chapter  4
32 Pages

The test and the text: readers in a Nigerian secondary school

A major legacy of colonial rule in Africa has been a division of each national economy into a traditional rural sector that depends mainly on subsistence farming and a modern urban sector that provides opportunities for salaried employment. For several generations, ambitious young people have sought to move from the first to the second, and the main route by which they have done so has been western education. The evidence of this education is in certificates issued to those who have passed exams at various levels, the most important of which are the exams taken at the end of secondary school. In anglophone West Africa these exams are collectively known as the West African School Certificate, or W ASC, and are closely modelled on the School Certificate exams that used to be administered by the Cambridge University Local Examinations Syndicate. Though the W ASC can be taken in a number of different subjects, by far the most important is English Language; it is the one subject that all students must pass in order to be admitted to a college or university or, indeed, to be eligible for many jobs - reasonably enough, it would seem, since English, throughout anglophone Africa, is the lingua franca of the modern sector.