WASSCE:Huge resources, poor performance

THE PUNCH Newspaper

Every year, the West African Examinations Council releases the results of candidates who sit for its Senior School Certificate Examination. Each year, the candidates who fail outnumber the candidates who pass.

In 2009, out of the total number of pupils who sat for the May/June WASSCE, 75 per cent failed to obtain credit passes in English and Mathematics.

Only 356, 981 candidates, representing 25.99 per cent out of a total of 1, 373, 009 candidates obtained credits and above in English Language, Mathematics and at least three other subjects.

In 2008, out of the total number of candidates who sat for the examination, 188,442 candidates, representing 13.76 per cent, obtained credits in English Language, Mathematics and three other subjects.

For the November/December 2009 WASSCE, the story is not different: out of a number of 342,443 candidates, 106,413 candidates, representing (31 per cent) obtained credits in English Language, Mathematics and at least three other subjects.

Like a recurring decimal, the situation has become a trend despite the huge level of malpractice and resources governments claim to expend on the education sector.

Until recently, government’s efforts had been targeted at paying pupil’s WASSCE fees without putting in place measures to ensure their success in the examination.

In February, the Cross River State Government queried 162 principals over the abysmal performance of its pupils in the last 2008/09 WASSCE.

The pupils’ performance, government said, did not justify the huge expenditure of government in revamping education in the state. None of the pupils who sat for the examination in the affected schools was able to attain government‘s performance benchmark of five credits, including English and Mathematics.

The situation is not peculiar to Cross River alone. In Oyo State, the state government paid N250m examination fee for the last WASSCE, but only five per cent of the 52,000 students that wrote the examination had five credit passes and above, including English and Mathematics.

To reverse the trend, the state government gave out 10 cars to the principals of the 10 best performing schools in the 2009 WASSCE and NECO.

In Lagos State, the government since the administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has been paying WASSCE and NECO fees. Our correspondent gathered from a source, who spoke under condition of anonymity, that the state spent paid N185m as WASSCE fees for 67,020 candidates in 2007.

The sum of N211m was spent in 2008 as WASSCE fees for 60,040 candidates in 2008, while in 2009 the amount rose to N269.7m. Yet, 82 per cent of the pupils who sat for the 2009 WASSCE failed.

This is in spite of the fact that the state government also introduced reading sessions in schools to inculcate reading habit among pupils, while facilities including laboratories and books have been provided by the state and corporate organisations who subscribed to its Support-Our-School initiative.

Investigation by our correspondents revealed that mass failure was not limited to WASCCE alone. When the NECO released the results of its 2009 June/July Senior School Certificate Examination, 89.32 percent of the 1.2million candidates that registered for the exam failed.

The situation has degenerated so much that immediate past Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu, admitted that the mass failure being recorded in WASSCE was a testimony to the many years of neglect of the education sector.

However, state governments and teachers have adduced mass failure to not just the neglect of the education sector, but several other reasons.

According to the Edo State Commissioner for Education, Dr. Ngozi Osarenren, the state government did not pay any fee for pupils’ enrolment in WASSCE and NECO; the responsibility was shouldered by parents.

She added that the state had awarded N1.5bn for furniture in schools for the provision of 40,000 double seater seats and 35,000 single seats. “We awarded the contract and work has started and we expect them to be delivered by the end of this month. There is total renovation of many schools in Edo State,” She said.

She admitted that 2009 WASSCE candidates in the state failed to meet the national average of 25 per cent but the state would continue to instill confidence in its pupils to face and pass final examinations.

According to Osarenren, the government had discovered that there was an over-concentration of teachers in the urban areas especially Benin.

“Some schools in the rural areas have one teacher taking many subjects while in some others, there are only two teachers. To check the trend, we embarked on even distribution of teachers. We have been able to help to send teachers to these schools in the rural areas to enhance capacity building,’ she said.

For candidates in Akwa-Ibom, the state government spent N753.8m for the 2009 and 2010 WASSCE and NECO registration fees for senior SS3 pupils in the state.

The state Commissioner for Education, Dr. Nseabasi Akpan, who disclosed this, explained that government decided to pay the registration fees due to the failure of most indigent pupils to pay.

Akpan said while N189, 245,360 had already been paid for the 2010 WASSCE exam, the state paid N187.7m as registration fees for the 2009 NECO examination.

He maintained that the state government, which was currently operating a free and compulsory education system, decided to pay WASSCE and NECO exam fees and also provide necessary facilities in public schools in order to improve the standard of education in the state.

This, he said, government would continue to do until there was an improvement in the results of candidates.

He added that the availability of infrastructure in schools would create a conducive environment for learning.

However, the Ogun State Government has said the blame for mass failure should be jointly shared by government, parents, candidates and invigilators.

