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Tuesday, 16 September 2014


We have all terminated our artful grieving over the ‘national tragedy’ which many fake tears label the mass failure of our children in the May/June 2014 West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, WASSCE.

The result was published last month. I am only open-mouthed that many are ‘wailing’ over the ‘death’ of our educational system as if it is a recent disaster. But what
and whom are the ‘bereaved’ blaming? Traditionally, the first criminal is the bugaboo called ‘poor funding’. The second spectre is the legendary ‘teachers are not serious’. The third is the ubiquitous ‘dearth of instructional materials’. The fourth is that ‘parents and guardians are consumed by pursuit of money and materials and, so, never have time to inspect their children or wards’ note books, or to help them with their assignments’. As far as the blame sharers are concerned, our children are blameless. I agree that we must guide and guard our children, but……

Please, answer these questions: is there any parent or guardian in Nigeria who has ever registered his or her child or ward in the English Premier League Grammar School here in Nigeria? What about Chelsea Football Club Comprehensive College, or Inter Milan High School, or Barcelona International High School or Real Madrid Community High School?

Is there any parent who taught his or her child or ward to ‘cram’ the lessons called “Lionel Messi”, or “Christiano Ronaldo”, or “Luis Suarev”, or “Neymar” or “Arsene Wenger”, or “Sir Alex Ferguson”, and the ‘Bundesluga’ or ‘La Liga’ or the ‘Serie A’?

But the primary school pupil in Nigeria knows more about all these than he or she does about Nigeria! Many of them cannot tell the governor of Edo State, or of Kano State, or of Jigawa .

Many secondary school students cannot tell you the names of the capital cities of the cited states, or what a House of Assembly does. Many do not know what a ‘budget’ is. Many do not know what ‘democracy’ means. Indeed, many of them do not know the difference between ‘been’ and ‘being’. They do not know because it is not their business. It is not their interest. It is not their field of ‘specialization ‘.

What, then, is their ‘field of specialization’? I have already cited the football leagues of many foreign countries. Many of our children are versed and fanatical fans of many of those foreign clubs, and belong to their Fan Clubs and spend scarce money buying their jerseys, bandanas, bracelets, wristwatches, photographs and many, many more.

Then, there are Nollywood, Bollywood, Gollywood and Hollywood. I am talking about home videos and movies. The secondary school student in Nigeria is an authority in all these, a prodigy, a professor, a veteran.

What about music and dance? The Nigerian secondary school student can tell you when Beyoncé was born, and when she married Sean Carter, alias JAY Z. The secondary school student who goes drowsy merely by opening a text or a note book can sing along, flawlessly, the song, ‘Skelewu’, or ‘Show me your particulars’, or ‘Make I yarn you the koko’. He knows that TuFace has just bought a customised car, and has five children from as many ladies. He knows that Faze is working on another single, and that D’ Banj and Banky W and P-Square are a “Wow”!

Then, there is the internet! Even though there is Wikipedia, a great ‘school’, the Nigerian secondary school student would rather browse for pornographic or musical materials than for ‘amoeba’ or ‘paramecium’, ‘budget’, ‘inflation’, or ‘democracy’.

And the closest pal or companion of the Nigerian secondary school student is neither his teacher nor his book; it is his telephone handset! In the handset are many heavenly ‘games’. There is Facebook. There is WhatsApp. There is Tango. There is Badoo. There is Instagram. There is SMS, and many, many more.Away from the virtual world to the real, there is fashion—-saggy pants that reveal the anus—-and beautiful babes who must be impressed and lured with money, recharge cards, snacks and with daddy’s ‘ride’. Then, there is sex. This is a natural function but, to secondary school students, it is “fun”. Condoms are not available by miracles; the secondary school student must, therefore, look for money to buy packs of them because he is hyper-sexy and because girls do not pay a kobo when dating “guys”. Am I lying?

When last did a Nigerian secondary school student approach you with a Maths, or English Language, or Physics, or Biology or Chemistry or Integrated Science problem? When last did you catch your child or ward with a novel, or a respectable news magazine? He or she is busy ‘caressing’ a smartphone! Pinging! Chatting! Texting! Facebooking! Whats Apping! Googling for scores in football matches in Italy, Spain, Germany, England, The Netherlands, Belgium or France. All the while, he cannot name four clubs or players in his own country’s football league.And, then, cock your ears for the infinitely degenerate “broken english’ leaking from the mouth of the Nigerian secondary school student! It is ‘motor park 001’! Conversing with them in standard English literally causes them to bleed from their mouths.

“Penarity! Penarity! Penarity”, some of them yelled as they played a football game called “One Touch”, near me, one day in Abuja. “Don’t be silly”! I yelled at them. “There is no English word like ‘penalty”, is that clear? What you mean is ‘penalty’; do you understand”? Shocked, frightened-because they did not know me—- they adopted my correction.

But, even then, Nigeria has a long way to go to resurrect and reform and revitalize our education. We must relegate obscene materialism. We must be caught READING by our children and wards. They must hear us communicate in simple and standard English. I say this because many parents and guardians who claim, for the ‘prestige’ of it, to speak English to their children and wards, actually make it difficult for the discerning to distinguish their languages or dialects or Pidgin English from the Queen’s English they will swear they are ‘blowing’.It is not that any one language is superior to others, but the very wide distribution of English in today’s world has all but appointed it the World Language, even though Mandarin Chinese is spoken by more human beings.

So, to be able to read and understand the questions in an examination, and to know and communicate the answer and score pass marks, students cannot read! They must read. We all must read. When our children catch us reading—-because they are inimitable imitators— they will read, also. And when they read, “70% failure in WASSCE” will pass away.Until then, I am ashamed.

n Asowata, a former Editor with Leadership Newspapers Group writes from Abuja.....THE SUNNEWSONLINE.COM


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