Concerned Nigerians are agreed that the situation in our educational system is worrisome, and some have even called on the Government to declare a state of emergency in the sector for it to attract special attention.
Educational calendar remained stable with schools opening in September and closing in May-June with two months (July and August) as long vacation. That enabled employers of labour use this period as chance to offer early training on the job and win the students over to develop interest in their vocation upon completion of their courses.
Incessant strikes by both faculty and non-academic staff and student boycott of classes led to elongated calendar which eroded the two months’ vacation, and in some cases spilled over to the new session or semester with resultant delay in commencement of new session/semester for new students. The distortion created brought about an organised confusion in the system resulting in institutions commencing and ending sessions/semesters at different times.
Stability permeated the education sector in post-independence years, until the eighties when strikes by organised labour crippled learning in all educational institutions. The lack of uniform practices in the educational institutions in Nigeria from primary to tertiary level (universities, polytechnics, colleges of the education etc.) makes education look like an organised confusion. We need to conform with the advanced world in maintaining a uniform academic calendar starting around last week of august to second week of September running for 15 weeks to make up a school term or semester. some universities, for example start in October, others start in January, April or June. Absence of uniform calendar makes it difficult for students to seek transfers from one institution to another.
Frequent strikes by faculty staff and students boycott of academic work leading to closure of institutions dislocate academic activity with resultant lowering of academic standard. Recently, ASSU strikes lasted for about 6 months and now that they have resumed academic activity, no amount of rush work can fully restore lost ground with serious implication for academic standard of the products that suffered from the strike.
My prescription for containing the situation is for us to fall in line with most developed countries of the world and adopt the grade system of grade 1 to 12th grade for primary/secondary education starting in September of every year. Universities and other tertiary institutions should adopt the semester system starting in September and ending in June to allow for students to engage in holiday or vacation job which inculcates in our children the discipline of earning and spending money and opportunity of acquiring work experience. Reopening vacation job space in our restructured school calendar would offer transnational companies like Dangote Group an avenue for meeting their social responsibility needs by approving vacation job quota for students in the country or from the catchment area of their operations.
Institutions that lose up 90 days of academic work in one academic session or year should cancel that academic session because it is not possible to recover 90 days or more of lost academic work in one academic year. To streamline the academic calendar, those institutions that have 90 days or more to the beginning of the academic year in September should cancel the session and start afresh. September should be the starting point of the streamlined academic calendar. The National University Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Education should intervene and bring all concerned to a roundtable to facilitate the restructuring of the Nigerian school calendar for the good of all.
Delayed admission to tertiary institutions is also a contributory factor. The Time wasted by Jamb trying to carry institutions along contributes to the delay. Guidelines should be agreed and Jamb should proceed swiftly after examination and determination to cut-off points and roll out admissions. Of course, Post -UTME screening can be eliminated for the system to run smoothly. The present system of making credit in English language and Mathematics compulsory is a right step in the right direction. In order to ensure quality education, obtaining credits in English language, Mathematics and Information Technology should be made a condition precedent for the award of NECO and WAEC. With the new challenges in education, the general population is becoming progressively illiterate without basic computer knowledge and application in a digitalised world.
– Audu is a retired Permanent Secretary and Leadership Newspapers’ Editorial Consultant.