The Parody of Nigerian Education and the Alternative Search for Foreign Certificate: Whither the Hope of a Better Future? (Part II)
There are two ways masters and PhD programmes are conducted abroad. These are the course work combined with research and the research option alone. For programmes based on course and research work, the course work part may require class presentation, submission of term papers, written mid-term exams and final exams which may assume the form of a take home, written examination or submission. To make class presentation, it is anticipated that sincere scholarly effort be committed in researching the topic to be discussed and that the output be presented to the class either using a power point or making oral presentation. With the power point, the presenter is expected to make use of his words and not those lifted from other unacknowledged sources. To those having one-leg-in and the other one out, lifting from the internet is one option to get this done, and to those with language deficiency, same applies. To those whose financial wellness has taken them away from classes, soliciting the assistance of others to get this at a premium is about their last resort. With submitted term papers, take home examinations, those who rely on the thesis mill may easily have their ways. And of course, the earlier two set of students can make do with this alternative. So, the success level at this stage will imply a success level with the course work, because in most foreign universities, the continuous assessment often constitutes 60 to 70% of the whole grading exercise. The politics of teacher’s evaluation by students, in some instances, may be to the vantage of this category of students, because the teachers, particularly those on contract, will need to rob the students’ back for them to have their contracts renewed. This is a general survey and possibilities which may affect the categories of foreign certificate seekers highlighted above. What is being contested should not be taken as being generalizing or as a sweeping one, but as one of those possibilities which might affect the categories of Nigerian students thus identified in this article. At this stage, it will be more apposite to mention some practical examples of how and what our people to earn a doctorate. This will be done within the precincts of some scholarly findings and official statements on what people to earn higher degrees.
Datuk Ong Tee Keat, of Higher Education Ministry in one of the Asian countries was reported to confirm the ministry’s awareness of what was reported as, ‘hundreds of master’s and PhD students are getting “professional thesis writers” to pen their thesis. As reported, he further lamented, that there was nothing his ministry could do because ‘educational institutions were not complaining about it. (New Straits, December, 2007). Jean Snedegar in a more revealing study observes that, 4 out of 10 students rely on scissor and paste scholarship to earn a degree while Coastal Carolina University intimates one with the use of Paper Mills and internet to write a thesis, term paper and PhD dissertations. It is also thought provoking to observe whistleblower telling the BBC that academics were being encouraged to give foreign postgraduate students special treatment because they pay higher fees. Though these studies do not mention what our people do to earn foreign certificates, but, contact with time and people will bear this in the specifics. A senior colleague who is a stickler for fact and academic integrity once told me of some Nigerian law students who solicited the assistance of those in sciences to write their dissertation. These beneficiaries, some of them are those who switched from one instructional medium to another. There was even a more pathetic story of a brilliant doctorate candidate whose help was sought to write a PhD dissertation. The guy who pleaded for help told his prospective contract writer of a new job he just got in one of the financial institutions and that this will affect his commitment to his thesis. This was his excuse for seeking someone’s help. More recently, another doctorate student who had once boasted before a gathering of Nigerians that there is a thin line between research and plagiarism is reported to be on the vigorous search for contract dissertation writers. What was initially kept a high profile secret eventually became a known fact as some individuals who could not stomach this made this known to other critical minds. A curious mind will want to know why such student is so bold as to make known his intension. The possible factors may be that he has seen it as culture within the fold or that some of his friends offer such favour. It might also be that he is cognizant of his friends’ connectedness to some quarters which offer such service. Also, there is the possibility that he may feel his friends will treat this undisclosed, perhaps because they have skeletons in their cupboards as well.
