Dr. Victor Akinola is a Curriculum Development expert, former Head, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Adeniran Ogunsanya Colleges of Education (AOCOED), Ijanikin, Lagos.
He was also the immediate past Director of the college’s Information and Computer Technology (ICT), former national Public Relations Officer of Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), and the former Chairman COEASU–AMCON.
In this interview with our reporter, Akinola speaks on the challenges and problems facing the nation’s education sector and on many other issues and he asserts rich men children do not necessarily pass through Joint Admission Matriculation Board to gain admission into Nigerian universities.
The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) has concluded plans to commence the conduct of additional stable for private candidates in Nigeria from next year’s January , what does this portend to the nation’s education sector?
Let me say pragmatically, looking at the populations of people in our nation yearning for certificates at that level and its equivalent; you will discover that West African Examinations Council (WAEC) is carrying on so much burden. Since we have National Examination Council (NECO), as an alternative, I think, it is right and suitable to have January stable to make sure that people who yearn for the certificate and education get them.
The other side of rationality is that what WAEC wants to offer is to expand the opportunities for private candidates to have more access. By January next year, people will be having opportunity to make up their papers wherever there are shortages. The examination will be serving those in middle and lower class, these classes of people, ordinarily are only exposed to WAEC and NECO. The upper class and the rich have a lot of examinations they take every year that are equivalent to WAEC, so it only the poor and the middle class that do not have much opportunities. We should cheer up WAEC for this opportunity to give common man more opportunities to get better certificates, however, we must look at the prerequisite, wherewithal and it implementations.
For WAEC to have come up with that decision, it must have done it research on the previous examinations and candidates’ problems before coming out with the idea. If they have done that and came out with the additional stable to multiple access, it will be just be an opportunities for private candidates to remedy what challenges they may have with their papers. Honestly, it is a welcomed development.
So many implications are brought up here; you could remember the case of Bachelor Degree (B.Sc) and Higher National Diploma (HND). Despite the fact that we say HND is equivalent to B.Sc, in our various places of works, including government establishments, there are still discrimination between them. Institutions in the country have decided to run one as an inferior to the other, in terms of employment, appointments, promotions and others. My appeal is that WAEC should run the January stable in such a way that no institution will see the exam as an inferior one. It must standardize the test so that no one will be seen as less important to the other. It must be equivalent in everything with May/June, November/December and NECO certificates and other examinations of the same level in the country. If this is done, the opportunity will be appreciated, but when we introduce sentiment into it, filtering from its operations and provision, it will be very bad for us.
Many schools in the country are running British and American curricular and with the new WAEC exam, as a curriculum expert what does it portend for our education’s development?
Education generally is not for a community, whatever certificate one gets should be viewed from global perspectives. Therefore, whatever opportunity that can be provided to make citizens have access to better education must be encouraged because that is what we need when it comes to education. The question is that whether we should provide it in such a way that everybody should have the opportunity to access good education for the development of mankind. Every effort should be made to afford the people the opportunity to access education at every point in time. All over the world today, institutions are trying to translate knowledge and skills through open and distance education programme so that everybody can be able to access education at any point in time. There is no barrier to acquiring education again, either by age, geographical or socio-economic status. Whatever certificate you want now in education, you can obtain it from anywhere through the distance education programme and you can decide the pace and how you want those certificates to be acquired. Learning now is more opened globally. You decide how you want the programme to run, you are no longer restricted to classroom structure, people and school, but only restricted by your desire and ability to complete your programme at a time suitable for you. So, if education is as free as that, we must appreciate any opening that gives access and opportunity to citizens, either local or foreign.
Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) has become been having issues with candidates over the years and many people are calling for its scraping. What do you think could be done about the body for better admission process?
About JAMB, a lot of conflicts come up every time and it is about the individual who gives such opinion. My question, what does JAMB stands for? This question is building up every time. Why JAMB? The organisation has been trying across various administrations to strengthen the essence of its examination, but there are still questions to be answered.
What does JAMB stands for and how effective is it in placing students into various institutions of learning in Nigeria?
