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Poor education, substandard graduates

I was recently a witness to a chain of instances, which in the opinion of this writer, goes to confirm that the quality of today’s graduates…

I was recently a witness to a chain of instances, which in the opinion of this writer, goes to confirm that the quality of today’s graduates from Nigerian institutions is a reflection of the quality of the system that produced them. “Garbage in”, they say, “Garbage out”. This is the focus of this week’s discourse to which we shall return after few paragraphs. Before the close of the last century, it became common knowledge among Nigerians that the quality, which hitherto characterized graduates across Nigerian schools, colleges and tertiary institutions had long been lost. 

The proliferation of private schools at all levels of the education system in Nigeria is a manifestation of the loss of confidence in the quality of graduates produced by public institutions. The same reason accounts for the education tourism by Nigerians to even neighbouring West African countries including Benin Republic which substantially rely on Nigeria for its economic survival as a nation. Indeed, the decision to subject UTME candidates to an achievement test called Post-UTME (now abolished) and the introduction of aptitude test for job placement all reflect the abysmal quality of the products of Nigerian schools and institutions.   

The spoken English alone of pre-colonial primary and secondary school graduates in Nigeria with the lucidness and eloquence inherent in their speeches do not at all compare with the jargons spoken by their counterparts who graduated from similar schools especially after 1990. So many things are wrong with the country’s education system. From poor funding of the sector to poorly trained teachers, the list of challenges confronting this one most important sector keeps growing. Long and incessant strike actions by teachers particularly at the tertiary level have become the norm in recent years because they occur too often than imagined. 

About a fortnight ago, I was at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to take a flight to Maiduguri. Some details such as name of the airline may not be necessary for obvious reasons. To keep passengers traveling to Maiduguri by that airline informed about the estimated time of the arrival of the aircraft, the GMT and the local time in Nigeria were both announced all the time. Amazingly, the announcer was always wrong each time she announced the corresponding Nigerian local time for the GMT. To get out of the confusion created in some travelers (including me), I approached a staff of the airline who advised me to work with the local time announced. I returned to my seat and continued to wonder whether the announcer (who should, at least, be a secondary school graduate if not a university or polytechnic graduate of mass communication) did not know that Nigeria is only one hour ahead of GMT.

Next was a worse mistake. Sitting close to me in the departure hall were two men who were addressing themselves as Profs (the short form of the academic title, professor). They were traveling to Yola and had their tickets with flight numbers printed on them. Unfortunately, the announcer kept announcing a flight number that was different from what was on their Abuja-Yola ticket for the same airline. They kept wondering among themselves. When the last boarding announcement for that route came from the announcer, I advised both men to approach the boarding gate and make enquiries. At the boarding counter, they were told it was their flight and a call had to be put across to the airline staff on the tarmac to tell the pilot to delay the take-off for the two passengers. I heard the check-in staff saying the flight number on their tickets was correct but the announcer was reading one of the figures wrongly. This is how poor university professors could have missed their flight as a consequence of substandard graduates produced by their own system. 

How could there be quality in the products of our education system when knowledge or education has literally been reduced to writing and passing or failing semester examinations? When strikes are suspended after losing so much teaching and learning to long periods of “sitting down doing nothing”, students resume only to write semester examinations after few weeks of teaching and learning that are usually not intensive. How could there be quality in the expected learning process (if teaching took place at all) when course contents which are usually planned in a sequential and integrated manner are most often not covered? Where efforts are made to cover the course contents, the teaching or lecturing is done in so much haste; giving limited time to exhaustively teach or understand the concept, scope and dimensions of specific theories meant to be studied.

Teaching, learning and research facilities in many public-owned schools and institutions are today an eye sore. They are in many cases non-existent, or at best obsolete, where they exist. Yet, some academic programmes which lack basic teaching and learning facilities and which shouldn’t pass accreditation are accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC) or the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) or the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) as the case may be. Don’t ask this writer how come about what may better be described as academic scandal!

That is why you have NCE or Bachelor of Education degree holders who are teachers but cannot pass the examination set for primary four pupils they were trained to teach. That also explains why you have some graduates of Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language who demonstrate poor knowledge of tenses when they speak. Is that not also why you come across a graduate of Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration who does not know the simple difference between income and expenditure? We should soon be ready to also see a graduate of Bachelor of Engineering who may not know the difference in the properties of sharp and plaster sand or a graduate of MBBS who cannot set an intravenous fluid line on a patient.

Before now, students graduate from the university after they have been found worthy in knowledge and character. The character component is almost now missing. When our flight arrived at Maiduguri airport, all the young boys and girls on the flight jumped to their feet (out of indiscipline) while the aircraft was still on the runway. The pilot had to announce to them to remain seated until the cabin door is opened. May Allah guide us to give education the serious attention it deserves, amin.

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