The state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Segun Awonusi, said, “The blame should be jointly shared by the government for not providing the environment and the facilities; the pupils for not taking their studies seriously and the parents, who bribe invigilators and aid their children to perpetrate exam malpractices.

“You know there was this proposal to sanction heads of secondary schools, where pupils fail. But we realised that this would increase the malpractices in schools while some centres would almost become centres for malpractices where they will almost be writing the exams for some pupils just to pass. So, government must commit more funds to schools. The teachers and the students must show more commitment and the parents must become less aggressive in helping their children to pass.”

The National President, All Nigerian Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools, Chief Adeniyi Falade, at the National Executive Council Meeting of the body a forthnight ago, declared that all stakeholders in the education sector, including parents must share the blame for the mass failure.

According to Falade, the downturn in pupils’ performances in the examinations is a product of inadequate funding of public secondary schools in the country.

The ANCOPPS president noted that the dwindling performances in the national and sub-regional examinations by Nigerian schools started about 10 years ago, painting a gloomy picture of public schools occasioned by neglect and the desperation of students just to pass examinations.

He contended that it would be uncharitable to hold members of ANCOPSS, made up of the principals of public secondary schools in the country, responsible for the woeful performances in the examinations, pointing out that the mass failure was a reflection of the rot in the education system.

The National President, Association of Staff Union of Secondary Schools, Ogun State, Mr. Charles Faluyi, said the government, teachers, students and parents should take the blame for the mass failure witnessed in the WASSCE NECO, canvassing that the government must ensure that funds allocated to the education sector annually were used for the improvement of facilities in the schools.

“Apart from provision of infrastructure, the teachers should be more committed while parents should stop collaborating with their children to perpetrate examination malpractices. The pupils should also be guided so that they don’t use all their time watching home videos,” he said.

Our correspondents gathered that the state had already paid N210m for candidates sitting for this year’s WASSCE, and had equally paid about N25m for the NECO centres in the state for the 2010 exercise.

Awonusi said the fees were huge when compared with the prevailing economic realities on the ground.

The commissioner contended that the state was trying its best in the provision of infrastructure in the schools but admitted that the situation was far from being perfect.

He said, “I must tell you that we are trying our best in the provision of facilities in the schools but definitely we are far from perfection. Our cause has not been helped by the prevailing economic meltdown; it has really slowed down the rate at which we would have loved to equip the schools. Then, you are aware that we wanted to take a bond but we have not been able to access that.

“This is happening at a time when we are having a boom in the number of children going to schools. There are states where about 40 per cent of children are not in schools.”

In Niger State, for the 2009 WASSCE, 23, 000 candidates were registered for the examinations.

The state Director-General for Media and Public Affairs, Alhaji Bala Abdulkhadir, who confirmed the development in an interview with our correspondent in Minna, Niger State capital, disclosed that about N300m was invested by the state government on registration of candidates for the examination.

But, only about five per cent of candidates who registered for both WASSCE and NECO examinations passed with five credits and above in English and Mathematics.

Abdulkhadir disclosed that the state government had been paying attention not only to the payment of WASSCE and NECO fees but also improvement of infrastructure and learning and teaching materials in schools.

The Vice -Chancellor of the Niger State owned university, Ibrahim Babangida University Lapai, Prof. Ibrahim Kolo, while reacting to mass failure in public examinations attributed the blame to all stakeholders.

According to him, “The problem of mass failure in public examinations is traceable to the parents, the schools, the government, the pupils and the society.”

He stated the need for a change of attitude and serious commitment on the part of all stakeholders in addressing the problem.

The Director-General of the African Centre for Human Rights and Justice, Dr. Aliyu Adegbesan, attributed the decay to the neglect of the education sector by successive governments and stressed the need for the state government to do more in improving the standard of education.

Investigation by our correspondents revealed that for two consecutive years, most secondary schools Cross River State had recorded zero percentage overall performance in WASSCE.

This means that for two years, the schools could not produce candidates with government’s performance benchmark of five credit passes in core subjects including English Language and Mathematics.

It was learnt that the only accredited external examination for public secondary schools is the October/ November WASSCE. The government is yet to lift a ban on the examinations conducted by the National Examination Council because of reasons bordering on quality.

For the last WASSCE exams, our correspondent gathered that the state recorded 25 per cent general performance as against 35 per cent it posted in 2008.

This indicated that out of 11,000 candidates that sat for the last WASSCE, only about 2,750 students could boast of five credit passes including English Language and Mathematics in all the secondary schools across the state.

But the Commissioner for Education in the state, Prof. Offiong Offiong, was said to be angry because the general performance recorded in the exams was antithetical to government’s huge investment to revamping education in the state.

