Saturday, September 6, 2014

Education State Of Emergency

By Biko Agozino

The annual embarrassment of news of mass failure by High School students in Nigeria, especially in English language and Mathematics examinations, calls for concerted efforts by all to improve the success of our students. Although the South East states continue to emerge as the leading successful region with 53% success this year, the South East results are still less than satisfactory and need a lot of improvement.

Awgu Community USA is taking up the challenge by fund-raising to buy SAT study guides and run workshops for the secondary schools in their community in Nigeria. Since SAT tests are based on Mathematics and English, preparing for the SAT should contribute to transferable knowledge that could improve West African School Certificate examination performances in these subjects while offering the candidates a bonus chance to earn admission to top universities in the US.

This summer, I traveled to Awgu community for my mother’s funeral and I took with me, copies of the SAT and GRE study guides. On arrival, I worked with teachers in several secondary schools to set up workshops on successful study skills for the students. Surprisingly, none of the students had ever heard of the SAT exams but many were eager to register for the tests after the workshops.  Some of them went ahead to check with the SAT test center at Government Technical College (GTC), Enugu, to see if they could register but could not find out how to register.

I went to the GTC and met with the principal who gave me the phone number of the staff of the West African Examination Council in the Enugu office who invigilates the SAT tests at GTC. I called him and he gave me the phone number and address of the office that handles the SAT registrations in Enugu. I passed the information to the students and their parents. Here it is: Prize Winners, Independence Layout, Enugu, Cell: 07039023193.

Finally, I placed the copies of the SAT and GRE study guides in Awgu Zonal Library for the students to consult. I found that the library was in bad shape with leaking roof sheets, cracked walls and crumbling pillars (just like the walls of some of the halls in the secondary schools that I visited). I emailed the Senator representing the constituency (Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu) about the condition of the library, hoping that he would intervene to secure funding for the maintenance of the library for the safety of the students. The community members praised him for attracting the library and other projects to the community.

Previously, following complaints from some students that they were frustrated by the alleged closing of the SAT test center in Enugu, Awgu Community USA mandated me to find out from the College Board which organizes the tests, what it would take to reopen the Enugu test center. I wrote to the head of the international division of College Board in January 2014 as follows:

“Dear Dr Judith Hegedus,

May I know if you have any plans to re-open the SAT center in the city of Enugu, Nigeria? I understand that you used to have a center in the city but it was closed for some reason.

I have received numerous requests to appeal to you to consider re-opening a center in Enugu. Your representative, GIEVA, only operates two centers in Nigeria - Abuja in the North and Lagos in the West. This leaves numerous high-achieving students from the South East handicapped because the cost of traveling all day to Lagos or Abuja for the exam discourages many poor parents from supporting their children.

It may interest you to know that the South East of Nigeria is a leading region in academic achievements with the rare exception of having more female students participating in higher education than their male counterparts, compared to other regions in which their male participation do not equal or exceed the records of the South Eastern states in male participation. Moreover, the residents of the Eastern region are renowned globally for their traditional democratic institutions, entrepreneurship, sporting excellence and willingness to venture into distant lands in search of opportunities. This will make them ideal candidates for admission to US colleges to help to increase diversity and excellence if given the chance to access SAT exams more easily.

It may also interest you to know that Enugu was the capital city of the former Eastern Region and remains a central city easily accessible to residents of the region. It has an international airport and there are highly reputable institutions of higher learning that your representatives could collaborate with to provide a venue for the SAT exams. These include The University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus; The Nigerian Law School, Enugu Campus; Enugu State University of Technology, Enugu; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu; and the Federal Leadership Training Center, Awgu.

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to facilitate the urgent re-opening of the SAT center in Enugu.

Yours truly,

Dr. Biko Agozino”

In February 2014, I got the following reply from Kerry Quin, the International Program Specialist at College Board:

“Dear Dr. Agozino,

I hope this finds you well. Thank you for your email and for bringing this to our attention. The SAT test center, Government Tech College, in Enugu, Nigeria is currently opened and offers the SAT in January, May, and June.

We hope you find this information helpful to you and the students in Enugu.

Kind regards,

Kerry Quin”

Myself and Dr. Augustine Agu (an educationist who had more than 20 years experience as a senior program officer with UNICEF) had earlier developed a Successful Study Skills manual and presented it during a conference at the UNICEF headquarters in New York in 2009. We have shared our strategy with many officials but we are yet to receive any expression of interest for the implementation of our proposed action research for the possible improvement of the academic success of students. If you are interested in supporting this work, please contact us.


Chidi G Osuagwu said...

Ndewo, Dr Agozino! I gbalia!
Education is one area Diaspora Igbo can make cost-effective contribution to the continued development of their, otherwise, decaying Igbo Communities. And it is also one route through which some communities will out-pace others, in the long run, without those others noticing. Each communities should take note and take responsibility for the education of their people; like before the Biafra War, and all Igboland will become educated.

Ya gazie!

Chidi Osuagwu

Odozi Obodo said...

Thanks Chidi for your comment. Our people continue to value education at home and abroad and all hands must be on deck to support the noble quest. However, it is not a question of one community out-pacing another because in a democratic setting, the itiboribo from another community could be elected to lord it over your educated community. That is why we should always look beyond our community and advocate for all God's children in matters of education and social justice. Ya gazie.

Anonymous said...

Well done. Really admirable efforts you made there. It's been quite a while since I've looked at any old WAEC exam papers. I'm curious, though, as to how congruent WAEC English exams would be with the SAT - just given the different cultures that they each stem from. Whatever the case, it's good to know that something is being done.

Chi-Chi Uchendu

Odozi Obodo said...

Thanks sis, no knowledge is a waste. Just for the students to learn for the first time that there is something called SAT exams is an improvement of their knowledge of the world around them. The similarity between WAEC and SAT lies in the OBJ section of the WAEC English paper which is slightly like the SAT standardized testing. The new essay section of SAT also reflects the expectations of the English essay paper to some extent but I heard that the essay section may not be continued by SAT. If they learn new vocabulary while preparing for SAT, I am sure that it will come in handy in their WAEC exams and vice versa - WAEC preparations could help improve SAT scores.

Anonymous said...

True, Odozi Obodo. Gotcha. Well done, once again.


Odozi Obodo said...

Gotcha back, Chi-Chi, I missed your surname in your earlier comment. Great name!