Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



(By Wole Olabanji Engels, DSM, OAU Branch)

Daily in Nigeria, the working masses go through intensified agony and suffering caused by the profit-first priority of the ruling class. Today, growing commercialisation of entrance examinations has further deepened the agonizing condition of Nigerian poor and working parents. For students to proceed from one level of education to another is now a new means of extortion by education administrators and private businesses. This emerging phenomenon is rapidly worsening the poor condition of the working people, and rot in the education sector.

A peep into the process of admission of candidates from secondary schools into tertiary institutions reveals this growing trend of commercialisation. Students leaving our secondary schools are certified after completing and passing two different examinations. The gate to tertiary institutions – whether Polytechnics, Colleges of Education or Universities – is still not opened until WAEC, NECO,UTME and post-UTME examinations have been conducted. In all these cases of multifarious examinations for the mere purpose of progressing from secondary schools to tertiary institutions, a huge amount of money is extorted from prospective students and their poor parents.

In the first instance, multifarious examination bodies are needless in a properly-functioning public education system. The alleged low quality and corruption in examination bodies like JAMB for instance are actually products of the crisis of public education itself. Through constant mass failure of candidates, these examination bodies simply reflect the poor quality of public secondary school education. Poor performances of students are largely a product of the poor state of learning facilities and conditions in schools. Therefore, it is only improved funding of public education by government and democratic running of schools that can improve the quality of students and the standard of the examinations.

By implication too, multiple examination bodies in Nigeria are only out to extort money from poor parents. Take for instance, to sit for JAMB UTME, an amount ranging between N10, 000 and as much as N50, 000, is incurred on registration. This include purchasing the form which is just N4,000, internet services and private coaching/miracle centres (itself a reflection of collapse of public education), depending on how lucky you are. Similarly, a sum of N9,100 is required to register for WAEC examinations while late registration is N19,100. However oftentimes in reality, public secondary school students are made to pay amounts twice or thrice of this by the school administrators under different pretexts. One of the pretext is cost of extra-coaching generally called “holiday extension” organised to prepare the students for the examinations.

In private schools, this amount can be very outrageous. This is because some of the private secondary schools make “special arrangements” to fix their school results by allowing malpractices and the cost for this is unloaded unto the students together with the already expensive school fees. Since it is highly probable that all desired credit points may not be had at one sitting, many students end up writing and of course extorted for three examinations in a year!

Recently, tertiary institutions have also designed their own entrance examinations called Post-UTME, which also create for them the medium to squeeze money out from the already shrinking coffers of poor parents. In some universities, especially Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, a fee over N5, 000 is charged for Post UTME registration and result checking cards. Hence, to consider a child for further education at the tertiary level, parents are now compelled, under present conditions, to spend huge sum of money for mere entrance examinations.

Nigerians should not be deceived! From the perspective of government and Naira-tinted spectacles of tertiary education administrators, examinations in Nigeria are just money-making ventures. According to the Minister of Education Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai, “The major challenge is a country like Nigeria having 1.7 million candidates sitting for examination. The space we have is N520,000 for Federal, States, Private Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education” (Punch Newspaper, April 18, 2012). It is this kind of scenario that has created the perfect basis for the extortion of candidates and their parents anxious for admission.

The arguments of most tertiary institution authorities is that JAMB UTME has derailed, and it cannot be the sole test for quality assurance for students seeking admission into their institutions. While it is true that UTMEs have been impaired by gross malpractices, Post-UTMEs, since its emergence some six years ago, are not innocent of malpractices. Stories of leaked and sold post UTME questions and admission racketeering depicts the hypocrisy of post UTME itself. However, limited spaces in tertiary institution, poor facilities which discourage learning and the poor conditions of teachers who are mostly examiners – caused by chronic underfunding and undemocratic management of education – are the underlying factors for the decline in examination standards. As JAMB’s Registrar Prof Dibu Ojerinde himself explained “There is nothing like failure. No fail or pass dichotomy in JAMB. The point is that it depends on available spaces” (Guardian, 29 August, 2013). Only a new commitment of government towards improved funding of education can affect the quality of intakes, not UTME or post UTME. Unfortunately, the unreadiness of the Nigerian government to properly fund education now turns poorly-paid parents into object of exploitation in the hands of avaricious public and private education authorities.

In a country where the minimum wage which is a ridiculous N18, 000 is yet unpaid, the idea of paying tens of thousands on examinations is vexatious. There is the urgent need to build a campaign to stop this evil phenomenon of commercialized examination. The student movement, labour movement including education staff unions and parents must fight for the abolition of all extortionate charges under the guise of examination. They must demand that these examinations must not only be free but also put under democratic management of elected representatives of unions. Also education itself must be properly funded and decision making in the sector must be democratic in order to ensure that funds voted for education are judiciously spent.