Nigeria: When Babalawos Run Our Education

By IndepthAfrica
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Apr 21st, 2014
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By Prince Charles Dickson

Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. Albert Einstein 

They have been dragging the matter, “write the test, no, we won’t write any test, its a ploy to sack us, it is political, and all the noise remains.” As a nation we are more pre-occupied with politics and economy of numbers.

The teachers in Edo state, to show that they were serious, initiated contempt proceedings against officials of Edo state Government before the Enugu Division of the National Industrial Court, following an alleged disobedience to an order by the President of the court, Justice B. Adejumo, restraining the state government from going ahead with the competency test for teachers in the state.

It will be recalled that the teachers approached the NIC, challenging the competency test, which also restrained the state government from going ahead with the test.

The court had also ordered that the state government maintain the status quo ante pending the hearing and determination of the suit, while the case was assigned to Justice Auwal Ibrahin of Enugu Division, but the state government allegedly went ahead with the test.

The question is why are teachers afraid to write a test, according to my friend Vin, on a serious/light note said, “its a set-up against the teachers, these teachers might fail the exam. They have been out of school so many years ago. They are teaching to make a living, nothing more. If there’s going to be an exam…it has to be set in advance, maybe two years or more notice to allow these grand parents study.”

It happened in Ekiti state, the teachers did everything including going on strike, and to think of it, Ekiti is supposed to be fountain of knowledge. We had a similar case in Plateau and Kogi states; in Niger state, it was ghost teachers everywhere you go.

In Bauchi state, a teacher was plying the profession as a hobby because the certificate in his possession was inherited from his father.

In same state another teacher who went to Teachers’ College in Katsina-Ala said the school was located in Katsina state not Benue state.

In Ogun state, the benevolent governor had to forgive teachers that forged qualifications and age declarations. Even with the whole crisis in the Boko Haram enclave of Borno one is at loss how a brand new car for a pass in WAEC is the best form of motivation rather than a scholarship for further education

The on-going WAEC has been overshadowed by the abduction of schoolgirls in Borno state. However a strange occurrence in Plateau state sums up where this nation is going headed.

There are so many issues to grapple with, ranging from security, to unemployment, poor governance, and health, but at the heart of it all is a failing and falling education standard. Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. In a phrase we are in trouble!

I was a guest at the Police headquarters some two weeks back, and the case is better experience than narrated. Some four young lads were in police custody for exam malpractice.

That fact was not new, but the news was that the kids had gone to a babalawo (voodoo priest) for assistance in the exams. After paying the sum of N5,000, the kids were given options of the type of assistance available

1.         They would be given a special pen: To this they refused on account that the pen may fail, the ink may finish before the exams are done with.

2.         They would be given a concoction to drink and with that a retentive memory was guaranteed: To this the kids said no, infact they were just not ready to read, much more retaining what they read.

3.         The jujuman gave them a final option, they could carry in textbooks on each paper and the invigilator would not see them, technically no one will see them and their deeds: To this, the kids were comfortable with.

On the day the English examination was taken place, the lads went in with several textbooks and confidently walked in, they were cocksure no one would see them.

The boys walked in, invigilators were shocked, other students were dumbfounded, and the kids went to work, copy, going through pages, infact it was likened to a research rather than an exam.

When confronted by the invigilators the boys simply waved the hand and continued, at that point, the police was called.

I will spare us the agony of the middle and how the story ended. But let me share this from the comrade governor Adams Oshiomhole “To underscore the problem, I came across a woman who, in the course of verifying her credentials, could not read an affidavit. Instead of ‘I solemnly declare’, she said ‘I Solomon’. Instead of ‘Judicial Province’, she said: ‘Onitsha Prophet’.

“’Judicial’ starts with ‘J’, yet she was confusing ‘Judicial’ with ‘Onitsha’. ‘Province’ is ‘Prophet’.

“We asked yet another teacher: ‘how many local governments are there in Edo State, list some of them?’ She said: ‘UNIBEN’. UNIBEN is a local government! I mean, I don’t want to talk about it. We saw things like these in the process of checking credentials, and we realized that the problem goes beyond ghost teachers, or teachers refusing rural postings, but that there are people parading as teachers who are not.

“We have too many quacks masquerading as teachers. And the moment I realized this, it was only natural that I had to find courage to deal with this human element, which makes all the difference.

I am not in support of the Edo state government, or any government, I am in support of doing the right thing, I am in support of getting our educational system right. I dare say, in the words of Oscar Wilde, education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught—while we grapple with our other issues, our educational sector is on a death railroad—is there hope, only time will tell.

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