JAMB is more of rules than reality. It has been more of setting standard and regulation that serves some people and retains some people. All these are based on regimentation of the system and if one looks at it critically, a rich man does not need JAMB entrance examination to send his/her children to any tertiary institution in Nigeria and abroad. Whenever a rich man’s children have NECO, WAEC or other international certificate around the world, they go to any choice university in Nigeria and other countries of the world to study their dream course. If a child of a rich man did sciences at O’ level and he wants him to study medicine, he will just send him or her out to choice universities anywhere so long there is the resources to finance it. Nigerians are sending their children out of this country every day without JAMB entrance examination and many others are securing admissions into various institutions in Nigeria without passing through JAMB’s examination. It is only the poor people that are suffering in the hands of JAMB in this so call exam.
A typical rich man in the country can send his children to any university in Ghana, Benin or any other neighbouring countries with NECO, WAEC and other certificates and when they get there, every year examinations are carried out to test student’s ability. The reasons, we are doing most of the things we are doing in this country are still subjected to debates and questions. This national phenomenon should be looked into. The same national phenomenon brought up quota system, catchment areas and federal character in the admission process. We need to look at it sociological visa-viz the cost, especially when we are talking about economy that is ailing and in recession. These are some of the obstacles to the progress of individual and to our national development. Those who can afford the cost can get admission into any choice university in Nigeria without going through JAMB exam. Look at what is happening in Republic of Benin, Nigerians go there establish universities for English speaking and Nigerians are rushing there for education. So, what Nigeria could not do for her citizens the neighbouring countries are doing it for them.
Again, we must ask ourselves, how peaceful these examinations in Nigeria are. This year, those candidates seeking admission into tertiary institutions besiege JAMB offices and centres yearly frustrated just to have their registrations and right their wrongs. Registration and checking for centres were big problems. Yet we still have praise from JAMB offices that the examination was successful and peaceful, while the whole process was traumatizing to candidates and their parents. For me, I would like know the indicator to judge success.
The Compute Based Test (CBT) has been on for over three years and every year it has its hiccups, but, I think this year’s hiccup was huge considering what we saw on television and read on newspapers, where candidates were rioting and protesting about some challenges. The hiccups were enough evidences to show that all is not well with the examination.
Are you among those calling for the scraping of JAMB and allowing various institutions to process the admission of their intakes?
This question has been answered by your question. The first thing is the character in determining catchment areas for students’ admission. The catchment areas in admission, means that admission is no longer on merit; merit has been dumped for mediocrity.
I would like JAMB to supply Nigerians from its records, the number of students in Nigeria’s tertiary institution that got admission into federal, state and private tertiary institutions through JAMB entrance examination. I mean those who were drawn from JAMB entrance examination on regular programmes and those who were drawn outside JAMB examination. JAMB should provide us with the statistic and let us make research and compare the findings. If JAMB can provide us with this information, we will find out the answer whether JAMB is still relevant or not. A very significant proportion of students were admitted into various institutions in the country through what they called regularization, in order word, students who did not take part in JAMB’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UMTE) got admission by paying JAMB’s money; they have monetized the admission process. Let JAMB show us the statistics and Nigerians will be able to judge the relevance of JAMB’s examinations in the country. We should balance what we want with the truth and reality. This is time for us to be speaking out rather than continuing to deceive ourselves in this deception call JAMB’s UMTE examination. For me, JAMB should go. What is the relevance of JAMB today in our admission process? What is JAMB supposed to be doing? Is it doing it? If JAMB says it is a standard for admission into tertiary institutions in Nigeria, what is the significant proportion of students admitted into our tertiary institutions with JAMB entrance examination and those without JAMB entrance examinations?. I do not have the accurate percentage now, but the proportion is in the region of 45 to 65 per cent of students admitted into Nigerians tertiary institutions without going through JAMB’s entrance examination. If JAMB is telling us that it is standard body for admission into tertiary institutions why is admission monetized for some people and some institutions and other are left to suffer before getting admission?
As an educationist and curriculum expert what do you think is wrong with Nigeria’s education sector?
