By Nelly Ating
If you are deeply worried by the reoccurring incidence of mass failure in exit and entry examinations in the country, you are not alone.
For students of the American University of Nigeria, remedying this embarrassing national situation is an opportunity to lead from the front, to give hope to despairing candidates, and to contribute something positive to the students in their community.
Figures released by West African Examinations Council National Office in Lagos showed that only 31.28 percent of the 1,692,435 examination candidates obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English and mathematics. In Nigeria, candidates need credits in five subjects, including Mathematics and English, to gain admission into a university.
The situation in Adamawa State is direr still. Research carried out by AUN’s “Students Empowered Through Language Literacy and Arithmetic” (STELLAR) project indicated that most school children in Adamawa State were unable to read or write in English, while they recorded even poorer accomplishments in math.
The AUN JAMB/WAEC tutoring initiative covers basic subjects like math, English, economics, biology, chemistry, and physics. “The AUN Tutoring Programme has been on for two years now. The first year we had 147 students, the second year, we progressed to 300 students,” says AUN Executive Director of Projects and Proposal, Dr. Fidelis Ndeh-Che, who explained that the program was targeted at students from the community struggling with mathematics and English. Feedback from participating students indicates the programme’s popularity in Yola and Jimeta, as witnessed by the increase in the number of candidates. Participation is free and unconditional.
The tutors are all AUN students who volunteer to mentor the candidates in their own strongest subjects as part of their AUN Community Service. Dr. Ndeh-Che said that the AUN undergraduates who qualify to tutor are the best in their disciplines. They are rigorously prepared for the task before they are allowed to teach. AUN faculty is involved in a preliminary teach-the-teachers programme from which students best qualified and most suitable are selected and provided with coaching materials.
The candidates appear to respond very well to the teaching by the students, who are often their age-mates. Being of the same generation fosters chumminess and bonding. It is like being tutored by an elder brother or sister who understands the candidates’ academic and personal issues because they only recently passed their own WAEC, National Examinations Council (NECO), or the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) administered by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
The Tutoring Programme coordinator decried the poor learning infrastructure and teaching in the educational sector. He recounted how some of the students who registered with the AUN tutoring program could barely read or write. How, then, did they advance to registering for the national examinations, he asked.
While members of the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API) recommend some vulnerable youths from amongst their constituencies for the tutorials, radio announcements and inter-personal contacts also help to spread the word to the neighboring communities. “Some community school teachers bring their entire classroom to join the program,” the Coordinator said.
For the AUN mentors, the experience is both fun and a social responsibility. Petroleum chemistry major from South Africa, Ms. Nomkhosi Zulu, who tutors chemistry, is encouraged by the candidates’ “strong desire to learn.” She complained, however, that most of her students had profound difficulty writing English even though they understood spoken English; just constructing a proper sentence was their challenge. She suggested that the Nigerian government should employ efficient and dedicated subject-specific teachers in the public schools, as this is a major challenge most of the students face.
Another tutor, an accounting major, went a step further in her tutoring class and followed up on their admission progress. Hasiya Gangwaso noted that about five of her students recently got admission into higher institutions in Gombe and Adamawa states.
She also shared her views on the high incidence of mass failure in math and English in WAEC exams from her own personal experience with the candidates. She said that during math lesson period most students had slipped away and roamed the school block; it took moral suasion to get them to attend their classes and enjoy them before they developed interest in math. She felt that they lacked dedicated teachers with genuine interest in their students’ academic progress.
“Some of the female students had given up on education; they all want to get married because they feel that is what the society requires from them instead of basic education…these students deserve dedicated and passionate teachers to teach in the classroom because that is lacking,” says Ms. Gangwaso.
A beneficiary of the AUN JAMB/WAEC tutoring program, Umar Bashir, said that he never had an economics teacher in his secondary school, so he barely understood the subject. But when he registered for the AUN tutoring programme, economics emerged his favourite subject because he learned a lot from his tutor. Happily, he passed his Senior Secondary School Certificate and is most grateful for AUN’s intervention.
Another beneficiary, Ms. Esther Ibrahim James, said that the style of learning AUN offers during the programme was excellent. She never knew teachers could be friendly and interact with students,
[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]because her secondary school teachers were usually harsh, even when teaching. Ms. James reckoned that the AUN program had helped her pass her external examinations, as she recently got admission into the Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola (MAUTECH), to study Information Technology.