Hondred and Tweenty

One, two, three, …, nineteen, tweenty, …, hondred.
In case you’re wondering, there’s no typographical error (by me) above. This is not an example of my fallibility. A serving national youth corps member actually used those spellings while entering results in the results’ sheet of a recent election.

I have heard many stories about supposed graduates with greatly impaired reading and writing abilities. It’s quite common to hear people say that some graduates can’t spell their own names, correctly fill forms, or even correctly read out written material. Always willing to think the best of people, I usually discountenanced such stories, believing that they were either false, or largely exaggerated.

Over time, I have seen instances that challenged my “exaggeration theory”, but each time, I try to cook up reasons (plausible or not) to explain the situation, unwilling to believe that a person could spend over 15 years in educational institutions and still be technically “illiterate”. In the course of INEC’s ad-hoc staff trainings, one instructor repeatedly hammered on correct spelling of words, saying that past elections showed that some youth corps members could not spell correctly. We all laughed, vehemently saying it was not possible.

A shock awakening awaited me on Election Day. After all the processes had been completed, the results had to be written down. I looked in disbelief as a presiding officer wrote down “hondred”. Believing it was a one-time mistake, I helped him spell “hundred” on paper. When he repeated the blunder with “tweenty”, I knew his case was finished.

How can someone spend three-plus years in a tertiary institution and still have problems with the basics of writing? Let’s even ignore nursery, primary and secondary schools where the basics are supposed to have been grasped. After passing through many tests, examinations, term papers, reports, and a project (thesis), an individual still cannot write simple things. Some cannot even write a simple official letter. Instead of learning, they prefer to get someone else to compose it, and then copy in their own handwriting. Some even take it a step further—someone else writes everything, they just append their signature in the space provided. It’s an alarming situation.

What could be the problem? Could it be a foundational problem from early schools? Could it be the result of an apathy to learning? Could it be the result of a lack of exposure? Could it be an educational system that permits different levels of malpractices and allows undeserving persons to graduate? Could it be the result of a habit of spelling words, as they seem to sound? Could it be a chatting culture that encourages intentional misspelling of words? Some may chat so much that they forget the real spelling of some words.

Whatever the reason, the buck stops on the table of those individuals with this under-par ability. They are the ones who don’t see any use in reading articles, books, magazines and newspapers to improve their vocabulary. They don’t see any use in frequently checking dictionaries to learn correct spelling of words. They don’t even see anything wrong with their blunders. I feel shame whenever I post something online, and then see an error in it. These ones won’t even bother to review their work. Until these “educated mis-spellers” decide to improve, they would continue to spell “hundred” as “hondred”, and ridicule would continue to accrue to Nigeria’s educational system.

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