As an educationist, what do you think is responsible for the massive failure in WAEC and NECO examinations?
Well, I think the situation is certainly pathetic because the failure is such that up to 70 per cent cannot make the minimum requirements. I think this is a serious problem that can be described as a disaster in the education sector. The contributory factor to that, I think, is the general neglect of education by governments, especially at the state level, because many states concentrate on big white elephant projects such as construction of roads, construction of stadium and a new government house, housing estate and buying aircraft, rather than paying serious attention to education sector. Any serious government, especially here in the north, should budget, at least, minimum of 40 per cent of its annual budget in 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.
What role should parents play in improving the situation?
The parents, also, are not helping matters. Sometimes they do not pay serious attention to educating their children. All they know is to send them to public or private schools and pay their schools fees without bothering to look at their performances by checking their results and see where they need to sit up and, maybe, employ private lesson teacher to help them. Parents themselves, especially mothers at home, could help in that respect but, instead, they are only encouraging the children by getting bothered about visiting countries; every holiday they must visit London, France, Germany and Paris to buy things and not really bothered about their education.
Students are being blamed for not paying attention to their studies but spending their time on social media. What can you say about this?
Of course, social media is another problem that is really affecting the performances of our children in schools. We cannot say we should go back to the old age, certainly, we have to be part of the new developments such the social media. But it is certainly taking too much time of the youths instead of paying attention to their studies.
What advice do you have for the government, WAEC and NECO authorities with regards to examination malpractice?
One, government should be more serious about education. The ministry of education should be up and doing. Many of these schools are mushrooms but you find parents patronising them so, first and foremost, the ministry should do something urgently to address the situation and, as I have said, the WAEC and NECO managements should improve on the measures they take like what JAMB is doing now. You find that lots of things are changing because JAMB wants to check examination malpractice. So WAEC and NECO should ensure that they intensify their efforts towards checking all these kind of things and there should be serious penalty, against any centre found engaging in this kind of thing because they are not helping the society. Rather, they are producing rubbish in the name of good results and when such students eventually go to universities, they cannot perform. I think that is why some universities insist in conducting the post-UME examination. But, unfortunately, you find that in Nigeria anything you introduce, corruption will manifest itself there. So I think all hands must be on deck to check this problem. I think parents should teach their children to always be honest. Of course, if an irresponsible father will encourage his children to engage in examination malpractice willingly, it means he will encourage them to steal and or engage in any criminal act. After all, what is there in your child getting nine credits which he cannot defend or get admission? I think we should try, as a society, to encourage our children to be honest so that by the time they grow, they will shun criminality. It is regrettable that today, quite a number of the schools you find engage in examination malpractices. All they want is at the end of the year to record 80, 90 or 100 per cent success in examinations. But these results are fake. Maybe, this year, WAEC took extra measures to check that and that is why the true result is now manifesting and, I think, they should do more if at all they could do everything humanly to ensure that only genuine results are produced. It is sad how our private and public schools engage themselves in these examination malpractices. I think they should go ahead to device other measures of checking all these so that at the end of the day we will have true academic performance results of our students. Unfortunately, this particular problem has penetrated into our tertiary institutions. You can find a student with eight credits but when he comes to the university and is given an admission form to fill, he cannot. When you give him a paper to write a simple composition, he cannot do it, but he got eight or nine credits.
The frequent massive failure in WAEC is attributed to the deterioration of primary school education. What can you say?
Yes, like I have said earlier, it is a general problem from primary to secondary and even to the tertiary institutions. State and local governments are responsible for the primary school education and like I said, many of the states do not care about improving the education at the primary level. You find school overcrowded, you find 100 and above number of pupils in a class writing on the floor because there are no chairs and tables in the classes. You find that most of the teachers are not qualified to teach. Most of the teachers are secondary school certificate holders and or NCE holders and where you find graduates, they are type of graduates we are talking about all mainly due to the fact governments budget a meagre resources to education. Another problem we have, especially in this part of the country, is that we don’t have qualitative teachers in our primary schools. The minimum qualification is NCE that is for the teachers at primary and secondary schools and for the senior secondary school, you can find graduates. But the problem is that we don’t have the teachers and governments do not want to recruit, like in my own state, Katsina. For seven years, I don’t think government has recruited up to 2, 000 teachers and the students intake is always increasing. So certainly education at the primary school level is nothing to write home about and the same thing goes for secondary schools.