Left to our 19 Northern states’ governors and Nigeria’s Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, the over 1.5 million candidates that sat this year’s West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) would have probably waited for another year before taking the exam. We owe the West African Examination Council (WAEC) thanks for sticking to its timetable in the face of intimidation and harassment. Some people in government had threatened that Nigeria would use its financial power in the regional body to keep the exam body in line, that also didn’t work.

People like Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde should also be commended for being pragmatic and taking appropriate steps towards conducting the exam. He did that at a time when many of his colleagues in the South-West were still dilly dallying, not sure of what to do. The exciting news is that Nigeria’s 1,538, 445 candidates had not only sat the exam, there was no record of any of the candidates dying from COVID-19. What is more, WAEC has released the results and candidates’ performance this year has been impressive.

This year’s results indicate that a total of 1,003,668 candidates, representing 65.24% of candidates that sat the exam, obtained credits and above in a minimum of five subjects, including English Language and Mathematics. This percentage is not only higher than last year’s put at 64.18%, but the past five years.  Candidates need a minimum of five credits that must include credit in maths and English to gain admission to a tertiary institution in Nigeria.

Though marginal, 1.06% improvement in candidates’ performance this year compared with last year calls for celebration especially considering the mental torture that many of these candidates had to contend with before the exam. COVID-19 brought more than its own fair share of pressure. Combining that with the discordant views from Nigeria’s ministers of education on whether the exam would hold or not was unnerving.  At a point, Nigeria’s 19 northern states said their children were not ready to take the exam. Education minister Adamu also said he would prefer the candidates to lose one year than lose their lives.

Now that all fears about the exam have been demystified, I hope our Northern states governors and other officials in the education sector can now begin to see the danger in holding down the collective destiny of young children for flimsy reasons.   These candidates would have wasted one year for nothing. Analysis of the candidates’  performance in the last    five years shows that in 2016, the total percentage  of candidates that obtained credits and above in minimum of five subjects including English Language and Mathematics was 52.97%,  2017,  59.22% ,  in 2018, 49.98% , 2019,64.18% and 2020, 65.24%.



However, when we look at states with lowest percentage of candidates that achieved five credits and above including Mathematics and English Language in WASSCE in all these years, most of them are in the north.  A study of Validated May/June WAEC results for each State in Nigeria from 2014 to 2018 shows Abia State had the highest mean percentage of 74.11% performance and Jigawa State 10.08% attaining the 1st and 36th positions respectively. States that have consistently had poor performance in WASSCE are Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Niger, Osun, Plateau, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. From this statistics, it is clear that of the 11 laggards, 10 are from the North. 

Similarly, of the 15 states that have consistently had low percentage (below average percentage) representation of candidates in WASSCE, eight are from the north.  These states are Adamawa, Bayelsa, Borno, Ebonyi, Ekiti, FCT, Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Ondo, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara with Yobe having the lowest for four consecutive years.

Attesting to the poor records of performance of Northern states,  Borno State governor Babagana Zulum, recently admitted that most of the school leavers in his state are of poor quality and  cannot gain admission to universities. He also said those that managed to get admission struggled to cope.  That majority of the over 13million out of school children in Nigeria are domiciled in the north is no longer news. Although, the governors have been working towards reducing the number of child beggars in their states, which is a welcome development.

This notwithstanding, I am looking forward to a time when the Northern states’ governors will hold emergency meetings on the poor performance of their children in WASCCE and other external exams with a view to reversing the trend. That to me would be a better use of their time than meeting to endorse social media censorship or push any other northern agenda.  Rather than summoning an emergency meeting and wasting precious time to condemn a peaceful and legitimate protest by youths seeking better treatment from their country’s policemen, these governors should spare a thought for their backward region.

Let them gather together and give themselves a deadline and timeline on how to fix their education sector.  This is an urgent assignment. If they are able to get this right, they would have solved the problems of banditry, insurgency, kidnapping and all those things militating against the development of the North. As it is, the north is dragging the rest of the country backward. Northern governors should be more proactive in reversing this dangerous trend. Let the north apply the same dexterity with which it handles political issues to solving the problem of illiteracy and half-baked education in the region. As it is, the North has been moving at a snail speed while other parts of the country are running like a cheetah.  It has to buckle up. If the region wants a change, it must be ready to dump all the quota system policy that gives them undue advantage over other Nigerians. Their children must be taught to work hard and compete for slots not expecting such to fall on their laps because they are from a particular region of the country.

The emergency meeting that our 19 Northern governors should be holding should be on how to rescue the region’s education sector from total collapse. I am talking of real workshops not talk shops. Let them constitute think tanks that can help them proffer solutions to their challenges-people that can tell them what to do to arrest the backwardness of the region.  They should be sincere and ready to effect these changes.  If Nigeria truly belongs to all of us, we should be interested in its even development.

This idea of the North always antagonising the south will not take the region far.  Until we see problems for what they are and treat them as such, the country will continue to sink. If education is truly the bedrock of development, the north should stop treating it with levity. The greatest investment anyone can make in our youth is investment in their education.

By the way, the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has entered its eighth month and it seems our leaders are moving on as if nothing is amiss. Interesting!

Some of us had thought that the government would seize the opportunity of the #ENDSARS protests to reach an agreement with ASUU and restore academic activities on our campuses.  But how wrong we were!

Could our ministers of education have been enjoying their sleep if this had happened in other climes? Just wondering!

Olabisi Deji-Folutile is the Editor-in-Chief, franktalknow.com and member, Nigerian Guild of Editors. Email: [email protected]

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