On 1st July, 2021, Mr. Gabriel Egbe, the Registrar of University of Calabar (UNICAL) revealed that forty-two thousand (42, 000) unclaimed certificates have been discovered in the school. According to him, some of these certificates date back to the 1980s and they were found in different faculties of the school. He threatened to publish the list of the owners of the certificates and to surcharge them when they come to pick them up. Mr. Egbe’s threat will likely yield a good result, for those that still care about their certificates, but it will not solve the existing problem. Unless he and the administrators of other schools and exam bodies change their modus operandi when it comes to issuing certificates, this type of problem will persist.
The management of UNICAL might be the first to declare the high number of unclaimed certificates in the school but that does not mean the school is the only one witnessing this issue. Every Nigerian school has piles of unclaimed certificates gathering dust somewhere. Exam bodies, such as WAEC and NECO will also have theirs. What about our primary and secondary schools? Those ones also have a share of their stories to tell. So, unclaimed certificates are a common phenomenon in Nigerian schools. In fact, most people don’t even know they have to go back to their schools to collect their certificates. That’s how bad it is.
But, as I said earlier, unless Mr. Egbe, his colleagues in other schools, and the Nigerian exam bodies decide to change how things are done in the education sector, more unclaimed certificates will emerge. The first thing that should be changed is the delay in issuing certificates. It is quite odd that an individual has to go back to his alma mater four or five years after graduation to collect his certificate.
This number of years is enough for the person to acquire another education, maybe a higher one, and decide to move on without going back for the lesser certificate. Or, he must have left town, and so, had no way of picking the certificate when it “comes out”. This is where the second problem comes in: the inability to collect the certificate by proxy. I can bet you that most of the owners of those certificates are either out of the country or in other states of the federation. Some of them must have sent someone to pick it up but the person was greeted with a “we don’t give it to another person” story. It is well.
Another thing I don’t understand is why schools are fast to issue statements of results but delay in giving certificates. Why won’t the time used to prepare statements of results be spent on producing certificates? Why give students statements of results first and then spend years issuing certificates? I understand that the statement of result can be recalled for minor or major corrections but should that be the reason for delaying certificates? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
Anyway, the reasons people don’t go back for their certificates are many. Many have lost interest in that “piece of paper” because they have found careers their certificates could not provide or sustain. Some people have forgotten their school registration numbers and do not want to stress themselves thinking hard about it. There are those that are comfortable with their statements of results because their employers are not bothered about certificates. So, the best thing schools can do to prevent the sort of thing revealed by the Registrar of UNICAL is to present students with their certificates upon graduation.