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‘Damola Olofinlua: Will Special Centers Be the End of Nigeria’s Educational Future?

We all can complain till eternity that Nigeria is not working and the government has failed us woefully, but the last thing we want to do is to fail ourselves by refusing to act right. After all, we are Nigeria. While the government has a role to play in many facets of life, we all must consciously choose to do the right things in our own corners and not jeopardise the future for Jacob’s red pottage.

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If you ran a poll for the best secondary schools in Nigeria, mine in Ota Ogun state would likely not get a mention. So when people who attended big-name schools start to brag, I simply console myself that such a supposedly bad school as Ansar-Ud-Deen (AUD) Comprehensive College, Ota, made me and was, in fact, where I formed many of the values that have shaped my life today. Indeed, there is a lot to be grateful for and I appreciate the process and the journey that led to this day.

A school founded by Muslim missionaries, AUD intentionally cultivated in its students the values of hard work, diligence, and a consciousness of the place of the ultimate being in the affairs of mortals. These values were passed on to us right from the morning general assembly to every class and every subject. The impact of those six years remains with me to date so much that when the mosque opposite my house calls for prayers, I, a Christian, still recite the Fatiha.

While we may have been unable to boast of some of the best equipment in the world, we could boast of some of the most committed teachers that gave their all, despite the glaring limitations, to ensure we all became better people. Our teachers imbued in us the importance of diligence and commitment to excellence. Looking back today, I dare say their effort was not a waste.

In SSS 2, the class before we wrote the WASSCE, our school witnessed the mass exits of students who went on to enrol in private schools. The story was that remaining in AUD would only guarantee failure. I could not dare mention to my parents that I wanted to leave the school, so I read extra and managed to pass so well that I got the best result in art class in the whole of Ogun state – from this same “bad school”.

It was only recently that I understood the reason for the mass exit: many of the students went to ‘special centres’ – schools, mostly privately owned, that support students who were willing to pay extra to be allowed to cheat. In fact, the answers to the exams were literally provided for them. I was shocked to realise that this practice is on a whole new level as parents now look out for these centres for their children, and that quite a number of the schools that boast of their students having straight A’s are nothing but special centres.

With Coronavirus keeping many students out of school for months, the demand for special centres seems to have increased. There are more stories of parents who go out of their way to ensure that their children’s school has a ‘special package’. Meanwhile, the period when these children were home could have been used to study hard and not have to rely on expo.

I shudder to imagine how parents, big on the win-at-all-cost and the-end-justifies-the-means mentality, would face their children, who typically should look up to them in all things, to tell them to cheat in an examination. I shudder to imagine the impact these people – being nurtured to believe that the ‘how’ does not matter and that hard work is irrelevant – would have on the fabric of the Nigerian society. I don’t even want to imagine what future this lot would bring Nigeria.

And then the teachers! If any profession is worthy of being classified as noble, it must be teaching. These people mould an entire nation! To have them wilfully participate in this practice is nothing but heart-breaking. Picture this: these teachers would, on the assembly ground, sing and raise holy hands unto God, only to turn around to write answers to exam questions on the board for students. There have even been stories of teachers who refused to cooperate being fired, and because it is tough to get a good job in today’s Nigeria, many have become complicit.

Even the officials of the examination body are not left out. A friend told me of how a prominent secondary school in Lagos negotiated with a WAEC external supervisor to help the student in this ongoing exam. The students do not have to study anymore, everything has been sorted.

We all can complain till eternity that Nigeria is not working and the government has failed us woefully, but the last thing we want to do is to fail ourselves by refusing to act right. After all, we are Nigeria. While the government has a role to play in many facets of life, we all must consciously choose to do the right things in our own corners and not jeopardise the future for Jacob’s red pottage.

