Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



  • Urgent Mass Actions Needed To Save Public Education
  • By H.T. Soweto

    That education in Nigeria is collapsing is hardly debatable. The mass failure in UTME and WAEC says it all. On Friday 24 June 2011, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) released the results of the 2011 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). Out of the 1, 450, 143 candidates that sat for this year’s UTME, a total of 842, 851 candidates scored below 200 showing a huge 60.2% failure.

    The dust had hardly settled when the West African Examination Council (WAEC) released the results of its May/June 2011 West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) where only 31.2% representing 472, 906 candidates obtained 5 credits.

    These results show an acute worsening of the crisis of education especially at primary and secondary schools despite trillions of naira already spent on Universal Basic Education (UBE) since 2006. Over 70% of school infrastructures in Nigeria are in dilapidated conditions with classroom buildings collapsing or without roofs. In many primary and secondary schools, pupils and teachers hold classes outside in the scorching sun.

    According to the Minister of State for Education Nyesom Wike, there are no fewer than 50 million illiterate Nigerians. About 38% of the children population is out of the schooling system while at least one in every three or four adults is not literate and over 22 million are out of school (The Nation 6 September 2011). Equally drop-out rate in primary school is 9.3% while transition rate to secondary school is 61%. The UBE program itself is in dire need of more than 40, 000 qualified teachers, 336, 467 additional classrooms, 336, 144 additional chairs and tables and 950, 430 units of toilets to meet present requirements.


    The mass failure was primarily caused by the shoddy preparation and corruption of the bureaucratic examination bodies. In a dramatic display of official corruption, JAMB failed to provide writing materials and calculators for the candidates even though massive resources had been earmarked for this.

    The pain most candidates went through in rushing to get these materials upon their discovery at the examination centre that they would not be provided was one of the factors behind the 60% failure as most candidates. Especially at centers located in remote places, candidates could not buy these materials and had to solve questions in science subjects, such as mathematics, physics and chemistry, without calculators thus wasting valuable time.

    Students and trade unions must demand a public explanation from JAMB and WAEC. Students and trade unions must also demand the setting up of a public and democratic probe panel with powers to investigate the top officials in the bureaucracy of JAMB and WAEC over the identified lapses in the organization of examinations.

    We must also demand that examination bodies like JAMB, WAEC and NECO etc should be made more democratic and placed under public control by the inclusion of elected representatives of students, parents’ body and teachers’ unions in their running. This is the only way exam bodies can be reformed and corruption among its rank eliminated.


    However the most frightening problem in the admission process is actually at the entry point of the tertiary institutions. Only about 200, 000 admission places are available in all the Universities in Nigeria for the year 2011 admission. Meanwhile, a huge 597, 494 who passed the 2011 UTME will require University admission this year.

    This means many students who are eligible to apply for admission this year will find their dream jeopardized. The brutal manifestation of this is already being seeing in the Post-UTME conducted by some institutions for this years’ admission.

    At the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), about 41, 391 collected its Post-UME form when all it could really admit is about 4000! At the end of the examination, about 8, 602 passed. From here begins an epic struggle among over 8000 candidates who have fulfilled all requirements for admission but need to squeeze in among the first 4, 000.

    In this struggle of ‘the survival of the fittest,’ merit goes to the background while money, class, position, status, political affiliation, ethnicity and religion take the front stage. Usually students from poor homes do not often have a chance in this competition of money and class. Also they do not have the choice of private institutions like the rich does.

    The same thing is taking place in other institutions. For instance “over 99, 000 applied to UNILAG (University of Lagos) and out of these, about 60, 000 scored 200 and above while the institution’s NUC-approved quota is 6, 000” (The Guardian, Sunday 21, 2011)! At the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), over 39, 000 candidates participated in its Post-UME screening exercise!


    However with increase in government funding of education and judicious use of such resources on a planned basis, it will be possible to establish more universities, polytechnic and colleges of education while also ensuring that the facilities of the existing ones are expanded to accommodate more admission seekers.

    About N1.29 trillion spent to recapitalize 8 banks in the last two years including the recent bailout of 3 failed banks by the Jonathan’s anti-poor government could, as an initial capital investment, dramatically turn around the fortunes of the education sector.

    But that the government readily found this money to bail-out the banks while education is collapsing due to under funding shows that Jonathan’s government is a government of corrupt politicians and bankers.

    All these raises the need for the students, working class parents and youth to fight for increase in the budgetary allocation to education up to 26% and provision of genuinely free and quality education at all levels linking this with the necessity of democratic running of all schools.

    Students’ Unions, community youth organizations and trade unions can play a key role in organizing admission seekers to fight against exploitation by JAMB, WAEC and NECO as well as against exploitation during Post-UTME. There is also need for protest actions and demonstrations in communities linking the demands against the lapses associated with the examinations with the general demands for radical reforms, overhaul and improved funding of education at all levels.

    A sustained campaign in this manner can provide a strong basis for united actions of working class youths in communities and students in tertiary institutions to provide a bulwark of organized mass resistance against government cut in education budgets, hike in school and examination fees etc.

    Free and functional education is however only sustainable where social wealth is not privatized in the hands of a few as we have presently but collectively owned by the people. This is why we must also fight for the nationalization of key sectors of the economy under democratic control and management of the working people instead of the current unjust situation wherein 80% of Nigeria’s wealth is owned by a privileged few of the entire population made up of treasury-looting political office holders and profit-hunting business moguls.