The first time I complained to my friend that the lecturer was reading verbatim from the textbook, the same textbook available to me, he laughed. Mockingly, he said, “Good morning ma’am, how would you like your coffee?’ But it wasn’t me he was mocking; he was mocking the educational system he had gotten used to.
Three days ago, I was woken up with the news of the decision at the 2017 combined policy meeting on admissions in tertiary institutions to reduce the cut off mark for jamb from 200 to 120. I was disturbed. Later in the evening, I went on Twitter and saw the news was already trending. I questioned the veracity of this news, but the possibility that it could be true made me wonder what is really going on in Nigeria.
I was privileged to leave Nigeria after my secondary school education for the UK for Advanced Levels studies for two years. I vividly remember the first essay I wrote. I basically copied the textbook and twisted a few words as I was used to doing. I remember Bob, my religious studies teacher, telling me that though the work was good, it wasn’t what he wanted. He didn’t want me to copy, he wanted me to think. To think for myself. To think outside the box. To challenge. To have my own opinion and back it up.
Thankfully, it didn’t take too long for me to start shedding my old skin and start embracing the new way education was passed on. I would later remember his words when I had to write my first essay on law of obligations in my first year at the University. Three years in University deepened the lesson I learnt that day and I came love how Education was challenging as it stimulated me mentally, intellectually and in other regards.
I am presently in the Nigerian Law school doing the compulsory Bar 1 programme that those that studied abroad are expected to do. I expected things to be different as I have heard stories that made me shake my head from friends that studied in Nigerian universities. But those were stories and somehow, I was distant from them. So, I guess I didn’t really understand them. But trust Nigeria to make you understand what you don’t wish to understand. The first time I complained to my friend that the lecturer was reading verbatim from the textbook, the same textbook available to me, he laughed. Mockingly, he said, “Good morning ma’am, how would you like your coffee?”
But it wasn’t me he was mocking; he was mocking the educational system he had gotten used to. He and some of my other friends told me that I would get used to it. I later conceded that I will get used to it, although, I don’t want to. Poor teaching is not something to get used to.
“I love how you are impressed that a lecturer actually did his job,” another friend told me sometime later. This was after I told her excitedly about the lecturer that came and didn’t read to me like I were a primary school child just learning how to read. He actually taught. He added to the knowledge I had acquired from reading the textbook before coming to class and for that, I was very grateful as I had not had many who actually taught me since I got here. We laughed about it, but really, it was and is sad that I was impressed that the lecturer actually did what I consider to be education. He and the few others like him became the exception, as opposed to the norm.
Education is important. This I’ve been told by my parents since I was a little child, and so they ensured I had what they considered the best. Many children have also been rightly told that education is important, but I’m forced to consider how important it is to Nigeria with the way education is paid attention to. When I heard about the recent ASUU strike, I was shamefully numb to it because it is not new. But I was not numb when I read about the reduced jamb cut off mark. The question I asked and I’m still asking is why?
What is Education in Nigeria?
Nigeria occupies 145th position in primary education advancement in the world’s record (as at the last time I checked). Nigeria is also the 152nd out of 187 countries in the UN’s human development index. The question is still why?
I told my friend that if the cut off mark is so reduced, what motivation is there for the student to strive to work harder? My friend calculated it and said a student only needs to get 30 marks in each subject to make the cut off mark. Arguably, this development makes it easier for students that wish to go to university, but what does it say about standard of education if we are making it easier for people to aspire to be mediocre? What does it say about the future of a country which is already faced with high levels of poor educational attainment?
What does it say about the future and ability of Nigerians that study in Nigeria to compete globally?
Will certificates from Nigerian universities become the subject of mockery?
“There used to be so much value on teaching and education in Nigeria,” my mum once said, thinking back to her days. “Now, many teachers in many states are being owed salaries. How are they expected to cope and what motivation is there to really teach?” she further stated.
I said nothing, but I knew in my mind that the masses will suffer and Nigeria will suffer for this in the long run. If the teachers are not being paid, if there is no proper teacher training, if there are poor teaching resources, what then is the point of sending these kids to school?
Asides that, we have another serious pending issue. What really is the motivation for education in Nigeria when there are no jobs, no capital to seize opportunities and little opportunities flying around? What reward is there for those that choose to be educated?
I watched a video where Adams Oshiomole, the former governor of Edo state, and some other people surrounded a supposed teacher who found it difficult to read. He had given her something to read and I watched sadly as she struggled to pronounce the words and as she pronounced many words wrongly. He had to interject her many times to correct her. Others watched in amusement and did not fail to laugh. It wasn’t funny! It was disgusting. This was a teacher expected to pass knowledge to students. What then is she teaching? What does it say about quality of education in Nigeria?
We are battling with standard of education. We are battling with quality of education. We are battling with regurgitating what the teacher passes rather than being allowed to think for ourselves and challenge the status quo. We are battling with strikes. We are battling with lack of resources. We are battling with unpaid salaries to teachers. We are battling with a lack of reward for the delayed gratification of being educated… and what is our response? Further reduction of standard of education.
We are static… and static is backwardness.What is Education in Nigeria? I really don’t know. But I do know that I’m grateful to have known different. But how many Nigerians can say that?