***

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

A creative thinker, content creator, editor and marketing communications professional, Oyindamola Olofinlua conveniently combines his love for the arts and technology. ‘Damola is a questionnaire par excellence, loves intellectual discourses and is attracted to geniuses. On socials, he is @Olofinlua and blogs at medium.com/@olofinlua

12 Comments

  1. Stanley John

    August 26, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    It’s quite unfortunate, this is the new normal amongst private schools.

    1
  2. Olabanji O. Odurombi

    August 27, 2020 at 5:40 am

    That’s the terrible state things have degenerated into: a hypocritical disposition of seeing the peck in others’ eyes while living with the log of wood that is blurring the vision of the beholder. And guess what? We don’t have to be professing Christians or Muslims to know what is right. We all have a conscience that is either accusing or excusing us.

    1
  3. Mary Oluwabukola

    August 27, 2020 at 6:23 am

    Nice and thoughtful.

    1
  4. Laykes

    August 27, 2020 at 7:52 am

    This is nothing but a sad reality. Well put together, thanks for constantly placing our dear AUD on the map!

    1
  5. Daniel

    August 27, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Awfully, the sad reality. I worked for a big-name school in Ibadan and during WASSCE, teachers that wouldn’t compromise were excused from the examination hall.

    For the values and ethics enshrined in us, I will always be grateful for my Alma mater, AUD Comprehensive College, Ota. The stories will be retold.

    Thank you for this provoking piece.

    1
  6. Vincent

    August 27, 2020 at 9:05 am

    The “special centre” reality is one that breaks my heart.

    It’s an entire industry with a large value chain from teachers, to schools, to official supervisors/invigilators, and worst, parents.

    Every time I meet a young chap writing any of these exams, I (by default) ask if it’s “ordinary” or “special”. It’s that bad.

    The players in this industry will argue why it’s necessary, or why it’s the system that allows it forgetting they are the system that’s making it thrive.

    8 out 10 undergraduates today made their papers through special centers. If not SSCE, then UTME. It’s very sad.

    Parents aren’t making it any better. How on earth will a parent pay *N150k* for WAEC for a child who can sit down to read?

    1
  7. Ayodele Bello

    August 27, 2020 at 10:23 am

    You have said it all sir. Nice write up.
    The Nigerian educational system is in a deplorable state. There is little the government can do when the society normalizes this kind of thing. The government has a lot to do but the parents have a major role to play in this one. The level of victimization on those who refuse to cooperate is saddening. May God help the coming generation of youngsters.

    1
  8. SEYI

    August 27, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    This is a sad reflection of the people we are as a nation. This rot cut across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria leaving too little corners with significant exception. We can’t expect any better from parents who their daily living cry foul. Try and listen to your conscience when it call. I’m ever grateful for my alma mater.

    1
    • Teetee

      August 27, 2020 at 9:53 pm

      Well said….

  9. Oyinlola Osho

    August 27, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    Thank you for this thought provoking write up 👍

    1
    • Mrs Betty F. Adepoju

      August 28, 2020 at 1:25 am

      Thank you for asking for my opinion as a retired Principal.First and foremost, the parents of this generation with all due respect have failed in every sphere of parenting.While l was in the Service no parent dare had illegal relationship with any my teachers to degenerate to cheating.
      Nowadays, parents can go to any length for this illegal called special centres.You cannot blame our dedicated passionate teachers whom parents see as enemies of their wards for good advice given to them.On the other hand,the external examination workers work hand in hand with special centres own by group of jobless graduates.
      In one word,the special centres should be scrapped completely to give us educational sanity for once.

      1
  10. Amaka

    August 28, 2020 at 11:02 am

    It’s sad to see us get to this place.
    I remember in secondary school, special centres were just coming up and some of my friends left to these miracle centres. Of course I knew in my house mentioning such was skin to suicide and so I faced the only option which was reading.
    We say Nigeria is bad, we look at young minds as the hope for tomorrow but with what is going on, hope is lost.
    This year is even worse as many of the candidates don’t care about what paper they have. They just show up because they are sure they will be spoon fed.
    What a time to be alive!

    1

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