It may not be fashionable anymore to be a corps member. It is, however, disturbing to blame the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) for mass failure in public schools, writes Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal.
When the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) some years ago blamed the National Youth Service Corps members for the mass failure in public schools – both primary and secondary – it might have sounded the death knell to the scheme. But it managed to survive to this day and not without the worry it brings to the mind of schools administrators, teachers, and corporate employers.
The TRCN clearly stated that it did not want corps members in schools as teachers. The council had said the mass failure witnessed in various examinations for primary and secondary school students was partly caused by the corps members posted to teach without being qualified. Nowadays, Nigerian graduates – including corps members – are getting the stick. In the recent past, some have called for the scrapping of the National Youth Service Corps. Its critics said the programme had outlived its usefulness. Despite various attacks against the programme, the federal government has continued to fund it.
These crops of Nigerian youths may not be entirely innocent in deepening the failure rate in public schools. A case in point is the reported case of three illiterate graduates of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) rejected by the NYSC. As reported on many online media, the three ESUT graduates were found to be academically incompetent where they were posted to for their primary assignments in Abuja, Lagos, and Kogi.
The Director-General of NYSC had informed the National Universities Commission (NUC) of the presence of corps members who displayed “glaring lack of academic ability and intelligence level expected of genuine Nigerian graduates, which were consistently exhibited by the three students from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology.”
The NYSC DG added, “As contained in the reports, the corps members exhibited signs of incompetence and low intelligence level which range from inability to complete registration formats correctly to not being able to teach pupils at the nursery school level. These inadequacies led to their rejections by their employers in their various states of deployment.” To uncover how the three illiterates graduated and were cleared to serve in the compulsory one-year programme, the NUC set up a panel, comprising officials of NYSC, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the State Security Service (SSS).
The mandate of the panel, signed by NUC Director of Quality Assurance, Prof. C.F. Mafiana, “is to fully investigate the report with a view to identifying the culprits, including others similarly mobilized and their collaborators, and ensuring sanctions accordingly.
It was reported that one of the illiterate graduates –a lady – could hardly write the Roman figures from one to 10 in words, just as she could not write three states and their capitals. Also, she could not provide the names of two major rivers in Nigeria, just as she failed to name three countries that share the border with Nigeria. The second person was rejected by King’s College, Lagos after it was discovered that she was “grossly incompetent to perform her duties”. A further test on her by the Lagos State NYSC secretariat revealed that though a graduate of Electricals/Electronics, she did not pass any of the science subjects at the senior secondary school level.
The third person, posted to Abuja, was rejected by a nursery/primary school known as FEMA Schools because of his inability to read and write. Having been rejected by two employers, he had to be reposted by Abuja NYSC to a bakery, pending the final determination of his case by the NYSC. It was not surprising.
The Senate of ESUT subsequently announced the withdrawal of the first degree certificates of the trio (who were said to be part of the 2012 Batch B) for demonstrating a lack of “academic competence and intelligence-level expected of a genuine Nigerian graduate.”The affected students, according to the university authorities, are Nwankwo Elias Chukwuebuka, code number NG/11B/1660, B.Sc Electrical/Electronics with call-up No. NYSC/EST/2011/177093; Mba, Linda Alumnae, code number LA/11B/5245, B.Sc Electrical/Electronics, call-up number NYSC/EST/2011/178882 with matriculation number ESUT/2005/96998; and Okochi Adaeze Kate, code number AD/12B/0389, B.Sc geography and Meteorology with call-up No. NYSC/ ESUT/2012/148292, matriculation number ESUT/2006/10400.
“The general public is hereby informed that following the reports of the investigation panels set up by the National Universities Commission, NUC, and the university on the matter, the ESUT Senate at its 239th regular meeting held on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, received and considered the reports of the investigation panels and upheld that the certificates issued to the above-named persons be withdrawn and have therefore been withdrawn,” the university stated in a public notice.
Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world. From an estimated 42.5 million people in 1960, its population has grown to 200 million people in 2018. According to the United Nations’ projections, by 2050 the country will be populated with 399 million people and that is not good news for the country’s education sector in which severe cuts in financial allocation for the sector have done more damage than good.
