Fear is the Major Cause of Mass Failure in Mathematics – Auchi Poly Lecturer

A lecturer at the Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State, Mrs. Osiki Erances, in an interview offered a recipe on the persistent mass failure in mathematics and also spoke about the mission of Women in Technical Education in Nigeria (WITED), which she is the National Coordinator, to encourage technical education among girls and women. Mrs. Osiki is a Civil Engineer.

What’s the importance of this meeting?
WITED is an acronym for Women in Technical Education and Development designed in 1988 by the Common Wealth Association of Polytechnics in Africa with the mandate to identify and tackle the factors that impede reasonable participation of female or the girl-child in technical education. You will agree with me that for meaningful national development, the female folk that constitutes about half of the population of the citizenry should not be left behind. So we are encouraging those who have the god-given flair and ability to appreciate mathematics, science and technical courses to come on board so that the nation can match forward technologically.

What is your mission in Kwara State?
Actually, chapters are established in polytechnics and each chapter has a coordinator. So this is the National Coordinating Committee of all the coordinators of all the chapters of Polytechnics and Colleges of Technology in Nigeria. We have about 50 polytechnics enlisted in WITED to date. So all the coordinators meet quarterly and our venues for meetings are rotated from institution to institution. So this is the meeting of WITED National Coordinating Committee (NCC) and the NCC actually is the core implementation body for the WITED project.

What are the challenges you think confront women in technical education?
That’s a good question. The challenges are varied. We have socio-cultural factors. There are some places where women are only to be seen and not heard. They just have to be in the kitchen, that concept is changing because they can still be of more use than that although fundamentally our place is in the kitchen (laughs). That’s one. Then religious factor and so on. So women who have the ability as I said before, are being encouraged to come on board. There should be no coercion, no force. It is those that are able to fit into this programme that should come on board – engineers, doctors, technologists and all of that.

What are the achievements of this association so far?
Well, first and foremost our approach is to go to the primary and secondary school level to be able to sensitise the girl-child that she should have no phobia at all for such courses as mathematics, physics, and chemistry and so on. So that’s our first target – grassroots. Then we go to the traditional rulers who are custodians of culture and they are able to help pass the WITED message to their subjects to allay fear of mathematics and technical subjects.
WAEC recently released the result of SSCE and 70 per cent failed to score five credits including mathematics which is a fundamental subject for science and technology. How do you think we can address this recurring mass failure?
Counseling will play a great role in addressing this phobia for mathematics. There’s no place whatever for fear of the course. Fear already defeats each individual even before he confronts the so-called problem. So that self-defeatist attitude should be addressed through counseling. So we need public enlightenment campaign. Information is key to allaying fear of mathematics and science subjects.
We are here today because we need to strategise and be able to garner information, be able to exchange views, be able to review our activities in respective WITED chapters and be able to forge ahead, put plans in place for us to move forward.

How do you think government can play a role in encouraging girl-child in science and technology?
Government can encourage the girl-child by scholarship. Some of them are excelling in these subjects; some of them are doing very well in these subjects. So we should encourage them by giving them scholarship and awards. Then science laboratories should be well equipped and science and mathematics teachers should also be encouraged because when they are doing well, the students will do well. When they are happy, they will be at their best in their work. So government can help a lot to help us actualise our aims.

What about the parents, what part can they play?
Parents’ role cannot be over-emphasised. They are the starting point of the life of a child. So parents should be enlightened and of course they would be able to have the right approach, the right attitude to a girl-child in pursuing these subject areas.

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