It is no longer news that the conduct of GRE & TOEFL examinations in Nigeria has been suspended indefinitely. The Educational Testing Service (ETS), the organizers of the exam, cited “security concerns” as the major reason in slamming the suspension on good ol’ Naija.
For those who have been living under rocks, or in very dark places, the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) are exams that are written by individuals desirous of pursuing post-graduate education in the United States.
The ETS didn’t state the nature of these ‘security concerns’ and it has become anyone’s guess. The grapevine has been abuzz with speculation that the actual reason for the suspension was the fact that -um- people had started ‘runzing’ these exams so much so that the ETS had become embarrassed, but could not admit it, of course. This news has undoubtedly ‘spoilt market’ for companies that made meals from serving as test centres for GRE & TOEFL.
US admission hopefuls now have to go down to Ghana (no surprise there) and, yes, Benin Republic to write these exams. I’m no economist but I reckon that these candidates will probably contribute to the Ghanaian & Beninoise economies before they leave. They will lodge in hotels. They’ll pay for food and transport. Some will pay for entertainment. I’ll leave it to the math whizzes to calculate the enormity of our loss.
Anyhow, let’s leave GRE and TOEFL …for now.
Some people have argued – and rightly so, I believe- that a time is coming when Nigerian students will attend Nigerian universities as an exception rather than the norm. It will be a case of mothers gently advising their son to try universities in the US, Canada, UK, South Africa and Ghana before they admit defeat and settle for lives of recycled lectures and buying handouts in UNI-whatever. Our local universities will probably be left for two sets of people: those who are too broke to go abroad (the spirit is willing but the pocket is weak) and those who have failed, repeatedly, to gain admission to a foreign school. Local private universities could introduce an interesting dynamic into this equation, but for now, let us blindside them.
ASUU embarked on a strike for many months and nobody was ‘shaking bodi’. Nigerians were inundated with, and are probably tired of, mere rhetoric and grandstanding during the fiasco. The end result is that Nigerian students are now described with choice terms like ‘half-baked’, ‘semi-cooked’, and my favourite one: ‘unemployable’. Tens of thousands of Nigerians are contributing billions of naira to Ghana in the quest for better education.
This does not undermine the merits of hard work and discipline. Some people refused to allow themselves to be half-baked, toiling into the night in order to come out well-grounded. However, there is always a limit beyond which a man can be pushed no further. Studying is enough hard work to be complicated by the Nigerian factor. A wise man once said, ‘you can’t make a baby in one month by making nine women pregnant’.
The majority of individuals who went in search of foreign degrees will soon be back. In fact, many are back and their numbers will soon reach critical mass. Armed with evidence of better education, available jobs are theirs to lose. Some employers already show discriminatory tendencies.
I recognize the certainty that no matter how good Nigerian universities are, some people will still strive to go to ‘obodo oyibo’ and study. That’s all well and good. Maybe they desire a new cultural experience or they simply have money to blow. But there is a scenario where many foreign certificated students come back with foreign solutions to local problems. What may improve consumer spending and boost the US economy may flop like a limp fish when applied in Nigeria.
And thus, it may come to pass on that fateful day, that a recruitment consultant will sit in his swanky office in Victoria Island, think awhile, and then favour the Bachelor in Engineering from Aberdeen over that from FUTO.