Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Education in Cross River State

THE attention of the Cross River State Ministry of Education has been drawn to an article in The Guardian Newspaper of Wednesday, November 5, 2008 by one Banji Adisa. The article purports to accuse Cross River State Government of taking certain decisions in its education sector which in the mind of the author are inimical or unacceptable.

One of the issues orchestrated was that the State Government banned holders of NCE from teaching in Secondary Schools. While the intent of this rejoinder is not to join issues with the author of the article, it is pertinent to clarify matters for the benefit of the discerning public. The issue of making NCE a minimum qualification for teaching in the School System in Nigeria is a National Education Policy. The policy stipulates that the minimum graduation for teaching in the Primary School is National Certificate on Education (NCE). It is therefore surprising that there should be much ado about this.

This clarification notwithstanding, it would appear that what obtains in the Cross River State School System was not investigated before the uninformed writer scribbled his view. In Cross River State, there is a large number of NCE holders teaching in the Secondary Schools. The State Government has not relieved them of their appointment. Rather, they have been encouraged to improve on their qualification by taking advantage of various In-service Training Programmes available.

One other matter raised is the issue of Students Teaching Practice. The Ministry has, in consideration of the NCE being the minimum requirement, stated that the NCE holders, particularly those with bias in Primary Education should do their teaching practice in the Primary Schools. One begins to wonder what wrong is committed by the Ministry in NCE teachers in training being directed to the appropriate level of Schools. Would Mr. Banji Adisa prefer that the Students be given the illusion that they are being prepared for Secondary School appointment when in actual fact it is not so? Perhaps this is what the writer expects the Ministry to do. The Ministry is aware that there are some subject combinations in the course curriculum of the Colleges of Education that are geared towards teaching in Secondary Schools. Even at that, if the Ministry is not satisfied with the performance of student teachers on practice, it has an enormous task of averting the danger posed by wrong education in the State.

The second issue for which the State received bashing from Adisa is that of the issue of NECO Examination. It is unfortunate for the writer or any one at all to allude that Cross River State Government is rejecting NECO or has banned it. This is rather an unsubstantiated allegation which has no bearing with the fact on ground. The State Government is not unaware that NECO is a product of National Legislation.

It is also very clear that our 1999 Constitution places education on the concurrent list. In spite of this, we make bold to state that NECO is not outlawed in Cross River State. What obtains is that students in public Schools are directed to write NECO SSCE as private candidates. This decision was informed by the timing of WAEC and NECO Examinations which consumes more than two months of the third term, utilizing both human and material resources. This is actually part of a comprehensive strategic plan by the Ministry aimed at actualizing Quality Control and Quality Assurance in the School System. These measures, since their introduction have enabled us to keep track of our students' performance using West African Examinations Council (WAEC) Senior Schools Certificate Examination as yardsticks. In addition, we have also witnessed very impressive reduction in incident of examination mal-practices with a corresponding improvement in the performance of students.

It may be necessary to state here that contrary to the view expressed in the article under reference, the Cross River University of Technology was directed to accept NECO when combined with WAEC. Perhaps, investigative journalism was ignored by the writer. It may interest anybody who cares to know that in the recent recruitment of non-teaching staff by the State Secondary and Technical Education Boards respectively, no candidate was discriminated against on account of NECO qualification.

The fact that Universities now conduct aptitude tests after JAMB UME is a pointer to the loss of confidence by stakeholders in some of the examining bodies. However, the adage that he who pays the piper dictates the tune has not changed. The State Government has made a choice of which examination it would pay for its indigenes as part of its intervention in education and has directed parents to shoulder the responsibility of registering and paying for NECO Examination, if they so desired

What therefore has emanated from the Cross River State is a positive signal rather than "a dangerous signal". The Ministry is resolute in ensuring that the graduates of its education process are such that will compete favourably with others anywhere in the world. The choice is ours whether quantity or quality. The State has opted for the latter and it hopes to sustain it.