Njundu Drammeh

There is a lot of discussions on the just released examination results of our Grade 12 students/candidates. From the 15,360 students who sat to the examination, it is stated that 14,755 do not have the requirements to gain entrance into university. That number is staggering. Whooping 70% per cent. By my calculation 5261 failed students failed in all the subjects.

Certainly, the number should get us worrying as a country. The development of a country is determined largely by the quality of its education system and what investment goes into it.

But beyond the statistics are human faces, faces of children who, to be fair to most of them, went to the examination hall to do their best, to really pass the subjects and fulfil their dream of going to university or some sort of higher education.

Visit Armitage High School, for instance, during examination period, and you would see the seriousness in the students, the burning of the midnight candles, the sleepless nights, the dipping of legs in baskets of cold water, the drinking of dark coffee without sugar, anything and everything that would keep them awake.

Teachers are also going the extra mile to provide unpaid tutorials and night classes. This is a similar scenario in many schools and for many students. And parents spending their hard earned money to ensure their children pass the exams.

Countless of the children without a pass or with passes that can’t get them admission into higher education are also in mourning. They are worried about their future, angry at themselves for disappointing their parents. They would refuse to show their results to others out of shame. Believe you me some of these children have dignity deh.

But wait!!

Are we pondering on this stark fact: that beyond the statistics are children who may have a bleak future, in a country and society that place high premium on certificates, diplomas and degrees, to get better paid jobs. Are we imagining the future of that society? Do we think such a society is “secured”? 14,755 children, added to the already out-of-school group, idling around their communities because they couldn’t pass some examination, a determinant of their intelligence or abilities. You think that would be a secured society. Think about it.

We must see beyond the results, beyond the statistics appalling as they are, and think about the human faces that hide behind each number. But much more, we must think about the consequences for each of us.

What or who is to blame, I don’t know. May be instead of finding faults, the effects, we should be thinking about the solutions, the “how”.

Many a children who have not been able to secure a pass in any subject certainly have other skills and talents which the school could not nurture in them and certainly cannot be proven through examination only. The best footballer failed. That child who is very good with his hands failed. The girl who is skilled at arts failed. The boy who aspires to become a chef and is very good at cooking failed.

The child with ingenuity but have poor proficiency in English Language failed. Their abilities are measured by some yardstick which doesn’t recognise particular or individual ingenuity. The “genius” in the child is lost to some examination because we “judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree”.

But primarily I think our point of departure can be the following:

What type of society and adults do we want our education system to produce?

Are we for schooling or education? For according to Albert Einstein “education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school”

Should examination as we have it be the sole determinant of our children’s intelligence, brilliance, aptitude, talent?

May be when we agree on these questions, and many more, we can walk back and look at all what have been wrong with our schooling system since independence. May be we can discuss about the value we put on “schooling” and how it has depreciated over the years.

Who is valued by society, the educated or the rich guy who has no certificate to his or her name but many feed out of his or her hand, regardless of how that wealth is required? You think the mass exodus of our youth to Europe through the desert or the high seas is undertaken just for the sake of it? Think about these.

We can come with simplistic solutions like take away cellphones from children, make tiktok and the whole Internet inaccessible to them, reintroduce corporal punishment (my body cringes every time I hear this), let’s revert back to Common Entrance, abolish mass promotion and many others. They are like harking at the leaves.

The body system is gangrene and unless we take a knife and cut all the parts to find the disease, any other approach would be a whitewash.

In every child is a genius. We just need master sculptors to bring it out.