Nigeria Law School Part Two Results: The Victory, the Victor, the Victim, and the Vanquished By Aziza Onoriode Reginald
As is my custom, I closed my books, put out the lights, switched off my phone, kissed my rosary, cuddled my pillow, and soon fell asleep. A brand new day woke me up barely minutes later, and as is my custom, I reversed the sequence that sent me into the blissful sleep. When my phone eventually came on, it exhibited an unusual amount of activity. That was when, lying in my bed in faraway Wolfson College, Cambridge, the news of the release of the Bar Part Two Final Examination (the ‘results’) of the Nigerian Law School hit me.
Quite unlike the normal screams of glee and joy, the present results had a certain cold, cynical ambience to them. On pressing further, and reading deeper, my mind soon became a battlefield where emotions of sadness, worry, anxiety and despair fought for ascendancy. I quickly placed emergency calls to Nigeria, to ensure that my closest friends and trusted allies were not affected by the seeming tornado of failure that prowled through the air. On getting reasonably fair news from home, I was fortified to further fasten the thinking cap that quickly arrested my head in what was to be a sunny day in Cambridge; a thinking cap that with it brought the question: ‘what went wrong with the results?’
To begin with, I am myself not a casualty of the Nigerian Law School. Contrariwise, I was fortunate to have myself finished with a first class from it, in the process, picking up the coveted Hon. Justice Mohammed Bello Prize for the Second Best Student of the Nigerian Law School. This was only last year. I thus do not consider myself to be so far away from the system, as not to know a lot about it. Enough to know that however sympathetic I may be about the results, there are some students who are determined to fail; who craft out a highly complex and intelligent strategy for failure, and who execute these strategies to aplomb when they arrive in school. Lecturers blessed with the wisdom of Solomon are totally incapable of saving these ones, as, in Shakespeare’s words, they have chosen the ‘primrose way to the everlasting bonfire.’ We may however safely conclude that 50% of law graduates do not choose this way.
Reports sifting about the results cannot be more damning or more contradictory. What is clear however is that of the over 6,000 students that sat for the examinations, only 4 made it out with First Class Honours, whilst at least 50% of the students failed the examinations. Some reports give a higher percentage of failure. The Nigerian Law School has not come out with an official, public breakdown of the results.
I know that the way the Nigerian Law School works is such that before every lecture, students get a set of learning outcomes which they are to understand at the end of the lecture. The examinations are then set in line with these expected learning outcomes, to prevent examination questions set outside the scope of the expected outcomes. I took the pains to study the examination questions of this present cohort of law school graduates, and I have to concede this standard was met. At best, some questions were unexpected, but there was certainly nothing that the lecturers did not deal with in lectures. It was thus an examination that an average student, who had been taught well, and who had studied hard, ought to be sufficiently poised to pass, but sadly did not.
This singular admission raises up several crucial questions that ought to be asked of the system. What changed so radically between the previous session and this current one? Why should the failure rate in the system be so high? Why should there be so few First Class graduates? Were the current results the fault of the lecturers, the students or the system?
I am not convinced that such a high failure rate can be attributed to the default of the students. I am fortified in the belief that when an examiner sets an examination where over 50% of his students fail, it clearly shows that such an examiner has done a very poor job. It is an indictment on the entire system. Such a lecturer or lecturers ought, in my opinion, to justify the salaries they earn, as their pay is clearly not being reflected in the quality of output produced. Since excellence begets excellence, then, failure begets failure. Thus, until we realize that the examination script is not a battlefield where lecturers prove their supremacy; until we realize that every examination script is a piece of a student’s destiny; until we realize that the quality of education in an institution does not depend on the number of failures it churns out; until we realize that the prestige of a First Class degree lies not in how few and far between it appears; until we realize that the reputation of an institution is not improved by how difficult it is to graduate from it, we will continue to miss the point of the basic essence of quality education.
If we were to do some comparative analysis, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are the two most prestigious law faculties in the United Kingdom (which shares a comparatively similar legal system with Nigeria). In 2013, 152 students sat for the Cambridge LLM examinations. An astonishing 32% finished with First Class Honours, whilst 61% finished with Second Class Upper Division (http://www.llm.law.cam.ac.uk/about-the-cambridge-llm-programme/courses.html). In essence therefore, in a class of 152 students, about 48 finished with First Class Honours, whilst 92 finished with Second Class Upper Division. 2011 marked a seven year record low for First Class degrees from the University of Oxford. Students in that session performed so badly, that only 12% of the cohort made First Class Honours in the Faculty of Law. Both institutions are still ranked amongst the best three law schools in the world, bettered only by the Harvard Law School. This bears eloquent testament to the fact that the quality and prestige of an institution lies not in how difficult it is to make a good degree therefrom, but rather on the quality of knowledge imparted therein.
Applying Cambridge’s percentile would mean that if 6,000 students took the Bar Part Two Examinations, 1,920 of them would have finished with First Class Honours. On the other hand, if we were to apply the record low of Oxford, the number will be 720. Using the 4 First Class graduates from the Nigerian Law School, we have a really shocking 0.0667% – a clear systemic indictment.
If the Nigerian Law School wanted to make a statement, I believe, with respect, that this was not the type of statement that was best suited for it. It could have made a statement on the entire revamping of the learning architecture on all campuses, or at least one campus. It could have made a statement on providing recent and daily updatable electronic law reports and precedents to all students. It could have made a statement on providing uninterrupted wireless internet connectivity to students in their hostels. It could have made a statement on building and opening new hostels in all campuses, or at least some. These are the types of statements that forward thinking institutions are making in the 21st Century.
I thus mourn the regression we have deliberately thrown ourselves into by this self-indictment called a result. There is thus neither victory nor victor; all we are all victims, and either directly or indirectly, we have been vanquished.
As is my custom, I shall now close my laptop, put out the lights, switch off my phone, kiss my rosary, cuddle my pillow, and fall asleep.
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