A day after the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) announced dates and modalities for the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), the Federal Government changed its mind about Nigeria’s participation in the examination to the disappointment of school administrators and pupils, reports KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE.
On Monday, the Minister of State for Education, Mr Emeka Nwajuiba, announced that the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for SS3 pupils would begin 3 August.
He urged state governments to allow schools to resume so the pupils could revise for the examination.
On Tuesday, Head of National Office, West African Examinations Council (WAEC), Mr Patrick Areghan, followed with modalities for the examination.
He announced that 23,250 newly recruited supervisors would coordinate the examination for 1,549,463 SS3 candidates in 19,120 schools nationwide.
He said supervisors would be provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); while schools would be expected to provide running water and soap, infrared thermometers, hand sanitizers and ensure candidates are spaced two metres apart for the examination.
Patrick said the examination was to be written in all five-member countries that make up the West African Examination Council (WAEC) during the period (August 3 to September 5), adding that the timetable was drafted to suit Nigeria’s interest.
“The examination will run simultaneously in all the member-countries. If they are writing Government today in Nigeria, they are also writing same in Ghana, Sierra-Leone, Gambia and at the same time,” he said.
However, just 24 hours afterwards, the Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, announced that Nigeria would no longer be participating in the examination.
Rising from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, Adamu said it was not safe and appealed to schools to be patient.
The news of Nigeria’s sudden withdrawal from the examination came as a shock for some school managers.
National President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Chief Yomi Otubela, expressed disbelief about the news, saying a meeting with the Education Minister on Tuesday was about preparing for the examination not about pulling out.
“I still had a meeting with the Education Minister yesterday. All the commissioners for education were there. I was at the meeting representing private school proprietors.
“What we discussed at the meeting was to assess whether the time between now and the examination was adequate for revision and we agreed that it was as the syllabus had already been covered before schools closed in March.
We had a few people who thought the time was short and called for the date to be moved forward, but we basically agreed the time was enough.”
Otubela said schools had started preparations for resumption in line with the protocols laid down by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 so, they were ready to receive pupils before the news came.
National President, Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), Mr Emmanuel Orji, expressed disappointment with the government’s move to pull out of the examination.
He said members of AFED, the umbrella body of low-cost private schools in Nigeria, had long prepared for resumption before the WASSCE timetable was set.
He said the government was confused to have announced dates for the examination and rescind its decision after a short while. He added that Nigeria had to learn to live safely with the virus since it was not going away anytime soon.
“For me, it appears the Federal Government is confused. In the U.S., they have thousands of cases daily but they are trying to open up the economy. It is obvious that children’s education is not prioritised. People have to live. Life has to continue.
“We have told the government that the incidence of the disease is increasing. It means this kind of disease won’t leave us soon. So, we need to learn to live with it like HIV and malaria,” he said.
Emmanuel said the government had to consider the fate of investors in the education sector who have been adversely affected by the pandemic because they cannot open schools.
“If the government could raise our hopes to say schools will resume then we run around using the little we have to put things in place, it has to do something about this situation.
“Economically, some of us are dead. They have to find a way to resurrect us. Government has a constitutional role to find a way around the pandemic, but it needs to also protect us, the investors,” he said.
Ahead of resumption, schools had started putting facilities in place for handwashing, physical distancing and mini-isolation centres, among others.
Emmanuel said AFED had secured loans to produce about 7,000 mobile hand-washing buckets for use in schools as well as infrared thermometers at reduced prices. He added that most schools had been fumigated ahead of resumption.
“AFED as a body has been able to sensitise our members on preparation, thinking all schools would resume. We have produced our own automatic hand-washing buckets.
Already, in collaboration with EDFIN Micro-Finance Bank, we have secured funds to start the production of 5,000 buckets.
EcoBank gave us funds for 2,000 buckets so we can distribute to our members and they would repay gradually.
“We have also distributed infrared thermometers that we secured from importers at a reduced price. We are giving it to them for N16,000 compared to the N25,000, N45,000 it is sold in the market.
Most of our schools have also been fumigated by local government authorities in preparation for resumption,” he said.
Parents were also ready to return their children to school. One father, Mr K. Oladapo, said he was not worried about sending his teenager back to her school in Ogun State to take the examination.
He said she had been studying at home and was confident she would be fine.
“I am not afraid. She will be fine. We will just be praying for her. She has been studying all this while though we got tired of it, she still kept studying,” he said.
Another parent, Mrs Chine Olisakwe, was also ready to allow her 16-year-old daughter Precious return to Government Senior Model College, Badore, to take her examination.
However, she was anxious about the news that the government would not allow the pupils into the boarding house. She urged the government to allow pupils to stay in school dormitories, especially since only the two terminal classes (JSS3 and SS3) would be in school using facilities meant for six levels.
“In my own opinion, they should be in school if they are not many. She (Precious) said where they eat is big enough for SS3 to do their WAEC.
And since they would only be in school with the JSS3 students, let them just allow them to stay in school,” she said.
If the boarding school is not opened for returning pupils, Chine is worried that her daughter would not be able to commute daily from Ijesa on Lagos Mainland to Badore, after Ajah on the Island.
“If they should tell them to go from home, I don’t have anybody in Ajah that she could stay with. If the government should just give us information on time, I will look for some of her school mates living close to Ajah where she could stay for a month,” she said.
When she learnt of the indefinite suspension of the examination, Chine said: “Well, we will wait until they announce a new date,” she said.