The Nigerian educational system is such that it prioritizes results over potential. The cumulative grade point average, or CGPA, is the goal that drives many Nigerian students, not quality education. This explains why many results are not defendable, as students go through all means to meet society’s standards. They no longer study; they read to pass their exams. To achieve this, they go through such means as cramming, conducting exam tutorials, and taking night classes, while some even go to the greater extent of inducing their lecturers.
Nigerian students can go to the farthest extent because of a ‘5.’ The latter is a grade that represents ‘excellence.’ Next to it is ‘4’ which signifies “very good”, and in that order. Thus, the students need as many as possible 5s to graduate with a distinction or first class. It is for this reason that exam season becomes a do-or-die affair. Every available means is utilized. While I am not arguing against good results, students’ failure to exemplify their good results is not encouraging. This admonition is not for students who study their courses tightly. It is for students who see grades as optimal. They cram in a few days for the exam and replicate what is called ‘Agberu gbeso’ meaning, offloaded as uploaded. They cannot recall or teach what they’ve ‘learned’ over time. During the examination, this kind of student observes ‘tutorials’. Do you care about the tutorials? Lazy students see it as an opportunity to socialize; they cannot afford to spend two hours learning on their own. Tutorials, however, work for serious students, especially those whom you can easily tell from their consistency and doggedness; not those tutorials whose results are either pregnancy or rituals.
Night class is a common phenomenon. It is a technique that lazy students must employ before getting good grades. Such a student spends the whole semester partying and spearheading entertaining events, watching movies, and may not even attend classes. So, when the exam is a week away, they exhaust themselves on campus by conducting the night reading that they mandated upon themselves. The sad aspect of it is that some of these night readers sometimes miss out on the exams, as they often face health challenges as a result of the burdensome sleepless nights from the night readings. Cases of students being rushed out of the exam hall are not limited. It happens across all universities. This explains why school clinics are often filled with patients during exams. No wonder; specialists warned us severally against this act at orientation programs in my days as a campus fresher. Some students helplessly pass their exams, while others feel drowsy in the examination hall. You cannot cheat nature!
Still, another method that students use to pass and have good grades is through the borrowing of certain courses. The language ‘borrow’ in this context refers to the required and elective courses that students offer (supposedly related to their discipline) outside their departments and faculties. This system has, however, been transmogrified, as students (in some universities) now borrow courses without restrictions or regulations. You wonder why a mathematics student would offer Yoruba as an elective or why an engineering student would borrow music. They may not attend the classes before passing those courses. Having interviewed a number of students across Nigerian universities, I realized that such courses as music and performance, marketing, sociology, and some social sciences receive students’ registration. These courses are naturally easier and do not require much reading, at least when compared to some other courses. They become so necessary that students see them as must-dos and even advise their juniors to offer the CGPA ‘boosters.’ Let me reiterate that they don’t do these courses because they deem them beneficial or relevant to their course of study, neither for the purpose of adding value nor for the “sure 5” such courses offer. Hence, they forfeit courses that are related to their discipline. Those ones require a lot of time and effort.
This set of students is yet better off than those who clandestinely bribe their ‘lecturers’ to get good grades that they never worked for. Do you wonder what could have given students such audacity? Some lecturers are crooks. They are not ashamed of taking bribes from their own students, sometimes worthy enough to be their children. Before they are overwhelmed with blame, the Nigerian government falls short of paying lecturers with such low salaries that a five-year summation of it may not equal the monthly salary of the politicians. But is there an excuse for corruption? Definitely No! As if bribery were not enough, female students tender their bodies for ‘5’. They allow lecturers to take advantage of them because they have to get what they want by exchanging their possessions. Also, lecturers take the bulk of the blame.
This is largely a consequence of laziness and results in prioritization. Conversely, the economy is not such that overrates results aside from being a prerequisite for job seekers and a distinction between a literate and an illiterate. Prioritization of results answers why many graduates don’t find opportunities in private institutions. It is not always about low remuneration; profit-based enterprises don’t employ liability. The same reason speaks to why many public offices are mismanaged by incompetent personnel who find their way into the system through corruption, nepotism, tribalism, and favoritism. Many doctors and health attendants have become killers as a result of incompetence. These are doctors who graduate with good honors! Close at hand, many lecturers replicate the poor education they received. Thus, their incompetency is as clear as day. More so, they cannot give what they don’t have. So, instead of providing the supposed service(s), they render the students ill-literate.
The earlier the students realize the harm they do to themselves by reading to pass while not acquiring values, the better. Students should not be lazy when they expect positive results. People like Dr. Philip Emeagwali, a computer scientist; Dehlia Umunna, a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School; and global academics like Wole Soyinka, the late Chinua Achebe, and Toyin Falola, among others, wouldn’t be celebrated if they were last-minute readers, as prevalent in most universities today. Students should pursue good grades, but not at the expense of their creativity and innovative minds.
Abdulkabir Muhammed writes from Lagos State University. He can be reached via 08142957061 or firstname.lastname@example.org