10 May 2013


"Do not let mercy and truth forsake you, tie them around your neck; write them on the table of your heart: So shall you find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man".
                      -The book of Proverbs: The Christian Bible

"Examinations are not a true test of intelligence". Throughout my life, I have heard that particular sentence from the mouths of several persons including myself. Before we proceed further, let us define what an examination is:
"Inspection: the process of looking at and considering something carefully with the idea of learning something" From Microsoft Encarta
That said, if one is supposed to 'learn' something from an examination, why then are our examinations the way they are and do they truly test our knowledge?

From Primary 6, pupils sit for their Primary School-Leaving Certificate Examination commonly dubbed 'Primary Six Exam' and/or their Common Entrance examination. If the curriculum is followed, three years later the pupils now turned junior secondary school students now sit for the Junior School-Leaving Certificate examination commonly called Junior WAEC, and NECO examinations; ideally, after another three years, the junior secondary school students now turned senior secondary school students sit for their Senior School Certificate Examinations under WAEC, NECO and in some schools, NABTEB. These senior secondary school students turn Jambites if they want to seek higher education in tertiary institutions and they sit for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (JAMB UTME) where if they are successful, get invited for post UTME in the higher institutions they applied to. If they are successful there, they enter into the tertiary system where exams are written every semester (except in the case of the College of Medicine and some other colleges and faculties) for between two to six years.

After spending approximately nineteen to twenty two years as a student, we still see graduates who are just a few points shy of illiterate. The recent 'Oga at the Top' fiasco seems to be a clear example of that. Students are 'screened' and 'tested' so much that for them, examinations are not challenges or trials but feared enemies that must be destroyed. As such, students resort to cramming or as it commonly called "La cram, la pour". I do recall a certain passage in my JSS3 Intensive English textbook that said something about people who "pass through school but school does not pass through them". In our higher institutions, students are faced with series of tests and exams where the lecturers expect them to get distinctions. A student can get a distinction in a course but still have no idea of what it entails, a first class graduate can be put to shame by a first class 'illiterate' and the  question then would be who is the literate and who is the illiterate?

Recently, a friend of mine was engaged in a conversation with my humble self and she told me about a course of hers that she had researched online. On all the websites she checked, the lecturers made it clear that nobody was expected to 'cram' the structures of all the essential amino acids; that was the exact assignment their lecturer had given them.

Another particular annoying facet of our tertiary system is our general studies courses. We learn Use of English, Philosophy and Logic, Ancient Civilizations and so many other 'important' aspects of our culture that add very 'much' to our mediocre existences. If our courses are truly aimed at education, why do we not learn simple things that have direct applications in our life as horticulture and environmental preservation? Why do we not learn how to cook? Why do we not learn first aid? Why do we not learn even something as 'little' as public speaking? In my school a new general studies course Sexual Health was introduced last year and that has been one of the most useful courses I've ever taken in my entire life.
Our teachers claim to educate us but in my opinion, we are simply indoctrinated. Our consciences are held at bay by the threats of carrying over a course, our minds are settled uneasily by the premise of high social statuses. A couple of months back, I was fortunate to attend Prof. Wole Soyinka's public lecture "The Ritual Pursuit" and he pointed out things in our system which are no longer choice but ritual. The ritual of going from one level of education to the other without a pause for thought. The ritual of going to worship every holy day not for our personal relationship with our god but so our parents don't lecture us or shout at us. The ritual of going to classes every day even when we know that our attendance of such classes does not aid or mar our understanding of the course. The ritual of life itself.

The heads of our students are stuffed full with so much 'knowledge' that we ace our courses and get distinctions but where final year students of mechanical engineering cannot build machines. We are the generation of 'get rich by any means' and we see school as a sure way to make it in life forgetting the number of graduates roaming about the streets. We are the generation where a graduate of Electrical and Electronics Engineering works as a cashier in a bank and he is 'happy' with the job when our SS2 economics calls that classical unemployment. We are the generation of intellectuals and elites who only know what our lecturers tell us and even when we try to understand things or put them in our own words, we are failed for it. We live in a generation where those who question the set down beliefs are tagged as illiterates or black sheep and slowly ostracized from society. This is the generation we live in, where examinations test not your knowledge but your level of cramming; where the true test of knowledge are in questions unknown and unanswered.

We are Nigerians and our unity is in our diversity. We cannot change our nation if it is founded on belief systems old and better forgotten. We cannot mend our broken nation if we cannot mend our broken souls. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

"Do the right thing, transform naija!"
- Biodun 'Fashie Fizzie' Fashogbon

Ezim Osai

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