Chukwudi Nweje, Ndubuisi Orji and Okwe Obi, Abuja
The House of Representatives, yesterday, charged President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse the decision to withdraw Nigeria from participating in this year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and other similar examinations.
The House directed the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to immediately implement the health safety measures outlined by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the conduct of the examinations as well as put in place other protocols stipulated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for the containment of the virus in schools. It mandated its Committees on Basic Education, Healthcare Services, Water Resources and Legislative Compliance to ensure compliance and report back within two weeks.
This followed the adoption of a motion by Nnolim Nnaji and six others on the urgent need to halt Federal Government withdrawal from WASSCE and other similar examinations and to provide conducive environment for students to write their examinations in accordance with NCDC guidelines.
WASSCE conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) is a creation of the former colonial administration to serve five West African countries -Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia-and has been administering the annual regional examination in the last 68 years.
Nnaji, in his lead debate, informed the House that WASSCE, which was origi- nally scheduled to hold between April 6 and June 5 was rescheduled to hold from August 3 September 5 due to the COVID-I 9 pandemic.
He noted that before the West African Examination Council (WAEC) announced the new date, it had consulted extensively with the five countries, including Nigeria, that constitute the council.
Nnaji expressed worry that Nigeria’s non-participation in this year’s examinations portends serious psychological, socio-economic and health effects on the students as well as the already overburdened parents and guardians and also have adverse effects on the country’s educational system and the economy at large.
Non-participation’ll cause irreparable damage –Afe Babalola
Founder and Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola, agrred that exclusion Nige-rian students from examination will leave lasting damage on the psyche of the estimated 1.5 million students scheduled to write the examination.
“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 1.5 million people may breed frustration and promote criminality.”
Babalola, in a statement, yesterday, said the COVID-19 will persist for some time and that the Federal Government should manage the pandemic the same way previous epidemic were managed.
Babalola said rather than withdrawing from the examination, the government should utilise empty spaces in tertiary institutions and secondary schools to allow adequate physical distancing in compliance with World Health Organisation (WHO) rules.
“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 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.”
Obi cautions FG
Vice presidential candidate of the People’ Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Peter Obi, cautioned against the decision, saying it would jeopardise the future of children.
He said such a sudden U-turn by the Federal Government on the earlier scheduled school resumption was not healthy for the country.
Obi explained that there were other safe measures Ministry of Education could employ for the safe re-opening of schools without putting the health of students at risk. The outright cancellation of the WASSCE, Obi said, was not in the best interest of the country because in addition to jeopardising the future of Nigerian children it presents Nigeria in a bad light.
“I hope the Federal Government realises how important it is that our education sector comes alive with activities. Rather than completely halting academic activities, especially WASSCE, the Ministry of Education should have by now come up with an effective roadmap that will see our children back to school safely.”
Guidelines for school resumption cumber-some – SDP
Forum of Social Democratic Party Chairmen has faulted the guidelines released by the Federal Government saying the precautionary measures would be difficult for school authorities to meet.
Part of the 52-page document explained that, “learners may arrive and depart at different times to avoid overcrowding; schools may reopen gradually (e.g., starting with particular grade levels).”
“Schools may alternate attendance days per week, with learners at the secondary level (or equivalent) and above having fewer in-person classes.
“Learners can better manage independent learning (e.g., junior secondary school learners attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays while primary school learners attend classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). Learners may remain in one location “with teachers coming to them.”
SDP Chairman, Delta State Chapter and Chairman of the Forum, Oke Idawene, who spoke to newsmen yesterday in Abuja, called on government to review it.
Forum hails FG
However, the Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum hailed government’s decision to further delay resumption of schools due to rampaging COVID-19 disease in the country.
The forum in a statement issued by its President, Mr Akin Malaolu, yesterday in Abuja, said the continued closure of schools in spite the pressure to resume for WASCE was highly commendable.
Malaolu said the decision showed that government prioritised humanity above education, saying the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 had shown sensitivity to public opinion.
“The PTF should be commended for listening to contrary opinion on issues that bother on management of the pandemic, easing of lockdown, testing measures etc.