Nigerian Education in Perspective: Problems and Prospects (Part 3) by Prof Adebisi Adewole

Pupils at a public elementary school, Kwara State

Post-UME Tests and consequences on University intakes

As mentioned earlier, University funding has dwindled to the lowest as less attention continues to be paid to higher education, and there are no motivations for private organisations to sponsor academic research. Universities therefore have become desperate to generate fund to be sustainable by imposing Post-University Matriculation Screening Tests (Post-UME) on applicants. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) was opposed to the move by universities and accused them of using the tests as a money-making venture and declared it unnecessary and morally wrong. The JAMB position evoked hostile reactions from university teachers, the situation of which led to a civil war path with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors with the support of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. University management and academic unions across the country, in turn pressurised the Nigerian government to scrap the university entrance examinations conducted by the JAMB. They accused the organisation, established in 1978, of mismanaging university admission process, which they also claimed was responsible for the admission of weak candidates at the expense of brilliant students. They argued that the central examination structure should give way to a system under which every university is allowed to set its own standard of admissions. The Federal Government in its attempt to mediate between the two contending powers managing university admissions further confused and complicated the situation by adopting a middle-of-the-road solution: whilst JAMB continues to conduct the national examination, each university was allowed to organise its own screening tests for school leavers who sailed through the JAMB exam. This unnecessary waste of time and resources and the duplication of efforts unquestionably amount to immoral imposition of frustration on young school leavers who are seeking admission into higher education to improve the quality of their lives and invariably the future of Nigeria as a country. As the issue remains unresolved till date, the Nigerian government must act more precisely by instituting a more user-friendly higher education policy that will bring the university admission process more in line with international good practices. There is urgent need for a quality assured, student-oriented process that will accommodate a better admission strategy. A benchmark is the United Kingdom’s Universities and Colleges Admission Services (UCAS) whose main role is to operate application process for British Universities. At the moment, and since a very long time ago, Nigeria has declined from exporter of education to the international community to a massive importer of education from, not only Europe and America and the rest of the advanced world, but also from its neighbouring African countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Botswana and even the Gambia and Benin Republic just to mention a few.

This is a departure from what was obtained in the past when Nigeria used to have students from different parts of the world. Nigeria’s higher education qualifications should be at a standard that it should be competitive at the international education market. The universities should be a source of attraction for income generation for the nation. The United Kingdom earns over £5billion yearly from overseas student’s school fees alone. They are able to generate this because of the high quality standard in their education. Nigeria must seek to create a more flexible and responsive education system that can contribute to national economic growth by encouraging the universities to develop core competences that will leverage their international competitiveness. Other significant non-economic benefits may include the fostering of social and political tolerance, mutual respects between Nigeria and the international community and the establishment of strong cultural and international business relationships.

Nigerian universities’ position in the 2019-2020 World Prestige University Ranking

The best universities in Nigeria out of the top world 2000 universities are University of Ibadan ranking 1055, Ahmadu Bello University 1787, University of Nigeria Nsukka 1811, and the University of Lagos 1944. On the African top 200 Universities ranking table, the University of Lagos, Nigeria came a distant 8th position, whilst seven universities in South Africa were prominent on the top ten, with only the University of Nairobi ranking 7th and Cairo University in the 10th position on the league table. The mass exodus of the best brains from the Nigerian academia sector witnessed a rise in the mid-1980s and has not shown any signs of halting. This has been due to lack of adequate enabling educational infrastructure for the development of a robust intellectual capacity in Nigeria of today. Governments, both central and state, must be alive with the new competitive reality and be prepared to reverse the downward trends through appropriate policy towards restructuring the education sector. Managers of Nigerian Universities must be focused and provide the lead and the drive to move up the league of world most prestigious universities. Government must work with university administrators to provide adequate funding for professional development in the academic and non-academic sectors to improve teaching and learning as well as research and development. One of Africa’s greatest, the late sage Nelson Madiba Mandela, was once angry with Nigeria and gave his advice in 2007 when he said: “spend a lot of your resources on education. Educate children of the poor, so that they can get out of poverty. Poverty does not breed confidence. Only confident people can bring change. Poor, uneducated people may also contemplate change, but it will be hijacked by the educated and wealthy……..give young Nigerians good education. teach them the value of hard work and sacrifice and discourage them from crimes which are destroying your image as a good people.” The Madiba’s philosophy for Nigeria has yet to reflect a turnaround as the country continues to dismally fail to provide hope for world class, the children of the poor have continued to be neglected, and the motivation to improve education and widen participation has not been realistic. Government must prioritise education as a tool for achieving economic expansion and social emancipation and take steps to support and improve Nigeria’s education system to be able to provide hopes and aspirations for young upcoming Nigerians.

Conclusion and Suggestions

Over the last three to four decades, Nigeria has witnessed massive increase in the number of schools, colleges, polytechnics, and universities. It, however, needs to be said that quality is not measured by mere numbers alone. It will therefore not be out of place to state that much has not been achieved in terms of educational development in Nigeria since independence. This paper proposes the establishment of a strong and sustainable education policy; and to achieve this, the following suggestions are proposed:

  1. Adopt the United Nations recommendation of 26% of GDP investment in education and ensure efficient and transparent budgetary provision for the educational sector. This will help to provide the funding for professional development and make resources available for the purchase of modern teaching and learning technologies for the provision of quality education.
  2. Declare a state of emergency on education in Nigeria to give attention to a robust revamp of the education sector
  3. Parliamentary padding of education budget should be a crime
  4. Invest in training and professional development of teachers (qualified teaching staff)
  5. Resolve the current JAMB-University admission confusions and institute a better, more user-friendly admission structure that will enable access to schools and higher education based on merit and not on political grounds.
  6. Re-introduce the Higher School Certificate of Education qualification to fill up the existing critical gap in the education system and to enable participation by international students.
  7. Build quality requirements into the system at all levels to include curriculum development, delivery, assessments and feedback systems, particularly at the college and University levels.
  8. Institute credible and transparent corruption-free school/ college/ university governance that will be capable of delivering quality at all levels.
  9. Devolve more power to schools and higher education sectors to encourage positive competitiveness.
  10. Make adequate recreational facilities available in schools at all levels as a requirement for the enhancement of personal health for teachers and learners.
  11. Restore a culture of respect for teachers/lecturers and pay their salaries as and when due without defaulting. Historians told us that the main causes of fall of the nations that fell from the first and second World Wars were complacency and indifference, until it became too late. The lack of will of the political class and the civil service elites to rise up to the challenges of a nation’s crumbling education system and their inability to institute strong policy to address it will always result in the systematic destruction of the socio-educational structure of the country.

These 3-part articles were featured earlier in 2020 on and permitted to be published by Prof Adebisi Adewole.

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