WASSCE withdrawal: Atiku, reps want Nigeria to rescind decision

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Former Nigerian Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and legislators in the Federal House of Representatives on Friday called on the Nigerian government to rescind its decision to withdraw from the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

Mr Abubakar who described the move as putting Nigeria at more risk said the decision was not in the nation’s best interest.

“As a parent and investor in the education sector, I wish to register 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,” a statement from the former presidential candidate read in part.

Recall that conflicting repors had emerged during the week from the Federal Ministry of Education on Nigerian students’ participation in the regional certificate exam.

The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) on Tuesday released modalities for the conduct of the WASSCE for school candidates ahead of its newly rescheduled date.

While Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajuiba announced on Monday that the exam would hold between August and September, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu came out two days later to announce otherwise as he felt this would risk the lives of students as the COVID-19 pandemic still pervades the country.

Atiku noted that irrespective of such fears, ignoring consultation and thoughtful action may be counterproductive.

He also identified the risks associated with the decision of the government and proferred solutions to the challenge.

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“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 & private infrastructures, including primary schools, stadia, and cinemas, for the examinations. In the alternative, 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 to 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.

Decision creates confusion – Reps

The House Committee on Basic Education and Services said that the 2020 WASSCE described the decision as calling for confusion.

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The Chairman of the committee, Professor Julius Ihonvbere (APC-Edo), made the committee’s position known in a statement in Abuja.

Ihonvbere said that committee was amazed at the announcement by the Minister Adamu, where he stated that Nigerian students would not be participating in the 2020 WASSCE.

The lawmaker said that the minister did not inform the country if the position 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.

“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.

“It would show 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 said.

The lawmaker disagreed with the minister of education, saying that a reconsideration was urgently needed to save educational system in the country.

“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.

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

“We recommend that WAEC quadruple 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 handwashing buckets with soap and water, and facemasks to all students.

“Students should come from home, write the paper and disperse immediately,” he said.

He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct all ministers to return to their states to work with the governors to ensure smooth implementation of the policy and conduct of the examination.

According to the legislator, “we are parents just like the minister and not Nigerian parent would want to delay, distort, even terminate the progress of any child.”

He said that the committee was convinced that if the recommendations were implemented, the WASSCE could be conducted with ease and with no repercussions.

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