here is a short “to do list”:
1. Gather the wheat and the chaff (all kids) to school
2. Feed them while at school (school lunch) at no cost
3. Find teachers (even unqualified teachers) to give them some kind of education even if it is mere babysitting.
4. Provide some form of structure and preach the beauty of education
With time improve on the quality of teachers and curriculum and infrastructure and equipment. None of these will be important if there are no students. The failure in FG schools that could not graduate any students is because they had not recruited all possible candidates that could benefit from a high school education. Passing WAEC starts from kindergarten not from Form 1.
This is not a northern manifesto. All schools from Calabar to Kano and from Lagos to Maiduguri are failing. There are no exceptions and no silver lining except that more girls are in schools than boys and the girls are doing better than boys, confirming the trend worldwide. But even this raises serious issues which we will leave for another essay.
The current Buhari Administration is spending trillions of naira fighting BH, and another trillions fighting corruption. As important as they may seem, they should take a back seat. Give us food, give us education and all other things would be added unto us.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
February 8, 2016