IN spite of justifiable fears to the contrary, the May/June 2013 West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) has given Nigeria cause for celebration rather than the usual condemnation. Unlike in previous years when poor performance, missing results and widespread malpractices were recurrent themes, the recently-released results resonate with heart-warming news.

The most notable aspect of the results is the vastly-improved performance of candidates who sat for the examinations. A total of 889,636 candidates, 53.2 per cent of the 1.671 million candidates who took the examinations, obtained sixcredits and above; 1.074 million, or 64.2 per cent, obtained five credits. This compares favourably with the figures for 2011, when only 39.57 per cent of the candidates had six credits and above, while 50.09 per cent obtained five credits. In 2009, just 25.99 per cent of the candidates who sat the exams obtained credits in English Language, Mathematics and three other subjects.

It is obvious that there is a substantial improvement in the results of the 2013 May/June WASSCE. It is likely to be attributable to the increased attention paid by state governments to education as seen in the construction of standard classrooms, libraries and laboratories, the increased provision of facilities, and greater focus on teacher training and educational administration.

Praise must also go to the candidates themselves, many of whom have had to undertake their studies in an atmosphere that is not very conducive to learning, given the country’s many infrastructural and other challenges.

However, it is to be hoped that these improved performances come mainly from honest effort, rather than successful recourse to so-called “expos,” the practice of obtaining examination questions before the time they are due to be taken.

WAEC does not appear to consider this to have been a problem, but given the generally poor performance in the 2013 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) which were taken by the same candidates at about the same time, it cannot be dismissed lightly.

In addition, there is the fact that these good performances give rise to new challenges. With over half a million candidates getting the five credits, including English and Mathematics, that they require to enter university, the already-high pressure on the admissions process is likely to become even worse.

As the competition for university places gets ever fiercer, the positive values of competence and hard work will be overthrown by bribery and other underhand practices.

The federal and state governments must remedy this situation if Nigerian students are not to become victims of their own success.

One way out of this conundrum would be to embark on a massive expansion of existing universities as opposed to the establishment of new ones. It is a persistent mystery that Nigeria has chosen not to imitate the multi-campus university system that has been so effectively utilised in the United States. The University of California, for example, operates a ten-campus system with nearly 250,000 students, enabling it to operate flexibly and efficiently. There is no reason why some of the nation’s older universities cannot adopt this approach, instead of the expensive policy of building brand-new federal and state universities.

Another way in which the ever-increasing numbers of qualified candidates for tertiary education can be accommodated is to improve the quality of the nation’s polytechnics and monotechnics, generally perceived as an unattractive second choice due to the widespread discrimination suffered by their graduates.

This problem can be resolved by giving them the status of degree-awarding institutions after an exhaustive process of upgrading their human resources and teaching facilities.

Nigeria’s youth have begun to display their educational mettle. It would be a shame to deny them the opportunity to fully realise their potential.

Liveschoolnews wish you all on your success.

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