On another occasion, friends in the US, UK and elsewhere, have also narrated how they work lengthy hours to see things go well for them as students. Although they have never confessed their involvement in dirty deals, it is more likely that they cannot make the best out of their studies in terms of high level academic achievements. Some of them are known to have concluded their PhDs’ under one and half years. With their engagements as full-time or part-time workers, who spend about six hours at work, one can easily compute the actual number of days which they have actually used for their studies. Given room for the factors of tolerance in my computation, as engineers will do, they have actually spent less than a year for their PhDs’. Mind you, these are those, whose majority we have on the one hand, earlier analyzed to be under the availables and not the desirables and on the other, whom we have considered under category D as stray students. One may not need to be an expert before it can be said that such degrees are a mere glorified higher studies. Things of this sort happen from time to time and there are also those who have merely earned their PhDs’ by colluding with supervisors as it is with the German experience. As reported in one of the editions of Time, in Germany where about 25, 000 doctorates are produced in a year, students’ were reported to have offered their supervisors a staggering amount ranging from €4000 to €20,000 in order to earn a doctorate. A comparable and more condescending incidence happens in China, where besides parting with money, female student will have to do what a famous Nigerian singer called ‘back-for-ground,’ that is, sexual gratification.
In spite of all the instances so far highlighted, it will be unfair not to salute the commitment of young avid Nigerian scholars whose sojourn abroad to earn higher degree offer glimpse of hope. There are a number of them who truly deserve what they have earned, but, what is their percentage when compared to those who are not supposed to dream of bagging a PhD, how much more travelling abroad to do that.
One’s main apprehension should not be about those who have gotten what is least deserved, but, the fear that some of these empty heads and false bearers of a respectable academic degree are finding their ways into the system back home. The Nigerian deification of foreign certificates, the unattractiveness of the system to first class brains, the man-know-man and perhaps quota factor will make it easy for these fake and incompetent chaps to penetrate our system. This foretells a more devastating doom for our system as it will be eventually suffocated to death by these unwanted heads. A rescue plan is therefore taxing and all stakeholders must collaborate to check this epidemic.
Government and university authorities must therefore stand up to this challenge by investing heavily in the pursuit of doctorate programmes. In
this regards, it is suggested that funds such as that of Petroleum Trust fund which is now serving this purpose should be given to those who are worth the investment. Effort should not stop at this, as it will be expected that each university appoints a supervisory team which monitors the progress and genuine commitment of those on the sponsorship lists. This should be in the temporary sense as it will be recommended that, as a long term measure, heavy investment be made in reviving our public institutions. If our universities’ libraries, classrooms, laboratories and workshops are elevated to meet up the contemporary needs and with condition of service made appealing, our universities will be in the better position to retain their best brains as lecturers. So, as a proposed long term measure, it is therefore advocated that aside the recently signed agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government, a master plan of development be drawn by the government on how to upgrade our universities to world class. To achieve the long term objective being suggested, emergency will have to be declared in the education sector and a bailout plan put up to rescue the situation. To this extent, it is suggested that a national confab on education be called, having all stakeholders well represented. What is to be done and how it should to be done relative to the expectedly scheduled developmental phases should be focused on. Based on such pedagogical hear-to-heart deliberation, a blue print to be implemented can be churned out. It is suggested that year 2020 be benchmarked as the target for achieving the proposed bailout plan being advocated. With sincere commitment, especially on the path of government and financial prudency on both sides, the chances are high that we can reposition our citadels among the world’s pride.
Government should stop waiting for strike before it can address the ills in the system. This will neither benefit the system nor the government because whatever comes out of such will not fully transform into a monitorable developmental fruits and resuscitative rescue outcome. The only thing that can move us in the right direction is to marshal a bailout plan that will make our system self-sustaining in all ramifications. Reliance on foreign schools or certificate holders will in the aggregate deepen our woes and further make Nigeria’s future bleakly because a sound educational system predisposes a healthy and developed nation.
With the revival of our universities as able places of learning, it will be easy for the system to monitor what it produces. And at least, one will be rest assured that aside using the desirables to do the right thing, the availables too will have to establish why they deserve to be given a chance. In the absence of the long term measure so advised, our system will continue to rely on the availables and foreign baked products, the consequences of which may lead to the final plunge of our citadels into the oblivion of existence.