Early this year, I went to South Africa. It was my third visit to Mandela land and like this one, it was official.
I went there for school.
No thanks to our rotting education system, we seek knowledge elsewhere. Anyway, not to waste too much ink, I found that South Africa thumbs its nose at our academic qualifications and our certificates in general. They are just not good enough for them; WAEC, NECO, GCE certificates are pooh-poohed; even a first year transcript from our universities would be stared down as not up to their standards.
No bi una fault o – strike today, shut down tomorrow, sex for marks next day, handouts from 1972 text books the following day…why won’t South Africans query our certificates?
So, there I was with my teenage son who had been celebrated for clearing his WAEC results scoring A-s and B-s and what’s more, he easily scaled JAMB and had been offered admission in a private university in Nigeria, which he attended for a semester…but he had abilities we thought would be better honed outside Nigeria. So we applied for and got admission into the choice course of study at a South African University.
We’d sent his papers, certificates, portfolio et al to the school, and he’d sat for the qualifying exam and passed in flying colours. After all of these, he was offered provisional admission.
We hopped on a plane but touched down to meet rejection!
First off, as a foreign student, my son’s WAEC results had to be evaluated at the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in Pretoria. We boarded the train from Jo’burg to Pretoria and at the evaluation office, we met a broad-sized man with an even broader back side (this is a story for another day, I promise you. South Africans beat Yoruba people hands down on the bum side of life)
Anyway, broad-man-with-the-bum asked where the kid was from and as soon as kid uttered Nigeria, broad-man-with-the-bum’s smirk came on.
You gat henitin hagainst ma people? I wanted to ask…but I kept quiet. (My egba speak was doing cartwheels in my head.
“How old er ju?” broad-man-with-the-bum asked the kid
“Nah, ju kent start jur university klesis, ju hev ta do abridge kas,” broad-man-with-the-bum announced–meaning- No you can’t start your university classes, you have to do a bridge course.
I lost my cool, this guy thinks I am here to play games; so I delivered two hot slaps across his face!
Yeah! (ok, so I didn’t do that, I just eyed him so hard he lost like 30 kilos).
“What? No way, we already got our admission, we got our NBT, we got our this, we got our that…” I began to recount the several hurdles we had crossed to get to where we were.
His smirk became a look of open disgust.
‘Wist Afrikan certifikates ar nat ap to aw greade twelve. So with dis risalt he anli kwalifia fa a grade elevin.’ (West African certificates are not up to our grade 12. So, with this result, he only qualifies for grade 11.)
He enjoyed the look of shock, then fear, then pain, then bewilderment that distorted my face as I struggled for words.
“What do you mean? Grade 11 is SS2 in Nigeria.”
“Wateva you kal it.”
He was done with us. He walked out the door, instructed we wait at the reception for a letter. I could only hyperventilate as I sorted answers in my head.
‘Oh no, you don’t,’ I heard myself scream after him. I leapt on his broad back, with my two feet planted firmly on his broad backside and began to pound at his thick head. I then held his neck in a vice as he crumbled to his feet, screaming for help. I smiled in victory as he struggled for breath…
(Issorait, I didn’t do that too. I just hissed at him under my breath and he could equally have choked on that silent hiss.)
But come o, how come this fine WAEC result that we went to church to thank the Lord for is nothing here and does not qualify for a university entry!
There was no call I didn’t make that day and the day after to Nigeria and to friends in SA; all said, we couldn’t do anything but do the bridge course because in SA, there’s no government official that could allow my son into the university with a grade 11 result even if we bribed him with a million dollars! Rules are rules!!! (And you and I know I don’t even have a thousand dollars sef)
I was upset with the Nigerian system; I was mad at previous and current governments that let our education system slide into chaos. ASUU is on strike as we speak, that is, after they went on strike in January. These strikes always have repercussions and the consequences are dire!
It seems every strata of life is decaying in Nigeria; why, even Ghana is raising its nose at us! Have you seen their international airport in Accra?
The health system is crumbling; our doctors, no, make that, our professionals, are bailing out in droves and no one is alarmed. Our justice system is a mockery; come o, who’s been to our High Court in Lagos lately, seen how decrepit that place looks?
Which way Nigeria?