By Aare Afe Babalola
It is a notorious fact that Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, had said that Nigeria will not participate in this year’s edition of the yearly West African Senior School Certificate Examination, WASSCE.
Speaking with State House Correspondents after last Wednesday’s Virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council meeting, Mallam Adamu said apart from the fact that the yearly WASSCE may not hold this year, schools under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education will not be opened on August 4 or any time soon.
Mallam Adamu emphasised that the West African Examination Council, WAEC, created by the former Colonial Administrators to serve Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia, which has been administering the annual Regional Examination in the last 68 years, cannot unilaterally determine when Nigerian schools will resume.
According to the Minister, “…Our schools will only open when we believe it is safe for our children and that is when the situation is right, not when the incidence of the (COVID-19) infection is going up in the nation. I just want to make it clear. We will not open soon for examination or for any reason, even WASSCE unless it is safe for our children. WAEC will not determine for us what to do. Schools will remain closed”.
He added: “…I will also like to use this position to appeal to those states that have already announced reopening. I think it is not safe. I feel responsible for all children, not just those in Federal Government-controlled schools. Please let’s save our children from this.
One infested child is enough to infest a whole class. When they close from class, they go into the Dormitories. This is not the right time to open schools. I appeal to the states that have already announced (reopening) to reconsider it.”
This new position by MallamAdamuis in sharp contrast to the earlier statement by the Minister of State for Education, Hon. CkukwuemekaNwajiuba, to the effect, that schools will be reopened on August 4.
The WASSCE is an annual examination for final year Secondary Schools in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia. About 1.5 million Nigerian students who have registered for admission into various tertiary institutions in the country are waiting for WAEC examination results for admission into University of their choice.
Even though the Hon. Minister of Education insisted that it was not safe to re-open the various institutions in the face of the increasing wave of Covid-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 Covid-19 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. We must be ready at all times to abide by rules and guidelines issued by WHO.
The good news from England that its Scientists are on the verge of developing a vaccine to combat the pandemic notwithstanding, the vaccine may not be available until June next year. Even then, it certainly will not be available in sufficient quantity for the world next year.
From history, pandemics had been tackled over the ages by relying on social distancing which Nigeria has embraced and are practising. This has been applied to churches, mosques, weddings and many elections in Nigeria.
How to get Nigeria to participate in 2020 WASSCE
It is my firm belief that the future of these 1.5 million young Nigerians who have registered for WAEC should not be put in jeopardy. It is a well-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 WAEC examination. What the government should do is to prepare the empty rooms for WAEC examination – fumigate the halls and the premises, use a face mask, provide sanitizers and ensure that WHO rules are obeyed to the letter.
The WAEC Law
The WAEC Law provides for a National Committee of WAEC in all the five countries. With that at the back of our minds, one would have expected that this matter should have been taken up by the National Committee of WAEC in Nigeria and the general body in Ghana before the declaration to withdrawal Nigeria from taking the examination.
One continues to wonder why the other four countries under the WAEC umbrella have no cancelled the WASSCE 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 WEAC 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? Why was the issue not turned over to the Nigeria body of WAEC or the general body of WAEC in Accra before the declaration of withdrawal to Nigeria? Did the Hon. 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?
All that is required to take the WAEC examination is proper management, consultation and discussion instead of unilateral cancellation of an annual international convention.
If the Federal Government insists that there would be no WASSCE this year, the students are not just losing one calendar year but losing an integral part of their entire lives which is gone forever by such declaration. We should always remember that after all, “time is life and life is time”.
A year of idleness for 1.5million people may breed frustration and promote criminality. The Federal Government should allow the WASSCE 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 with WHO rules.