· Cancellation Puts Nigeria at more risk – Atiku
THE House of Representatives, through its Committee on Basic Education and Services, has prevailed on the federal government not to cancel the planned West African Senior School Certificate Examinations, WASSCE, which was to commence with other exit examinations early next month, August.
This was even as the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has cautioned that the federal government’s action will further put the country at greater risk, in a press release he personally signed.
But the House of Representatives, in statement issued by the Chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education and Services, Professor Julius Ihonvbere, titled: ‘WASSCE should not be cancelled’, yesterday in Abuja, stated that the policy reversal is not good for the country.
The House particularly pointed out that critical stakeholders in the education sector in the country were not informed beforehand.
Ihonvbere further explained that the move by government also has the potential to create more confusion in the education sector.
“The House Committee on Basic Education and Services received with amazement the announcement by the Honourable Minister of Education that Nigerian students would not be participating in the forthcoming WASSCE examinations.
“He did not inform the country if this was in agreement with other West African leaders or in consultation with the examination bodies, the state governments and other stakeholders in the education sector.
“The Minister did not also inform the public if the decision was the outcome of a meeting with all State Governments that are in charge of all but the Unity Secondary Schools that are owned by the Federal government,” the Committee chairman said.
The Committee Chair said the Hon. Minister of State, in his usually consultative and participatory approach, had briefed the nation at the COVID-19 Presidential Committee briefing over the airwaves and in an appearance before the House Committee on Basic Education where he assured Nigerians that all steps had or were being taken to ensure full compliance with all COVID-19 protocols.
“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,” he added.
The House Committee, however, disagreed with the Honourable Minister and believes that reconsideration is urgently needed to save Nigeria’s educational system and listed seven grounds on which the decision should be reversed and the examination successfully conducted.
“Nigeria is not the only country expected to write the examination in the midst of COVID-19; Nigeria should insist that the examination be based exclusively on the already covered syllabus of schools; the Federal Ministry should not chicken out of its responsibilities but take charge, provide policy direction, engage the states and other stakeholders” the committee chair further stated, advising the examination body to increase its invigilators and use all classrooms and event centres to conduct the examination and comply with COVID protocols.
“The 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.
“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 said.
Meanwhile, the ex-Vice President has warned that as a parent and investor in the education sector, he wishes 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 the country’s best interest.
The former Vice president noted that even though in such critical time of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is understandable that an abundance of caution be put in place to save lives, but however, warned that caution, without consultation, and thoughtful action, may be counterproductive.
“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,” he warned.
He stated that rather than cancellation, he suggested ways to protect the health of Nigerians and prevent the pandemic from escalating, like mobilising all available public and private infrastructures, including primary schools, stadia, and cinemas, for the examinations.
In the alternative, he said that the Federal Government can prevail on WAEC to have 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,” he added.