The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) has changed the examination dates of some papers against how they were initially slated on the timetable it released for School Candidates writing its Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) in 2018.
This development is following protests by members of the Nigerian Muslim community over the initial clash of the time for Chemistry with when Muslims were meant to be in the mosque for the Jumat prayer.
EduCeleb.com recalls that Chemistry 2 and 1 papers were hitherto fixed for 2pm to 5pm on 20th April. An online protest to that by Muslims was because they felt that the chosen time conflicts with the time Muslim candidates and officials involved in the conduct of the exam would be in the mosque for the Jumat prayer.
Depending on the mosque and its location, Muslims in Nigeria observe the Jumat prayer between 1pm and 3pm every Friday.
This year’s edition of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) series for School Candidates is scheduled to hold between 27th March and 15th May, 2018, according to the timetable WAEC sent to the principals and proprietors of schools accredited for the conduct of the exams.
Protests against “rights infringement”
In a series online posts, the fixture of the Chemistry papers around the said time was described by Muslim faithfuls as an infringement on their rights. Prominent Muslim personalities also reacted to the matter.
A university professor, AbdulRazaq Kilani wondered why the examination body could not leave the two hours for Jumat free while Christians had a two day work free weekend.
According to him, “If the Seventh Day Adventists have Saturday and the other Christians have Sunday and the two hours the Muslims are asking for on Friday is being taken away from them, then the Muslim can ask (for) work free Friday which will cause a constitutional problem for Nigeria. It is better to grant the Muslims their right to worship.”
Kilani who is the Chief Imam at the University of Port Harcourt also suggested that lesser important subjects could have been slated at the said time rather than a compulsory one like Chemistry.
“WAEC is an international organization, one would have expected that they take due diligence by identifying subjects that they could put on Friday which are not core subjects like carpentry, textiles among others that are not offered by large number of candidates. So putting Chemistry there is wrong,” he said.
Lending his voice to the matter, a renowned activist, Lakin Akintola referred to it as an “unjust” act. He warned against the continued provocation of tension among Muslims.
In his words, “When there is no justice, there can never be peace and everyone is clamouring for peace.”
“Until something starts happening, until the Muslims start disrupting WAEC examination, until Muslims start tearing WAEC examination materials, that is when government will start paying attention.”
Professor Akintola who is the Director of Muslim Rights Concern also noted that it was not the first time Muslims would be raising alarm over exams clashing with Jumat prayer.
“WAEC is playing games and they want the Muslims to make noise every year. The Council is deliberately provoking Muslims and it has continued to show itself as a consistent anti-Muslim institution.”
“Section 38 subsection 1 and 2 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s constitution stipulates that there must be freedom of worship and WAEC fixing an examination for 2pm simply means that WAEC does not want Muslims to worship. Therefore, WAEC is an oppressor and we are ready for them.”
“The Muslims in every vicinity of the exam can mobilise on the day of the examination and go to the schools which the exams will be written, we are sending this warning to WAEC not to dare it,” he said.
He added that fixing a major subject at Jumat time was “illegal, unconstitutional and unlawful” and called for a review of the timetable.
On his part, the Amir of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, Lagos State Area Unit, Saheed Ashafa said, “I have seen the timetable of the students and it is annoying that a body like WAEC will fix such exam during a time when Muslim students are expected to go and perform a fundamental religious function and act.”
He described the act by the board as signifying hatred for the peaceful co-existence of the Muslims.
“For us as Muslim students, we condemn the act in totality and we call on WAEC to reschedule the examination and the Muslim will not go along with it because it is highly unacceptable, we will make some moves before the exam starts if they refuse to change it when we expect, we believe there is still time for WAEC to adjust so we can have a peaceful situation on the matter,” Dr Ashafa added.
Changes on the WASSCE timetable
Meanwhile, WAEC has since rescinded its decision regarding the timetable in a bid to accede to the demands of the Muslims for a schedule change. This was confirmed by its spokesman, Mr Demainus Ojijeogu in an interview with EduCeleb.com on Saturday in Lagos.
“The examination dates have now been swapped. In this respect, the exams scheduled for 20th April will now hold on 10th April while the ones for 10th April will hold on 20th April,” he said.
He had earlier told EduCeleb.com correspondent when the protest broke out on Thursday that WAEC planned to handle the said clash with the Jumat prayer “administratively” by instructing a delay of the Chemistry paper by about 30 minutes in affected centres.
“We do handle that administratively. The paper may be delayed to accommodate those who went to the mosque till they come back.
He stated further that, “the paper will be delayed till 2:30 pm or 3 pm, when the Muslims will return from the mosque.”
When probed further about the likelihood of non-implementation of the directive, he assured the public that an instruction would be passed down to the exam officials.
“There is no challenge there at all. The Custodians will be directed on the time to release the examination materials throughout the Federation,” he emphasised.
But Mr Ojijeogu stated that the new decision represented by the “swap” superseded previous stance of the examination body on delaying papers for a few minutes.
An internal memorandum from the Acting Head of Test Administration Division to the Zonal Coordinators, State Controllers and Officers-in-Charge dated Friday, 16th March, 2018 exclusively obtained by EduCeleb.com also confirmed the latest development.
In the memo, the Acting Head emphasised the need for the recipients to ensure compliance.
He implored them to “Kindly ensure that this information is widely disseminated to all Principals and Proprietors of School, Ministries of Education,and relevant stakeholders within your area(s) of jurisdiction.”
The directive for the modification came from WAEC’s International Examination Department (IED), according to the memo.
Therefore, candidates who registered to write Chemistry would now sit for its papers on 10th April, 2018. Besides Chemistry, the other subjects affected are Christian Religious Studies (CRS), Islamic Religious Studies (IRS), West African Traditional Religion (WATR) 2 and 1 (Essay and Objective for each).
The Chemistry papers hold between 2pm and 5pm. Also, CRS, IRS and WATR will be written simultaneously earlier in the day at 9:30am to 11:30am for the Essay part (Paper 1), and at 11:30am to 12:20pm for the Objective part (Paper 2).
For the papers that are now to be written on 20th April, Physics 2 and 1 hold 9:30am to 11:00am, and 11:00am to 12:15pm respectively. On the same day, Geography 3 (Practical and Physical Geography) is expected to hold between 3:00pm and 4:15pm.
Meanwhile, Ceramics 2 (Essay) and Ceramics 1 (Objective) would be written from 2:00pm to 4:00pm and 4:00pm to 4:50pm respectively.
Simultaneously, candidates who registered for Forestry 2 (Essay) and Forestry 1 (Objective) would have their papers from 2:00pm to 4:00pm and from 4:00pm to 5:00pm respectively.