Atiku, Afenifere, Reps Slam FG’s Cancellation of WASSC Exam

Atiku, Afenifere, Reps Slam FG’s Cancellation of WASSC Exam

…Better to Lose an Academic Year than Expose Students to Danger…FG …It’s Not in Nigeria’s Best Interest…Atiku …Sack the two Education Minsters…Afenifere …WAEC Can Hire More Invigilators…Reps Former Vice President, Mr Atiku Abubakar, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere and members of the House of Representatives have joined others to slam the move by the Federal

…Better to Lose an Academic Year than Expose Students to Danger…FG

…It’s Not in Nigeria’s Best Interest…Atiku

…Sack the two Education Minsters…Afenifere

…WAEC Can Hire More Invigilators…Reps

Former Vice President, Mr Atiku Abubakar, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere and members of the House of Representatives have joined others to slam the move by the Federal Government to cancel the West African Senior School Certificate WASSC) Examination slated for 2020, citing safety concerns and the need to protect students from Covid-19 pandemic. This contrasts sharply with the Oyo State Government’s announcement that students in its schools are ready for the exam.

The Federal Government announced that schools under its control will not be reopening for the forthcoming West African Examination Council (WAEC) exams.

This was disclosed in a tweet post by the aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media, Mr Tolu Ogunlesi from his official Twitter handle on Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

According to Ogunlesi, the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu, said that WAEC should suspend exams and also urges State Governments to toe the line of the Federal Government as this is not the right time to reopen.

According to the tweet, ‘’Minister of Education has just announced that schools under control of the Federal Government will not be reopening for the forthcoming WAEC exams. Says WAEC should suspend exams and urges State Governments to toe Federal Government line. This is not the right time to reopen,’’

While addressing state house correspondents after the virtual Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, Mr Adamu said that none of the schools under the control of his ministry will resume until schools are considered safe enough

The Minister appealed to the State Governments that have already announced the resumption of schools to reconsider that as it is not safe and the students should be protected. He said that he would prefer that students lose an academic year than expose them to dangers.

He also debunked an earlier report that claimed that the Minister of State for Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, announced that schools will be resuming on August 4, 2020. Adamu said that the Minister of State must have been misquoted as the schools under the supervision of the ministry will not be opening on August 4 or anytime soon.

Going further, Adamu pointed out that WAEC will not determine what Nigeria will do as he will rather have the country lose a school year than exposing the students to danger.

Not in Nigeria’s Interest

But Atiku, also presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election, says, “As a parent and investor in the education sector, I wish to register the fact that the Nigerian government’s policy of unilaterally cancelling the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, held annually by the West African Examinations Council, is not in Nigeria’s best interest.

“At a time of the global COVID19 pandemic, it is understandable that an abundance of caution be put in place to save lives. However, caution, without consultation, and thoughtful action, may be counter productive,” the former Vice President posits.

He explains further that “1.5 million Nigerian youths write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination annually. To abruptly cancel this examination is to set back our nation’s youth, and place them behind their contemporaries in other West African nations. This is perilous, because Foreign Direct Investments and other economic indicators, are tied to the educational indexes of nations.

“Already, Nigeria lags behind other African nations in crucial indices, like school enrolment, pass rates, and out of school children. This action, will further create chaos in the public education system and exacerbate an already bad situation.

“Rather than cancellation, there are better ways to protect the health of Nigerians and prevent the pandemic from escalating. We could mobilise all available public and private infrastructures including primary schools, stadia, and cinemas, for the examinations. In the alternative, the Federal Government can prevail on WAEC to have a staggered examinations with a different set of questions for each shift. Doing so will allow WAEC Nigeria implement social distancing and achieve the goal of carrying out the examinations. A win-win scenario.

“I urge this administration to take into account that the lives they are trying to save will be further put at risk, because if this policy is not reversed, tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, will breach social distancing rules to cross over to neighbouring West African nations to write their WASSCE, rather than miss a year,” Atiku counsels

Sack Education Ministers

Also stridently condemning the FG’s move, Afenifere called on the President Buhari to sack the Education Ministers for planning to ground education in the country for a year.

Secretary General of the association, Mr Sehinde Arogbofa, said the Federal Government should have allowed pupils to resume and find means of protecting them against coronavirus disease.

He said, “Adamu Adamu should be sacked, he cannot bring our school system back to the stone-age. They had about six months to plan for these children. What did the Federal Government do?

“It means the two of them (Adamu and the Minister of State for Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba) don’t know what they are doing, so they should go. I think the two Ministers in the ministry should go. Why would one say the pupils should resume to take their papers in August and the other Minister would come and reverse the order?” Afenifere questioned.

The House of Representative Committee on Basic Education and Services has also opposed the directive of the Minister of Education cancelling the reopening of schools to enable graduating pupils and students write their final examination as earlier directed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

No Consultation Was Done

Chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education and Services, Prof Julius Ihonvbere, who made the committee’s position known, said the House committee received with amazement the announcement by the Education Minister that Nigerian students would not be participating in the forthcoming WASSCE examinations.

According to Ihonvbere, the Minister did not inform the country if the decision for Nigerian students not to write the examination was in agreement with other West African countries or in consultation with the examination body, the state governments and other stakeholders in the education sector.

