by Simeon Nwakaudu
The 2013 May/June West African Examination Council (WAEC) Senior School Certificate of Education (SSCE) results released by the council on August 7, 2013 was a total disappointment to critics of the Jonathan administration. I waited for days, but the screaming sensational headlines were nowhere to be found.
Instead, most of the newspapers tucked the reports in obscure corners of their inside pages. Quick-fingered columnists and analysts found succour in other mundane issues. The results released by WAEC were such a shocker; most of them could not breathe, let alone sing the song of criticisms that have become a favourite pastime.
In 2011, the results were the object of screaming headlines and scathing editorials. Even last year when the nation had considerable improvements in WAEC and NECO SSCE, most stakeholders and commentators did not find it necessary to acknowledge that education at the basic education level was witnessing a massive evolution.
This is not about beating the chest, but it is about pointing out that in the last two years, the quality investments made in the basic and tertiary education levels of the country must necessarily yield the deserved dividends. This fact must be recognized by those assessing the nation’s education sector. Any assessment that fails to recognize the unprecedented investments and commitment to education by the Jonathan administration is bound to face the shocker most analysts are now experiencing in their hidden corners.
It was in 2011 that the Minister of State for Education, Barrister Ezenwo Nyesom Wike did the unprecedented. At the time, WAEC had released a set of results which was quickly withdrawn and another set uploaded. Rather than deal with the management of WAEC in camera, the minister had an open air meeting with the WAEC leadership and the issues were thrashed out publicly with journalists in attendance. The minister stated at the meeting that in due course, Nigerians would definitely reap bountifully, the investments being made by the administration in the basic education sector.
Back to the 2013 results as released by WAEC. According to WAEC, it released the full results of 1,543,683 candidates who sat for its May/June 2013 Secondary Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE). The Head of National Office (HNO) of WAEC, Dr Charles Eguridu, said the number represents 91.38 per cent of 1,689,188 candidates who registered for the examination. Eguridu said 889,636 candidates obtained six credits and above, while 1,074,065 others obtained five credits and above. The development represents a considerable departure from the past as 70 per cent of the students passed the 2013 WASSCE with five credits.
It is necessary to remind us what the situation was in the last two years. In the 2011 WAEC May/June examinations, 30.9 per cent of students obtained five credits and above, including in Mathematics and English Language, and in 2012 had 39 per cent. For NECO examinations it was 31.6 per cent for 2012 as against 8.1 per cent of students who also obtained five credits and above, including in Mathematics and English Language in 2011.
This massive improvement had been expected all this while by officials of the Federal Ministry of Education. Since 2011, Wike has reiterated in the course of every interview that it is only a matter of time before Nigerians witness massive sustainable improvements in WAEC and NECO results of SSCE. His confidence has always been premised on the quality inputs by the administration towards addressing the challenges of mass failures in SSCE.
I have discussed these key programmes in several other articles. However, for the purpose of this landmark performance in the results just released by WAEC, it would be vital to recount them once again. The essence being to inform Nigerians that this no fluke. The results will continue to hover at figures above 50 per cent. It will also be necessary to state that the main examinations in question are the May/June examinations conducted by WAEC and June/July conducted by NECO. These two examinations involve students who have been trained in schools based on the revised curriculum introduced by the Federal Government.
First, this administration has consistently organised Examination Summits. These summits have generated the best action plans to address the key challenges faced by students writing the SSCE. I say the best action plans were drawn up because the students, teachers, administrators, examiners, legislators and other key stakeholders were directly involved in these no-holds-barred summits. The reports of the summits have been presented to the media at two different occasions. The Federal Ministry of Education has religiously implemented the plans generated at these summits.
The intensity of teacher training since 2011 is unrivalled. All key parastatals of the Federal Ministry of Education have been deeply committed to the process of equipping teachers. Prior to this era, teachers were abandoned to their analogue knowledge, while the public expected superlative results. The aspect of training is being addressed. In the last two years, over one million teachers across the country have been trained. These training programmes cover Federal teachers in Unity Colleges and State teachers in schools scattered all over the 774 local councils of the country.
Closely linked to the training is the improvement in the curriculum. Since 2011, the Nigerian Educational Research Development Council (NERDC), has been motivated to churn out a curriculum that has reduced the number of subjects offered at different levels of primary and secondary education, making it easier for pupils and students to assimilate what their teachers who now have better capacity are teaching them.
It was in 2011 that Wike set in motion the process of re-awakening the Federal Inspectorate Service. It was hitherto weak and its performance was below par. He also met repeatedly with Education Commissioners and got to their buy-in to strengthen their respective inspectorate divisions. The outcome has been that teachers and principals are now on their toes, delivering on their respective mandates. The education inspectors are on the field again and the lazy teacher will no longer have it his/her way.
The massive infrastructural development at the basic education level has given stakeholders the confidence to put in their best in the quest to revive the sector. The rebuilding work has been collective, from the local government, through to the states, up to the Federal level. Even though the states and local councils are yet to fully commit themselves as basic education is specifically under their purview, more states are gradually getting to match the pace of the Federal Government as regards investments in basic education.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Simeon Nwakaudu is the Special Assistant (Media) to Minister of State for Education.