In the appropriation bill presented to the National Assembly, President Buhari allocated only 7.04 percent of the N8.6 trillion 2018 budget to education. The total amount allocated to the sector is N605.8 billion with N435.1 billion for recurrent expenditure, N61.73 billion for capital expenditure and N109.06 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Stakeholders argued that no amount of ‘declaration of the state of emergency’ in the sector can change that reality – and rightly so.
That allocation is lower than the 7.4 percent the government earmarked for education in the N7.4 trillion 2017 budget. The breakdown of the N550 billion allocated in 2017 was N398 billion for recurrent expenditure, N56 billion for capital expenditure and N95 billion to UBEC.
The Nigerian government has been paying peanuts and getting monkeys to look after public schools particularly in rural areas where it often sends hordes of unwilling and untrained corps members to teach subjects they hardly get a hang of. Secondary education has not fared better under the Buhari administration. In both 2017 and 2018’s January/February private examinations, only 26.01 percent and 17.13 percent candidates passed with five credits including Mathematics and English respectively; while the remaining over 70 percent candidates failed.
On the other hand, in March, WAEC had released the result of the newly-introduced February diet for private candidates with only 1,937 out of 11,727 candidates who sat the exam, obtaining minimum credits and above in five subjects, including English and Mathematics.
A mass failure was recorded in the 2017 WAEC examination. At the release of the general results during the 55th annual meeting of the Nigeria National Committee, only 34,664 out of 131,485 had five credits including English and Mathematics. Also, the percentage of candidates in WASSCE, for private candidates, in 2015 and 2016 was 28.58 percent and 38.50 percent, respectively.
Speaking on the recent mass failure in the WAEC examination, following the set up of a Senate committee, Senate President Bukola Saraki had noted, “I am sure the committee will work assiduously to get to the bottom of this matter and see that it is addressed. Indeed the education sector needs some reforms.”
Since 1984, Nigeria had won the top three prizes put up by the examination body eight times. That was in 1986, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. On the other hand, Ghana won the prizes on nine occasions: 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
In the eight years (1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2001, 2007, and 2011) that the prizes had been won by candidates from more than one country, Ghana had trumped Nigeria. However, the issue of Nigerian students sitting the O’ Level exams organized by WAEC transcends winning top prizes. Against this backdrop, the Senate had directed the Committee on Education (basic and secondary) to meet with the minister in order to identify causes of the recurring failure in WAEC.
That resolution followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Sen. Umaru Kurfi, who described the mass failure of O’ level exams results in the country since 2009 as disgraceful. Kurfi believes that if the trend continues it will jeopardize the future of today’s youths and the generation after them. According to him, in the success rate of students who sat for the 2009 and 2010 WAEC-organised exams had, only 25.99 and 24.94 percent respectively passed with five credits including Mathematics and English, while the remaining others constituting 70 percent failed.
“In 2011 May/June WAEC, only 86,612 out of the 1,540,250 candidates that participated in the examinations got credit in Mathematics and English. Also in 2011 May/June WAEC, only 86,612 out of 1,540,250 candidates that participated in the examinations got credits in Mathematics and English.“In 2012 May/June WAEC, only 649,159 out of 1,672,224 candidates that sat for the examinations which represent just 38.81 percent got five credits and above including the core subjects of Mathematics and English. In 2013, only 29.17 percent candidates actually passed the November-December WAEC examinations while 70 percent failed,” Kurfi reeled out the statistics. He added, “In both 2017 and 2018 recent January/February private examinations, only 26.01 percent and 17.13 percent candidates had passed with five credits including Mathematics and English respectively, while the remaining over 70 percent candidates failed.”
The jury is still out on how much of unity NYSC has achieved and what practical impacts the scheme has had on the majority of those that went through the orientation programme. While the public and the government are divided on the usefulness and appropriateness of the NYSC, the education system has taken a big hit so much so that, policymakers in the federal government are thinking of tinkering with the national policy on education to add what will likely be regarded as a miserable year to the academic calendar of students at tertiary institutions of learning.
The then Director of Operations of the TRCN, Steve Nwokocha, said about corps members and mass failure in schools: “The issue of having a mass failure is a process. Parts of the people contributing to the process are these corpers. It is an abuse to our profession. The government should stop posting youth corpers to teach in schools. “We at the council are against posting of NYSC without teaching background to schools. What we are saying is that NYSC should make sure that only corps members who read education should be deployed to schools. Our council is against the deployment of graduates to schools.”