Heart of Arts

‘I had 5’, ‘he gave me 1’: a norm or a reality?

Abdulkabir Muhammed

Examinations and results seasons come with an entirely different atmosphere in a university environment. Elsewhere, an examination is defined as the evaluation of the understanding of the knowledge of a person. It is a formal test of a person’s knowledge of a particular topic(s). Therefore, it is unlike other days when a lecturer goes to class to teach a few.

In Nigeria, it is common thing among students to designate an examination period as reading time. Hence, they want to cover ten or more topics in two days. This is contrary to the ideal practice of serious students who maximize the whole semester (some even read during holidays ahead of the semester) reading, while a week before their examination serves the purpose of revision. Such a student passes their exams with flying colours. In the university, unlike the secondary school, lecturers hardly chide nor flog students for disobedience or poor performance; the exams’ results are the invisible disciplinarians. So, when the results are out, you find the brilliant ones smiling at what they have put forward, and the two-day readers alike (if they found the favor of the lecturer). In this case, they got the 4s and 5s in their results. If, however, they’ve got a low grade like a ‘2’ or below it is the lecturers who gave them, not their score. Put simply, when students are asked about their results, their response is: ‘I had ‘5” and if on the contrary, ‘he gave me ‘2.”

I understand some lecturers fail students. This could be a result of laziness: some lecturers don’t mark the students’ scripts because there is no time to mark too many scripts when he had papers and conferences to write or attend. At that, random estimation takes justice. Some lecturers even define excellence by the number of pages the students used to attempt questions, not minding the quality of the content therein. This explains why some ‘smart students’ score higher than the ‘stupid ones’ by repeating questions in the middle of their answers; after all, they have used five pages of the booklet for ‘just’ one question that the lecturer(s) would not read.

Another reason for students’ failure amounts to their refusal to succumb to the will of their lecturers. This oftentimes has to do with the female gender. Sadly, some lecturers prefer dumb girls who would present their bodies as bait to score high grades. Otherwise, when a fish appears difficult to be entrapped, there is another powerful bait—the exam. Shamelessly, you hear some ‘trainers of Nigeria’s leaders of tomorrow’ uttering such statements as; We shall meet in the exam. Do you wonder why threatened students find it difficult to report to the necessary department? they are afraid of future reverberations from other members of the team.

Another cause of students’ failure is lecturers’ impatience. Although it is inappropriate for Nigeria’s educational system to employ a few lecturers in public universities, and thus unhygienic for a lecturer to be asked to mark 300 (or more than) scripts across all levels in the department,—as prevalent in most Nigerian universities—mistakes sometimes occur during exam recording and uploading where students who originally get better grades are given a lower grade and might (innocently) have to carry such course over in the following session.
It is natural to want to justify one’s inadequacies. Like a Yoruba adage goes: ‘Omo tí ó da ní tí Bàbá, èyí ti o da ti ìyá e ni,’ meaning, ‘the good child is the father’s, the bad one is the mother’s,’ lecturers should be ready to carry out their functions with integrity and diligence, otherwise, they—who are supposed to make the difference,—would be worsening it by their act of indifference.

Abdulkabir Muhammed writes from Lagos State University

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