Nothing defines a humanitarian crisis than the revelation which was released by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board that 1.4 million out of 1.8 million students who sat for the 2024 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination scored below 200. It is nothing but a national emergency and it calls for immediate national action. The revelation has just exposed us to the dangers inherent in bad parenting and the government’s failure to invest in education.

I recall with nostalgia how I was brought up as a child from a poor background through values that were rooted in our culture and tradition such as hard work, productivity, honesty, chastity, decency, good neighbourliness amongst others. Unfortunately, parents today are now socialising their children into a vile culture of corruption by hiring surrogate candidates to write exams for their kids. Parents have now failed to set store by possessing virtues such as probity, honesty, perseverance, love of education amongst others. It is disturbing!

Critical stakeholders in the educational sector, and, indeed, society, must understand that children and youth constitute a critical aspect of society; thus, they must not be exposed to flawed beliefs which now resonate with their brains. This is backed up by a Yoruba maxim which is interpreted in English that “the branches of an Iroko tree should be pruned at nursery to prevent future damage.” This popular Yoruba maxim states why a family is expected to teach children good morals in their early life.

Unfortunately, as against those days when corrupt and evil-minded people are viewed with contempt and disdain (irrespective of their attainments in life), the corrupt individuals are whom our children look up to for engagement and orientation. The Nigerian society of today now looks forward to the glitz and glamour of a reckless life without questioning the way and manner individuals amass their wealth. We now glorify material possessions while moral values are vilified. Even parents now say, “What will your moral value bring to the table?” They say this to the hearings of their children.

In today’s society, wherever you turn, you see parents and stakeholders downplaying education. Parents and musicians now tell our younger ones that all the talks about schooling being the gate pass to a life of comfort are all lies, which now reinforces the mantra, “Education is a scam.” There was even a time a musician, while glorifying the scourge of yahoo yahoo, released a track where he asked, “What have you become with the education you got?” While the question could have been thought-provoking, it was actually to mock the educated lots because our reward system in Nigeria is in itself flawed.

Your child isn’t into laundry services yet brings bales of cloth home and you as parents do not ask questions. This JAMB failure, as much as it is partly caused by the failure of the government to invest in education, also brings to the fore the question of parental functions. Nigerian politicians are not in any way helping matters. They keep mobilising young ones to engage in social vices such as election violence, thereby damaging society and creating more serious crises such as this national emergency we have got with the mass failure rate in this year’s UTME.

To change the sad narrative we have seen, our political class must henceforth celebrate academic excellence in showing that the government recognises education as a key driver of societal growth and progress. We have been fed with ugly scenes of graduates and even first-class products driving Keke NAPEP and engaging in some petty works while society and even the government celebrate mediocrity over excellence. This dismal performance by a majority of candidates who wrote the 2024 UTME calls for not just sober reflection but immediate radical action from the Federal Ministry of Education. The government must acknowledge the fact that Nigeria’s current educational policy or even the posture of the government is neither satisfying the yearnings of its teeming youths nor delivering the needs of the labour market.

At Asanke, Ibadan, I grew up to know and see students attend Government Technical College at Orita-Aperin. Those days, the country had technical schools across the country where students could learn vocational studies and specialise in whatever area of interest. At the technical college, they had departments such as building, hairdressing, carpentry, welding, etc. and the colleges were so equipped to standard with practical workshops.

The Minister of Education by now should have called for an emergency educational summit to analyse the problem and remedy it. The Nigerian government must pay close attention to education for students. Our educational policy must support a holistic learning process for students to be able to use their hands, heads and hearts. The posture of the government towards education must also change to encourage students to read. Libraries which are now dead must be revived and jobs be created for graduates to serve as motivation for younger ones. The welfare of teachers must also be prioritised.