5 REASONS NIGERIAN STUDENTS PERFORM EXCELLENTLY ABROAD BUT FAIL TO DO SAME IN NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES
by O̩mo̩táyò̩ Yusuf
The media often celebrate the impressive performance of Nigerians who graduate with a first-class degree from a university in Europe or America. It has almost become a trend and does not generate a surprising buzz, as it is almost certain that a Nigerian schooling in a foreign university is likely to come out on top. Unfortunately, this has not translated into putting Nigerian universities at the top.
According to the 2005 ranking of universities in the world by webometrics, no Nigerian university made the top 1,000 and only one made the top twenty in Africa.
The position of Nigerian universities in the world is disheartening for a country whose citizens blaze the trail outside the country. There are many reasons why this is paradoxically true.
- Structure and system
The Nigerian higher institutions have a bizarre system that is not only archaic but also kills the morale of its students. A good Nigerian university is supposed to be ‘tough’ and almost torturous. The students can beat their chest and brag that they have the fewest first class graduates and the more a university awards first-class degrees, the less serious people see it. Lecturers and administrators therefore put students through draconian processes like conducting impromptu tests late in the evening or deducting marks for offences whether necessary or not. Woe betides any student that calls for a remark of an exam even if he/she feels the score should have been more. The effect is that some students become uninspired and uninterested in the whole system.
Most students, especially those in the government-owned institutions, are only aware of the month and year of their matriculation but cannot predict when they’ll put on the academic gowns for convocation. This is because of the strikes that result in an epileptic academic system. If the Academic Staff Union of Universities is not embarking on an indefinite strike, it is likely that the Non-Academic Staff Union is.
The Students’ Union too sees strike actions as a first step rather than the last resort to express their dissatisfaction to the school. The occasionally interrupted academic system will no doubt affect the progress of the students and the institution in the long run. An academic calendar that is planned to run a semester for three months but endures a three-month long strike in between will consequently have an adverse effect on the students and cripple the academic system.
Corruption is like a virus or disease that, if allowed to thrive, has the ability to wreck down a whole system. Students in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions sometimes have to pay their way into security and sustaining their admission. After paying to secure the minimum five credits in the SSCE requirement, some candidates pay and cheat to pass JAMB examination and eventually do the same during the POST UTME Screening Exercise.
The culture continues when compulsory textbooks are impediments to getting good grades. Stories are abound about higher institutions in Nigeria where if a student doesn’t purchase a textbook published or marketed by the lecturer in charge of a particular course, his/her chances of getting grades are slim even if their academic performance is impressive. The adverse effect of this is that students become uninspired knowing that paying a lecturer increases the chances of obtaining A’s rather than dedication to studying.
To make matters worse, there are no checks and balances in place to monitor and prevent these corrupt practices. To report these activities to the so-called “Division of Students Affairs,” is to risk being singled out for victimization by other lecturers.
Still examining the issue of corruption is the practice of absorbing more than what a school can cater for. If a department has facilities that can accommodate 500 students but admits 5000 out of greed, it is clear that none of the students will be able to benefit from the facilities which will inadequately affect the development of the institution.
An institution that wants to be relevant must always be in tune with global development. Laboratories, libraries, equipment, facilities and other factors that contribute to academic development must always be updated. This can only be achieved if the institutions receive adequate funding. Unfortunately, Nigerian tertiary institutions still use facilities that been abandoned decades ago in other universities in Europe. While the National Assembly and other political offices are being lavished with funds, the education budget is pityingly low for Nigerian universities. To be able to compete with the international ones at the top, they must not be bereaved of funding.
- School-society connection
Nigerian institutions operate at isolated realms that totally disconnects them from the society that they exist in. When students graduate from these institutions, they are thrust out into a ‘foreign world’ like a fish out of water and therefore, find it difficult to operate. Institutions must always connect with the society so that the transition from tertiary institution to the workplace is seamless. Both school and society will suffer if students are not exposed to the practical society.
It is saddening to see students of Mass Communication, Building, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and all other courses, spend all their time in lecture halls as if they will not be expected to apply these knowledge in practice. Students must begin to feel a sense of professionalism right from their first year in tertiary institution. This allows the school to eliminate vague and outdated ideas from the academic system which will also allow the institution to be the authority in research and practice.
It isn’t that complicated.
The journey to making a university grow in strength and relevance is a long but feasible one. Students’ performance and the performance of institutions must be reviewed annually so that the administrators can observe where the institution is lagging behind. An avenue where students can easily and fairly interact with administrators should also be created. Finally, students should be exposed to the professional and practical aspect of their courses so that they can contribute immensely to the society and ultimately do their institution proud.