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Why the wreck will linger



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Young Nigerians who wrote the Senior School Certificate Examination in the last decade merely succeed at breaking the hearts of many. Now, there are neon-bright indicators the next ten years will not be any different.


THE 2013  World in Figures report by the Economist estimated that Nigeria’s population is likely to reach 229 million people by the year 2025. So the West African Examination Council [WAEC] and the National Examination Council [NECO] can expect to have a spiraling crowd of young Nigerians who will go through their compulsory litmus test as they prepare for lives in the universities and other tertiary institutions in the next decade.
Already, a 2014 CIA World fact book estimates that , 43.1 percent [78,083,541]  of Nigeria’s population is between the ages of 0-14 years, while  19.3 percent [34,218,650] is between the ages of 15-24 years. That’s approximately 112,302,191 youth population out of the 167 million people the Nigerian Population Commission [NPC]   says make up the entire Nigeriaand indeed something that warms the hearts of global development experts who expect these young minds and their ilk all over the world to become the drivers of the new Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] in their communities.
Well, except that Nigeria’s young minds  who have written the  May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination [WASSCE] and the NECO EXAMS in the last decade have turned out to be more of knuckleheads than the intelligent minds who are expected to take on the world as the SDGs agenda set sail.
Of the 14,722,880 candidates who sat for the May/June WASSCE between 2006-2015, for instance, only a dismal 3,968,651 passed the examination with the compulsory five credits, including EnglishLanguage and Mathematicsleaving a massive 10,754,229 candidate who failed to  make a credit grade in the five core subjects to flounder on the precipice.
That’s a scandalous 73.04 percent dismal performance over ten years on the average, and put together, eleven years of investment from primary through secondary schools gone to blazes. But maybe it’s not so much of a pain for the poor candidates  and their guardians really. After all the huge financial loss of that misadventurerunning into hundreds of billionsis borne by the 36 state and the FCT which have all along indemnified the WASSCE fees for their public secondary school students in the name of free education.
And chances are that political expediency will continue to ensure that free WASSCE fee is sustained in Nigeria in the next decade, so more prospective candidates can afford to shun their books and lavish precious time and money on their smart phones and mobile devices as they catch the globalization bug.
The Devil’s Alternatives
Although academics and researchers are yet to aggregate the number of hours an average student needs to study in order to pass the WASSCE, for instance, Dr. Olumide Ige of the Faculty of Education at the University of Lagos, nonetheless,  told this newspaper that “globalization and technology have aided a shift away from the culture of hardwork and dedicated study which used to be the basis of exams success.”
The university don is spot-on. Nigeria is Africa’s largest mobile phone market and home to cheap mobile devices already, so it’s not unlikely that the next ten years will offer prospective candidates in the WAEC-modulated WASSCE and NECO exams an opportunity to squander valuable time on various social media platforms, thus  leaving them with little or no time to attend to their studies.
Already, more than 95 percent of mobile broadband users in Nigeriaa preponderant number of them youths–an Ericsson survey noted access mobile broadband on smartphones. And that is expected to ramp up soon according to Ovum. The UK-based ICT Research Company forecasts recently that the number of smartphone users in the country will reach 95 million in 2019, making it possible for social networks like Facebook and 2go to lure more WAEC and NECO hopefuls into their dragnets.
According to Africapractice, Facebook is the most popular social network among young Nigerians.  It is also one of the two most frequented websites in the entire Internet. This is apart from others such as 2go, BBM, Netlog, Badoo, Eskimo, Twitter, Nimbuzz etc where they experiment with blind dates, romance and such other less than wholesome relationships.
. “Facebook for every phone” was the page with the largest number of fans in Nigeria, standing at 16.2 million in January 2015…’,  a Social Media research website,  reveals.
Little wonders then that studies are now indicating that poor outcomes in WAEC and NECO-modulated   English Language exams are linked to the use of social media jargons and shorthands.
And when they are not flirting around in the chat rooms on the various social networks they visit, says that 80 percent of these rudderless minds use their  devices to listen to music while  67 percent use the devices for online games.
The distractions are almost infinite, including online videos. Watching contents online is also said to have gained massive popularity among young Nigerians with 37% of the connected citizens watching online videos at least once a week  IrokoTV, IbakaTV, WuraTVthrough the innovative Video on Demand [VoD] platforms. The VoD is a system that allows consumers to select and watch abridged video content of their choice and on the spot on Personal Computers, tablets, smartphones and television, using Chrome.
In 2014 alone, it was estimated that IROKO TV creamed off over N1 billion from not less than 500,000 Nigerians who subscribed to its video streaming platform. The other platforms–AfriNolly, DoBox, 9fix, IbakaTV and RealNolly–raked in another N1 billionn from almost one million subscribers at between N150 and N200 monthly subscription per user.
it’s no surprise then that the Nigerian Communications Commission  [NCC] estimates that Nigerians invest a staggering N447.8 billion on call cards alone in just a monthmuch more than they spend on house rent, petrol and kerosene put together.
The Evil of Early Education
Mobile technology. Internet. Social media. All of them possess an almost hypnotic allure among young Nigerians, so you may as well forget about any regulation that might be able to rein in these adventurous minds from getting lost in the murky global village.
At any rate, that’s not all that is perpetuating failure among the candidates who write the WASSCE and NECO exams every year. So is Dysgraphia, a learning disorder manifesting in difficulty in coordinating handwriting. Olumide Ige, Child Psychologist and Early Childhood Education specialist says this inability to write well is usually because the students probably have been introduced to writing too early in lifea trend that is fast rising in private schools in Nigeria where parents register their wards in formal classes from as early as nine month old.
Some, Ige reveals,  may not be able to solve even the simplest of mathematical tasks probably as a result of Dyscalculia  another learning disorder that manifests in fear of or apathy toward numbers, figures and calculation, or as a result of poor development of problem solving skills at childhood.
It’s an expensive proposition really, especially with the hurry among parents to start their children in schools early more than ever. But for the Child Psychologist, 6 years, or at the earliest 5 should be the appropriate age before a child begins schooling because of  a number of reasons. Exposing children to the rigours, the stress, and the methodologies associated with formal schooling too early in life, he explains,  robs children of the opportunity to go through the natural process of maturation and portends serious implications for them at later ages.
“The average child should be developmentally ready for formal schooling between age 5 and 7…children are expected to have their holistic development fostered as they learn through play, and not some rigorous pedagogy,’ Ige explains.
Not that they have a choice really. The parents are under pressure to earn a living, so the kids are better left at the mercy of private schools and most times, less than competent teachers to mould their future–the downside of which is dire. Psychologists say it is possible for a student to be affected by personality type that must have been manifesting right from childhood, without the parents noticing them.
For instance, an extremely impulsive individual is not likely to achieve good exam success because he is always in haste and will likely sacrifice accuracy for speed. He wants to submit ahead of every other person and has no patience for cross-checking his work, so he achieves limited success or fails outright since only accurate responses will be marked right!
On the other hand, an extremely reflective individual is also likely to have limited exam success because he is likely to sacrifice speed for accuracy. He wants to take his time to give accurate answers and avoid errors, but he doesn’t finish before the expiration of the time allotted for the exam!
“These are some of the problems that are traceable to the early years,’ Ige explains.
They must write exams at any rate, nothwithstanding their mental, psychological and emotional preparedness. But for the crooked minds among the lot, of course, globalization has  provided an array of mobile devices and technologies through which they always hope to perpetuate exam malpractices.
And where they don’t succeed, it manifests in the dismal results that WAEC and NECO churn out year after year at the end of their compulsory exercise.

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