South West States Break Ranks With FG, Resolve to Reopen Schools

South West States Break Ranks With FG, Resolve to Reopen Schools

The six Southwest States have resolved to reopen schools for SS3 students to participate in the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) next month. The states are Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti. Their decision is contrary to the position of most of the 19 northern states, which supported the Federal Government’s decision to

The six Southwest States have resolved to reopen schools for SS3 students to participate in the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) next month.

The states are Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti.

Their decision is contrary to the position of most of the 19 northern states, which supported the Federal Government’s decision to suspend school reopening for SS3 students due to safety concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But at a virtual meeting by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Commissioners, Special Advisers on Education and SUBEB chairmen from the South West states struck an agreement to reopen schools for SS3 students to write their final examinations.

The meeting also agreed on the needs for South West states to implement a 2016 plan to establish a regional examination body akin to IJMB in the North.

The plan was laid out at the roundtable on creating a collaborative framework for education development and advancement in Western Nigeria in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, in 2016.

A statement by Director General, DAWN Commission, Mr Seye Oyeleye says that all the states will reopen schools for SS3 students by August 3 with COVID-19 preventive measures in place.

The states, according to the statement, will approach the Federal Government, at the first instance, to seek postponement of the WASCE by at least three weeks from the proposed resumption date.

At the second instance, states are to directly approach the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to seek postponement of the examination to August 24.

On resumption, all schools are to appoint incident managers and classroom wardens, according to the document.

There will also be designation of quality assurance department for each state to issue a safety compliance certificate to each school before reopening.

The state will also encourage intensive advocacy campaigns to stakeholders including parents, teachers, caregivers, school owners and pupils on what is expected of them when schools resume.

The meeting also called on the WAEC to encourage Computer-Based Tests (CBT) in the future.

The Federal Government’s move to cancel WAEC for the year 20202 had stirred the hornet nest. Legal icon, Chief Afe Babalola, (SAN), says that disallowing students from writing the 2020 WASCE, would cause irreparable damage.

The Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, (ABUAD), said this in a statement on Tuesday in Ado Ekiti.

He said that the decision by the government would particularly cause irreparable damage to students sitting for 2020 West African Schools Certificate Examination (WASCE).

According to him, WASCE is an annual examination for final year secondary school students in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia, of which Nigeria cannot pull out.

He said about 1.5 million Nigerian students, who had registered for admission into various tertiary institutions in the country were earnestly waiting for WASCE results to get admission into universities of their choice.

“Even though the Minister of Education insisted that it was not safe to re-open the various institutions in the face of the increasing wave of COVIDI-19 pandemic, he did not indicate when it will be safe for Nigerian students who have been staying at home since March 23 to participate in the annual examination.

“When will COVID-19 disappear? To be sure, it will be with us for a long time to come. Like Small Pox, Malaria, Influenza, Flu, Leprosy and Cholera, it may not be completely exterminated from planet earth.

“That means that Nigerians have to manage COVID-19 pandemic the same way as the world has been managing previous pandemics.

“From history, pandemics had been tackled over the ages by relying on social distancing, which Nigeria has embraced and is practising. This has been applied to churches, mosques, weddings and many elections in Nigeria. Why not WASCE?

“It is my firm belief that the future of these 1.5 million young Nigerians, who have registered for WASCE should not be put in jeopardy.

“It is a known fact that all schools, colleges and tertiary institutions in the country are currently shut down. This affords the Federal Government the opportunity to use them for WASCE halls.

“What the government should do is to prepare the empty rooms for WAEC examination – fumigate the halls and the premises, use face mask, provide sanitiser and ensure that WHO rules are obeyed to the letter,” he said.

According to him, the WAEC Law provides for a National Committee of WAEC in all the five-member countries.

He suggested that the matter should be taken up by the National Committee of WAEC in Nigeria and the general body in Ghana before the declaration to withdraw Nigeria from taking the examination.

“One continues to wonder why the other four countries under the WAEC umbrella have not cancelled the WASCE in their respective countries.

“Are the other four countries not affected by COVID-19? What steps have the other countries taken, which would enable them to take WAEC examination, which we cannot take?

“Why is Nigeria the only country out of five that is pulling out of the annual examination? Are we saying that other four countries do not appreciate the lives of their students?

“Did the Minister take into consideration the moral and legal implication of Nigeria as a signatory to WAEC laws or the effect of such unilateral declaration of withdrawal,” he said.

Babalola said what was required to take the WAEC examination was proper management, consultation and discussion instead of unilateral cancellation of annual international convention.

He said if the Federal Government insisted that there would be no WASSCE this year, the students would not lost one calendar year but lost an integral part of their entire lives, which had gone forever by such declaration.

“We should always remember that after all, “time is life and life is time.

“A year of idleness for 1.5 million people may breed frustration and promote criminality.

“The Federal Government should allow the WASCE to take place in the empty spaces, which are wasting away in our tertiary institutions, secondary schools and elementary school, which can conveniently accommodate them with a lot of social distancing and due compliance to WHO rules,” he said.

Vice-Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election, Mr. Peter Obi, has also cautioned the Federal Government against the move.

Speaking through a statement on Tuesday, Obi said that such a sudden U-turn by the Federal Government on the earlier scheduled school resumption was not healthy for the country that should consider the education of its citizens a priority.

He explained that there are other safe measures the Ministry of Education could employ for the safe re-opening of schools without putting the health of students at risk. The outright cancellation of the WASSCE, Obi said, is not in the best interest of the country because in addition to jeopardizing the future of Nigerian children, it presents Nigeria in a bad light.

While Obi noted that abundance of caution has to be put in place for the sake of the lives of the students, he expressed confidence that a good road map for safe return to schools would effectively reactivate the education sector while seeing students safely through their academic exercises.

“I hope the Federal Government realises how important it is that our education sector comes alive with activities. Rather than completely halting academic activities, especially WASSCE, the Ministry of Education should have by now come up with an effective roadmap that will see our children back to school safely.

“More amenities like classrooms, equipment and invigilators should be provided by the government to ensure that social distancing is well enforced among students. Working hand-in-hand with other ministries will give the Ministry of Education the much-needed synergy to work out a safe plan for the resumption of schools,” Obi said.

He called on the government to reconsider their stand and create a safe environment for the students to take their examinations.

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