This development in the education sector is appalling, no doubt. Yet, if the mass failure recorded in the May/June 2014 West African Examinations Council (WAEC) was limited to the North-east region, the reason can be acceptable and traced to the security challenges in the region.
But for the entire country to witness 70 per cent failure in the examination, the situation can be safely described as a disaster in the education sector.
Furthermore, a total of 145,795 candidates, representing 8.61 per cent of the entire candidates that sat for the examinations this year have their results withheld due to malpractices.
The WAEC’s Head of National Office, Mr. Charles Eguridu, told newsmen in Lagos that 46.75 per cent or 791,227 of the total candidates that took part in the examinations obtained 6 credits and above, while 982,472, representing 58.05 scored 5 credits and above.
He added that 1,148,262 candidates, representing 67.84 %, obtained credits and above in 4 subjects and 1,293,389 others or 76.42%, obtained credits and above in 3 subjects.
Poor performance of students in WAEC has remained a source of concern to many stakeholders in the education sector in Nigeria in recent years. According to WAEC statistics, out of the 1,373,009 candidates that sat for the May/June WAEC in 2009, only 356,981 or 25.99 candidates obtained 5 credits and above including English language and Mathematics. Also, in 2010, 1,351,557 candidates sat for the examinations but only 337,071, representing 24.94 per cent obtained credits in Mathematics and English language.
For the WAEC May/June 2011, only 86,612 of the 1,540,250 candidates that participated in the examinations got credits in Mathematics and English language, just as 789,288 or 51.71 per cent obtained 5 credits and above.
Statistics also showed that in 2012 May/June WAEC, only 38.81 per cent or 649,156 of the 1,672,224 candidates that wrote the examinations got 5 credits and above including in the core subjects of English language and Mathematics. And in 2013, only 29.17 per cent, representing 299,784 candidates actually passed the Nov/Dec WAEC examinations, while 70 per cent failed.
Obtaining credits in five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics in the SSCE examinations is the minimum academic qualification for admission into tertiary institutions in the country.
Some stakeholders in education sector attributed the poor performance of students in WAEC examinations to many factors, including the decline in standard of education at primary school level, lack of political will and commitment on the part of government to stop the decline, bad government policies and programmes, parents’ attitude to education and lack of seriousness on the part of students.
The President of the American University of Nigeria Yola, Dr. Margee Ensign, while describing the situation as unfortunate, advised the country to deploy modern teaching technology, noting: “With 11 million children out of school, the country needs modern technology to tackle the problem of mass failure in WAEC examinations. No doubt, technology will turn around the country in this respect.
“Technology is seriously working for us at the AUN academy as this year we have recorded 95 per cent success in WAEC. Let the rest of the country learn from us. Nigeria needs to train more teachers to carter for the rapidly growing population. Although the country has planned to recruit 500,000 teachers by next year, I have not yet seen the real commitment and political will to improve education.
“Nigeria should consider education as its priority because it is the foundation of society. If you have the right people, the right plan and the right technology, if every child can have a laptop computer in school, the country can achieve a lot. The quality of education has a direct contact with the economy of the country.”
Also speaking, the Chairman, House Committee on Education, Alhaji Aminu Sulaiman Fagge, said the failure recorded in WAEC this year was alarming, disturbing and unacceptable.
However, he said WAEC should not take the entire blame for the development, blaming the situation also on parents, students, teachers and the schools.
“The committee will investigate the matter and if there are areas where government fails to do its job, we will hold it accountable and encourage it to correct itself. We will also look at those that are in charge of the processes and if it means sensitising the society, we will do that to better the system.”
Alhaji Mustapha Muhammad Inuwa, a veteran university lecturer and former commissioner of education in Katsina State, described the problem as disastrous and attributed it to general neglect of education by governments, especially at the state level.
He said: “Any serious government, especially here in the north, should devote, at least, minimum of 40 per cent of its annual budget to education and, I think, if it can do that for three or four years, it will be able to address the real issues in the sector.”
He advised WAEC and NECO managements to check menace of examination malpractices, saying there should be serious penalty against any centre found engaging itself in that offence.