I think, among ourselves, some individuals are bickering around with so much egos. They scout to get to the position in the sector and become thin gods and discard those instruments that allow merit in action. Look at the statement of national policy on education in Nigeria, it says: to build a just and egalitarian society, to build a free and democratic society, to build strong and self reliant nation, to build a land full of opportunities for all citizens. All these, how well have they manifested into practices and actions? We just talked about JAMB, and the reflections from JAMB shows that it does not provide for egalitarian society. It deprives some people of their rights either based on environment, status, socio-economic background and others. When you are not fair and just, it cannot give us the best of what we stated in principle in our national policy on education. In Nigeria today, professors in universities and their collogues in other tertiary institutions are the one authoring text books for kindergarten, Nursery, primary and junior secondary schools and they have not functioned at that level of education in their lives for a day and yet they are the people writing for the pupils without any practical experiences. Go and check the entire recommended text book for kindergarten, nursery and primary schools, they are written by professors and over the years it has been like that. These are people who have never taught at that level of teaching and learning. How would they know better than those teachers who have been teaching at the level over the years, who have garnered enough practical experiences? It is either they are using their positions to deprive those with the enough practical experience to put their experiences together into contents and material for pupils at level of learning. That is exactly what we have here in Nigeria and this makes our system to be lopsided and skewed. So long as we continue to have it this way, we are not likely to get closer to reality.
Education is all about consultations and knowledge acquired through experiences, people in authority should reflect on what those in real practice do, so that they can put them down direct from experience to learners and not based on position and superiority.
Another level of problem in our education system is the proprietorship, the federal; state and individual who run schools do not care about the proper funding, running and administration of these institutions. Somebody will just wake up one morning, feeling that there is a enough money with him to spend and he will say, I am in charge and that the best thing to do is to establish a university in his local government because the previous administration did not establish one in his town. He will not mind or care about the manpower and facilities needs to run the university. He will say, since I am in charge as the governor, before I leave office I must establish a university in my village and he will put up one glorified secondary school in the name of university and we will be praising him. All these are factors that affect our education system generally. I know that, we have to spread and open up the space to have more access to education, but we have to look at the funding and administration before venturing into the establishment of any university in the country. We have to ask ourselves, whether we can afford to fund the project effectively or not.
When you established a poor institution in-term of resources and, materials, you are endangering the system and the resultant effect will be the production of half baked graduates. Do you know that, whenever National Universities Commission (NUC) is assessing universities for accreditation, they borrow professors for the purposes of those accreditations. They become professors of that university for three or four days of the period of the accreditations, this is not good for our education development.
At that height of professorship, someone will just give his personalities to build illegality, because they paid him peanut, it is very ridiculous. NUC should look critical at the accreditation of programmes in our various universities and come up with strict yardstick to monitor university’s accreditations. The NUC after accreditation should make sure it monitors those teachers presented for accreditations and those on ground in those universities.
One would like to ask,why is this renting of professors for accreditation taking almost a national dimension whenever private or public university is going for programme accreditations? This also takes place in the affiliated colleges of education, whenever there is accreditation process they will go and rent scholars to boast their chances. Whose benefits is our education system serving, why can’t we be just and fair to what we do to our education sector? Why can’t we be close to reality, so that whatever assessment we give, we will be able to monitor and move from there to perfection?
Some educationists are of the opinion that the abolishment of Teachers Grade 11 marked the beginning of problems in our education sector. What is your take?
For me as a person, for every height, we must create a step, so that we can go step by step, there shouldn’t be a gap in any system. The issue of canceling any levels of education looks ridiculous to me and it because of our egos. We know ourselves, a Bachelor Degree holder will not likely be happy to teach in kindergarten or primary school, despite the fact that we now have early child education like childhood care and others.
You see in practice, people feel they are debased when you take them to kindergarten to teach. If these are the kind of mentality we have, why can’t we justify the existence of Grade 11 Teachers’ certificates by providing for those who passionately loved to function at that level to provide for our children. If we had grade 11 teacher certificates, it is a step people will occupy, and we should know that we don’t have same ability and passion to function at the same place. Some people will like to function at different level of education. Some will like to be at lower level happily as a measure of passion. These kinds of teachers are not far away from the pupils in terms of age and others. Education is all about contact and relations.
Even today, people have started calling for the cancelation of National Certificate in Education (NCE) and if that happens, it will have a great negative consequence on our education sector. Steps are not supposed to be collapsed as we are doing here in Nigeria. People are supposed to function at every level and step in our national life.