Comrade Ajibade K.A is a WAEC/NECO examiner (since 2000) and an experienced teacher of English and Literature-in-English at Onaolapo High School, Ikirun, Osun state, Nigeria. In this interview with Hassan Abdulbaqi, Comrade Ajibade discussed problems relating to the reasons for mass failure in English external examinations, poor state of education in public schools, the misconceptions related to WAEC/NECO examinations and how WAEC/NECO examiners are being recruited amongst other issues.
My name is Comrade Ajibade J.K., people call me Comrade because I was once the chairman of all the teachers in this Ifelodun Local Government, Ikirun, Osun state. I studied English Arts for my degrees and Literature in the Masters level both at University of Ilorin. I currently teach English Language and Literature in English here. I was employed by TESCOM, teachers at post primary school board. It is a body which employs teachers.
How are WAEC/NECO examiners recruited?
The prerequisite for marking is that you must be a degree or HND holder. The second is that you have to undergo a training at the centre. They are compulsorily trained. You come as a grade crasher. You look at experienced examiners as they grade and assess candidates. After this training, you may be asked to mark twenty from the scripts in a parcel and the examiner may now give you the go-ahead to mark other scripts.
What common mistakes do students make in their English WASSCE/NECOSSCE?
Spelling mistakes and misuse of tenses. They don’t know concord. They make spelling errors which take most of their marks under Mechanical Accuracy. In fact, students always score zero under Mechanical Accuracy, only the brilliant ones score about two over ten. Since I’ve been marking since 2002, the highest mark under Mechanical Accuracy is 4 over 10. Candidates also don’t know the difference between common and proper nouns. They also make careless mistakes like beginning sentences with small letters, inappropriate use of punctuation marks, wrong expressions, misuse of words and using a adjective in the place of a noun.
What about following the rules relating to formal and informal letters?
They know the difference between formal and informal letters by definition. They don’t follow the formal featurs. From there, I see teachers of English and Language have a lot to do. We should teach them these things practically by examples and illustrations. When you are writing a formal letter, you don’t contract forms. The social media has also affected their writing because they write abbreviations that are not even accepted in informal letters.
So, students are the problem of mass failure?
When discussing mass failure, the government, teachers, students and parents have their share of the blame. Let me start from the student, they are very lazy and not ready to learn. They have been rest assured that they will get answers from the internet when the time comes. Some students are also living in isolation, not under the tutelage or guardian of anybody. They have the liberty to do what they like and they take their lives with levity hands. They don’t realize the reason why they are in existence and fail to maximize their potentials by spending their time wisely. They waste their time on frivolous activities. Majority of them are apprentices and they concentrate too much on them rather than learning in school. The belief in making quick money has also made some of them into weapons of the politicians to vandalize and destroy lives. My brain is not as it was when I was working in a private school because our students are not challenging. When I was in a private school, they thought I was a lecturer on sabbatical leave but we thank God.
Parents don’t buy textbooks for their children, only parents of children in private schools do such. None of my students in private school have a textbook, I am not tarnishing their image. They don’t have a single textbook for English! I’m supposed to teach and give them a take home assignment. The whole problems are placed on the teachers because the belief is that we only receive money without working hard. The parents have a lot to do in order to improve the educational career of their children. They expect the government to buy uniforms, food, books and everything for their children. Some parents even see teachers as their enemies, if you discipline their children, they come to school to bully the teachers and threaten them with their cultic powers (general laughter)…that they are going to deal with you spiritually. I don’t think these problems exist in private schools, because your textbooks must have been complete before your admission. Reverse is the case here.
The government also has a lot to do. I don’t want to mention any state because of the popular belief in propaganda. Look at our shelf (points at the shelf), you can never see a contemporary textbook. The government believe in building, infrastructure without discussing adequately equipped library, laboratory, no teaching aids! There’s only window dressing. In those days, when I was in primary school, about forty years ago. If you fail, you will not be promoted to the next class. If you’re science student, you must have a credit pass in Mathematics, a credit pass in English if you are an Arts student. No promotion! But today, it is automatic promotion in public schools! In Osun state, for example, public schools don’t sit for common entrance. They just enter classes.
There are no seminars to groom the teachers, they only base their teaching on previous knowledge and existing textbooks. Our knowledge needs to be updated in order to keep abreast of new teaching methods. Learning should be from cradle to the grave. The training we get here are mere paper work where a presenter reads a paper without explanation, is that a seminar?
And teachers are not well paid. Imagine the Osun state government paid teachers half salary for three years! The government like infrastructures. Imagine building a school for 1.3 billion and not being able to pay the teachers. Things like this discourage teachers because they are not happy. Then, they are not promoted when they ought to.
Not all teachers are qualified to teach. We have HND, N Power beneficiaries who are not trained teachers. Many teachers are retired and not replaced.
People say WAEC/NECO examiners cannot mark well because they have many scripts to mark, what’s the average number of script a WAEC/NECO examiner mark?
It depends on the centre you are to mark. In my own case, sometimes, I get 240 scripts, 300 or so.
Some also claim that examiners mark the first set of scripts but they just skim through others and award marks.
A trained examiner will follow the marking scheme strictly.
I once heard that candidates write the examiners through their answer sheets that they are not feeling fine, have you witnessed the same?
Of course. I’ve come across a script where an examiner placed ten thousand naira in his script and wrote: “I know I have written jargons. Kindly write the correct answers and take this money.” The mobile number of the candidate wasn’t there, I would have returned the money to the centre because it may breed problems for me. A friend of mine, Mr.Adewale, marked and over forty candidates wrote the same thing! This is a miracle centre, of course! He wrote a petition against the miracle centre and he was blamed. You see, he reported and later regretted. You get the blame at the end. Some of those at the council are also corrupt because they also mark and they already know these schools who pay them to perfect their examination malpractice.
Do you think the examination marking schemes are accurate?
Most times, they are. Obvious errors are usually reframed.
What else do you have for us, sir?
I would also want you to meet the officers at the Ministry of Education and ask what they are doing. Thanks for the interview.
Interviewer: Hassan Abdulbaqi is a language and communication coach and he’s the lead tutor at Flying Colours Language Proficiency Academy.
Contact: 08104431433 (WhatsApp)