He also observed that the Minister did not inform the public if the decision was the outcome of a meeting with state governments that are in charge of primary and secondary education, except for unity schools that belong to the Federal Government.

He wondered why the sudden and unexpected policy reversal by the Minister when the Minister of State had briefed the nation at the COVID- 19 presidential committee briefing and the House Committee on Basic Education where he assured that all steps were being taken to ensure full compliance with all COVID- 19 safety protocols.

It Can Cause Confusion

“This sudden policy reversal is not good for the country. It is bound to create further confusion in the education sector, create disappointment and suspicion among parents, frustrate the students, and show to our development partners and Nigerians that the distortions and disarticulations in the sector are only getting worse.

“The reversal also shows that our policy makers may just be adopting a laid-back approach to the need to confront the novel coronavirus rather than taking proactive and creative steps to manage and contain it.

“The House Committee disagrees with the Minister and believes that reconsideration is urgently needed to save our educational system,” the House committee chairman stated.

Rep. Ihonvbere averred that since Nigeria is not the only country that is expected to write the examination in the midst of COVID -19, the Federal Government should insist that the examination be based exclusively on the already covered syllabus.

“The Federal Ministry of Education should not chicken out of its responsibilities, but take charge, provide policy direction, engage the states and other stakeholders.

WAEC Can Hire More Invigilators

“WAEC should quadruple its invigilators and use all classrooms and event centres to conduct the examination and comply with COVID-19 protocols, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology as well as the Ministries of Environment and Health should immediately work out an agenda to fumigate all classrooms, provide hand washing buckets with soap and water, and facemasks to all students;

“The original plan of opening hostels for boarding to facilitate so-called revision classes should be cancelled immediately and the students should come from home, write the paper and disperse immediately.

“Mr. President should direct all his Ministers to return to their states, work with the Governors and ensure the smooth implementation of the policy and conduct of the examination.

“The House committee appreciates the reservations of the Minister. We are parents just like him. No Nigerian parent would want to delay, distort or even terminate the progress of their child.

“We are convinced that if our policy of no boarding house, reconceptualising scope of exams, use of all classrooms and halls in the schools, quadrupling the number of invigilators, provision of facemasks, sanitizers and hand washing facilities are followed, the WASSCE can be conducted with ease and with no repercussions,” he asserted.

They Want Almajir Everywhere

Adding his voice to the conversation, a former presidential aide, Mr Reno Omokri alleged that President Buhari cancelled the 2020 WAEC exam in Nigeria, not because of the Covid-19 pandemic but because he as well does not possess a WAEC certificate.

Speaking via his official Twitter handle on Friday, he alleged that the President is only interested in spreading mass illiteracy with the move.

He tweeted, “Because General @MBuhari does not have a WAEC Certificate, he wants to punish the whole country by depriving Nigerian youths of having their own WAEC certificates. He wants to spread illiteracy, so we can all be almajiri. Never! The cancellation of WAEC is evil!”

Oyo Students Ready for WASSC

But Chairman of Oyo State Post Primary Schools Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM), Pastor Akinade Alamu, has declared that considering measures already put in place by the state government led by Governor Seyi Makinde, the state is ready to participate in the 2020 WASSCE.

Speaking on ‘Fresh FM’ programme tagged: ‘COVID-19 Situation Room’, the Oyo TESCOM chairman condemned the poor funding and handling of the education sector by the Federal Government and wondered why the government was opening and locking down schools indefinitely while the aviation and other business sectors were reopening.

Alamu said, “This government at Federal level is not helping things in the education sector. The meagre budgetary allocation for education shows clearly that they are less concerned. They have re-opened airline operation. Do they want to tell us that people would not sit together inside an aircraft or what?

“This epidemic has come to stay with us and we should do everything possible to manage it until we get curable drugs for the virus. We should not lock down an important sector like education. If we said we are not writing WASSCE this year, how are we sure that the pandemic would have gone by next year. Is the government saying we are not going to write it next year if Coronavirus persists; God forbid?

“The most important thing is to make adequate provision for the safety of our students, which we have done and we would continue to do so as events unfold.

“Before we resume in Oyo State, all the stakeholders in the education sector in the state that include TESCOM, SUBEB, PTA and others held meetings with the COVID-19 management team in the state to fashion ways forward for school resumption,” he added.

According to Alamu, series of training have been organised for school heads “that also, in turn, returned to their various schools to train teachers on how best they can handle any occurrence of suspected Covid-19 issues”.

He maintained that with all the measures put in place,  Oyo  State would partake in this year’s WASSCE examination.

We Work With Member Governments

The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) has however said it is within the legitimate power of governments of the five-member countries to make such decisions.

In an exclusive telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the WAEC’s Head of Nigeria’s Office (HNO), Mr Patrick Areghan, said the examination body was still reviewing the situation and that it would make its position known soon.

Mr Areghan, who came into office in March 2020, was supposed to oversee the May/June 2020 examination, the first national examination under his watch until the coronavirus pandemic struck, forcing the indefinite postponement of the examination.

The HNO said he could not speak on whether the examinations would continue in the other four countries or not until the “coast is clear.”

He said; “We cannot make any categorical statement for now. We are operating in five-member countries and we cooperate with the government. We recognise the fact that the government has the right and power to take positions, and we cannot confront the government. We work hand in hand with the government.”

He, however, pledged to update the public as soon as final decisions are taken.

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