Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By H.T. Soweto

The mass failure in the 2009 National Examination Council (NECO) November/December and 2010 May/June WAEC has shown that Nigeria’s education sector is tumbling down a hill.

The National Examination Council (NECO) released its Nov/Dec 2009 SSSCE result showing that only 4, 223 candidates representing about 1.8% passed with at least five credits in subjects including English and Mathematics which are required for admission into university. This was out of a total of 324, 682 candidates that wrote the examination held in 1, 708 centres across the country. About 12, 197 candidates representing 5.2% passed with five credits and above irrespective of subjects. This is one of the most abysmal performances in the history of external examination at secondary level in Nigeria. As usual, pundits and government spokespersons have been looking for scapegoats to be held responsible for this embarrassing performance, a performance that only rivaled by Super Eagles performance at the recently concluded 2010 world cup in South Africa.

In a similar fashion, the Head of the Nigeria National Office of the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), Dr. Iyi Uwadiae has revealed that a total of 1,351,557 candidates, consisting of 739,664 males and 611,893 females sat for the 2010 May/June WAEC examination, out of which only 337,071 candidates, representing 24.94 percent obtained credits in English Language, Mathematics and at least three other subjects. In other words, about 74% so far failed the examination.

Without mincing words, the root cause of this embarrassing mass failure in NECO and WAEC examinations is government anti-poor policies of under funding education. Students cannot be blamed for not having adequate knowledge nor can teachers be blamed for not teaching well in an education sector whose budget is being slashed annually. This year, budgetary allocation to education was reduced from 7.2% to 6.4%. The immediate implication of this budget cut on the standard of education is what the examination results have already brutally highlighted.


No one really can say the mass failure in NECO/WAEC came as a surprise. The tell-tale signs have been there all along. The condition of teaching and learning in primary, secondary and even tertiary schools across the country is to say the least, primitive. In fact, no quality learning or teaching exists at public primary and secondary schools. And this is not the fault of teachers who are still one of the least paid workers in Nigeria. Most teachers in Nigerian have been forced by poverty to take up a second job: trading in the classroom or in the case of male teachers, farming and okada riding. Expectedly, the level of concentration and commitment needed to impact knowledge into students is lost. Many students, as a result of downturn in the economy occasioned by the neo-liberal capitalist economic policies, have become more or less breadwinners in their families and therefore have limited or no time for studying.

In most primary and secondary schools, classroom buildings are in rickety condition with their roof leaking and walls collapsing. Most often, students are forced to take their classes under the trees. Well equipped libraries and laboratories are a rarity. Students in science classes in public secondary schools are often the most deprived. There are no standard laboratories, hence they cannot learn anything. This is not to say that those in commercial and art classes are having it rosy. Really they are not. The above is true also for states governed by so-called opposition political parties in different states including Lagos State.

While government, at all levels, pays lip-service to scientific and technological education and yet cannot provide well equipped laboratories in secondary schools, what it does to commercial and art classes which are often seen as irrelevant courses is to axe down the staffs handling such subjects. In most of the public primary and secondary schools, the teacher/student ratio is more than 1:100 while the UNESCO recommended 1:35. Sometimes a school having a student population of 8, 000 or above maintains only one mathematics teacher who has to handle students from JSS 1 class to SS3 class! Handling such large classes means that the teacher is unable to assess his/her students effectively. Undoubtedly, only the extremely brilliant students could cope in this kind of situation and of course only a miracle would make students perform brilliantly in examinations.


Instead of funding education adequately in order to arrest the rot, government has turned education to the private investors. But even this has proved incapable of arresting the decay in the education sector most especially the crisis of standard. This is because private investors establish schools for profit, not to maintain any high standard. Most often, the proprietors recruit ill-trained teachers (sometimes secondary school drop-outs) in order to pay wages less than the minimum wage.

The 98% failure in NECO and WAEC also includes students in private secondary schools where thousands of naira is being charged as tuition. A study carried out by The Nation Newspaper in 2008 found out public schools especially Unity Schools usually top the chart in ‘O’ level examinations like WAEC and NECO conveniently putting highbrow private schools behind. Indeed, most private secondary schools today merely buy off examination officials to provide their students with “help” during examinations in order to keep their schools on top of the list of high flying private schools. Such private schools then use these contrived results to advertise on radio and television for parents to enrol children with them. This is why most private secondary schools are called “miracle centres” where candidates can get good results in exchange for a fee.

However, there are only very few private schools with adequately trained personnel and quality service, but often their fees can only be afforded by the super-rich politicians and business elites.


The fact that private schools are not alternative clearly discredits the market theory of capitalism as the only way to organize society and deliver social services to the people. Capitalist education policy is simply this: starve public schools of funds so that they will die thus forcing many parents to send their children to private schools some of which are owned by politicians and business elites. This is what they do to public utilities too. To push forward the argument that private investors must take over the economy, the Nigerian ruling class ensured all public utilities were denied of funds and their assets mismanaged. The result is that everyone feels there is everything wrong with public ownership.

As things stand now, the worst is to be expected. Despite the alarming signals, the Nigerian capitalist ruling class is not bothered as the education budget this year shows. Already, students in tertiary institutions are grappling with exorbitant fee increases while working conditions of education workers (academic and non-academic alike) are nothing to go by. Nigerian students must link up with education workers and the wider labour movement to organize a fight back.

However on the basis of capitalism and its neo-liberal market policies, free, functional and adequately funded education is impossible. Therefore, the struggle to reposition education must be linked up with the necessity of overthrowing capitalism and founding in its place an alternative society where the welfare of all and the provision of amenities to improve peoples’ life will be the basis of governance.

This alternative is a socialist plan of society. Under this alternative society, the primary focus is going to be on publicly funded and democratically controlled educational system to meet the needs of all. A socialist government will take over the responsibility of funding education as a social service and instrument to human development, while the control and management of schools will be placed in the hands of elected committees composed of representatives of the education ministry, staff unions, student unions, parents and the public. With this democratic body backed by the public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and a socialist plan of production, adequate resources needed to provide a free and functional education from primary, secondary to tertiary levels will be released and better managed. Education is a means for all-round development of the individual and extension of the horizon of human knowledge and practice. Only socialism will make education available to the vast masses as a means to develop a rational and enlightened labour force educated in the nuances of science and literature.