For instance, our correspondent learnt that in the last WASSCE, the government paid N50m registration fees for all the candidates that sat for the examination in public secondary schools.

Also, for the 2010 examination, the government has already paid N71m to complete the registration of about 15,000 candidates in public schools.

Apart from that, Offiong, in an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents, said the government had earmarked N48bn to renovate primary and secondary schools in the state adding that 60 secondary schools were selected for the exercise.

According to him, the government had disbursed about N3bn to contractors handling the project confirming that 31 school buildings had been completed and equipped.

Reeling out what the government had done to enhance academic performances, he said the government had instituted compulsory extra-mural classes for all the pupils in secondary schools two hours beyond the official closing time each day. This he said was expedient to enable teachers complete their various syllabuses.

Apart from the SS2 mock exams to screen pupils preparing for WASSCE, OffIong said the government had ordered schools to conduct another preparatory exam two weeks before WASSCE.

He noted that the government had promptly paid allowances and salaries of teachers, principals and vice-principals including rural allowances for teachers and principals transferred to rural areas.

“Since the government has improved teachers’ welfare, improved infrastructural facilities and learning environment, somebody must take responsibility for the mass failure. The principals and teachers are the first to blame. They have failed in their responsibilities and duties as role models”, he said.

He also blamed societal values, which he said had distracted students by glamourising materialism and relegating education to the background.

He further passed the buck to parents for promoting examination malpractice instead of devoting time to instill the value of hard work in their children.

But some of the principals who spoke to our correspondent insisted that the government should share the blame for mass failure because it was unable to provide both human and material resources for the schools to function.

The principals, who pleaded anonymity, said the government could not recruit competent teachers and provide required materials to facilitate teaching and learning in public schools.

They collectively bemoaned lack of facilities such as laboratories, libraries and inadequate classrooms in public schools.

The school heads also criticised parents and guardians for encouraging their children and wards to indulge in examination malpractices.

One of them said, “Parents do not encourage their children to study. They do not release them to resume schools on time whenever schools resume, thereby losing so much ground and at the end teachers are unable to cover the syllabus”.

In the buck passing, the principals also flayed the West African Examination Council for its inability to provide examination materials to pupils during Senior School Certificate Examination.

Furthermore, they accused the pupils of being architects of their downfall, adding that pupils preferred viewing movies and foreign football leagues as well as other social activities to reading their books.

This view was corroborated by some public secondary school teachers in Lagos State, who spoke with our correspondents.

One of the teachers, Mr. Aina Hassan, said “Pupils are not committed to their studies. – They do not read the books given to them but keep them in their lockers. If you have pupils that are good, your help might not be necessary.”

“Pupils do not read the free books given to them because their parents have sworn to government that if the books are torn, they should be held responsible; so they lock up the books in their lockers or keep them at home.”

He added that, “Government feels paying the examination fee is the ultimate but there is no basic infrastructure for the pupils to excel. What the government is doing is political. You can see that those who did not attend classes in their own time(the tyrants) are the ones dictating the pace now. Some of them are now chairmen of local governments, so why should the children bother themselves reading.

“They know what they are doing. They know that the system is bad. Their children do not school here, they send them abroad. What they are trying to do is to give their children better education so that they can eventually rule over these children.”

Hassan said paying for examination fees was not the solution.

“Paying WASSCE fees is not the solution to resuscitating the education sector. Government should play its own part, give teachers good salaries, give them their entitlements.What the government should have done at this point is that if it wants to pay examination fees, it should give the best pupils scholarship. Others will be challenged and be ready to fight for their own.

“Also government should give teachers opportunities to go for training either in Nigeria or abroad. Teachers need training and re-training.”

In the same vein, the immediate past Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Lagos Island, Mr. Ajibade Aliu, said “it is true that the government is trying by paying the exam fees for candidates. The area I think government needs to improve is appreciation of teachers.

“We are professionals and we are doing our best in our schools. Government has failed to put into consideration, the welfare of the teachers. They are so particular about the welfare of the pupils only. They pay their examination fees in order to encourage their parents that voted them in. They are particular about the structure of the school, forgetting that some people are working there.

Also, he noted pupils no longer read. “The conditions given by government also encouraged this. Government gave books to pupils with a condition that if the books got torn their parents would pay. As a result, pupils don’t read these books, they do not bring them to school or read them at home. They keep these books, because of the conditions attached.”

“At home, there is no back up or monitoring of what pupils do in schools. Parents don’t have time for their children. Parents and their children leave the bulk of work on the teachers. So parents expect teachers to perform magic on their children, which is not possible.”

Aliu said for effective result, teachers should be encouraged. “Government needs to take care of teachers in order to have effective results,” he said.


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