Students of public secondary schools of Sokoto and Zamfara will not be taking part in this year’s May/June diet of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
The head of Nigeria’s office of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), Patrick Areghan, who disclosed this on Monday, however, did not state the reasons for the exemption.
But PREMIUM TIMES can report that the examination body refused to accept candidates from Zamfara State over an accumulated debt owed over the years.
Reliable sources confirmed to this newspaper how the administration of the immediate past governor of the state, Abdulaziz Yari, owed the examination body accumulated fees for public school candidates sponsored for the examination.
But the state’s commissioner for education, Zainab Gummi, told our reporter on the phone that the issue is being addressed in the interest of the students and Nigeria as a whole.
She also cited insecurity as a major reason for the difficulty in presenting candidates before the deadline, and promised: “that all hands are on deck to ensure quicker resolutions of all issues.”
“We have an agreement with the examination body and we are committed to fulfilling it. Our major challenge is insecurity because most students are not even in the right frame of mind to sit for examinations. But I can tell you that Governor Matawalle is committed to rebuilding Zamfara State and education is a key component of the drive,” Mrs Gummi said.
This is, however, the second time Sokoto State students of public schools will not be participating in the examination, as the government also failed to present candidates in 2021.
The state’s commissioner for education, Guiwa Bello, said the state has chosen to patronise the National Examinations Council (NECO) and the National Business and Technical Examination Board for enrollment of candidates for the senior school certificate examination (SSCE) and the national technical certificate examination conducted by both NECO and NBTE respectively.
Mr Bello, however, did not state the specific reasons the state dumped WAEC, but insisted that “it is not mandatory for students to take WASSCE conducted by WAEC.”
He said: “It is our choice to make and we have opted for both NECO and NBTE which are our own duly accredited examination bodies.
“If anyone tells you that Sokoto owes WAEC, such a person is just being mischievous. We do not owe WAEC a dime. We decided to choose which examination our students will take part in because it is not mandatory to take the WASSCE conducted by WAEC.”
Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES can report that WAEC refused to accommodate public school candidates from Sokoto State in 2021 because the education ministry failed to upload the mandatory continuous assessment score (CASS) for its candidates.
CASS is a mandatory requirement for enrollment of candidates for WASSCE for school candidates to know the capacity and records of each candidate.
While addressing journalists on Monday at WAEC headquarters in Yaba, Lagos, Mr Areghan appealed to other states that owe the examination body to pay up or risk being publicly exposed.
According to Mr Areghan, such practice and the lateness of schools, and particularly private ones, to register their candidates within the stipulated time, are affecting the conduct of the examination.
WAEC had at different times in the past withheld results of candidates sponsored by indebted states and had similarly issued such threats in the past.
It, however, commended the Lagos State government for “always promptly paying its sponsored candidates’ fees.”
He said this year’s May/June diet will take place between May 16 and June 23, spanning a period of six weeks. He commended the Nigerian government for the support and cooperation to return to the May/June calendar after the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
Mr Aregha said though the rampaging pandemic seems to have eased, “all examination functionaries, including council’s staff on distribution, supervisors, inspectors, candidates and school officials have been briefed and advised to follow all COVID-19 protocols.”
He said WAEC is committed to building on its glory of 70 years of its existence through quality service and the deployment of technology, and warned those he described as operators of rogue websites and “miracle centres” to desist from scamming innocent candidates or they face the music.
He said: “The penalties for involvement in any form of examination malpractice will be meted out to erring candidates, supervisors, schools, as would be approved by the Nigeria Examinations Committee (NEC), which is the highest decision-making organ of the council that sits on examination matters in Nigeria.
“It is on this note that I call on parents and guardians to admonish their wards to study hard and desist from engaging in any form of examination malpractice. Media must play its watchdog role. The various ministries of education should call their principals, teachers and other officials serving as inspectors, to order.
“Every candidate and examination functionary must play by the rules which are well stipulated in the WAEC syllabus and guidelines for the conduct of examinations issued to schools. Erring schools will be derecognized; erring officials would be adequately punished while erring candidates would lose their results, no matter whose ox is gored.
“I want to specifically warn supervisors to desist from aiding and abetting examination malpractice by assisting candidates, one way or the other, especially by allowing them to enter the examination hall with their cell phones and make use of the same. This is shameful and indecorous. We shall fish them out and deal with them. All hands must be on deck to sanitise the education sector,” he said.
The WAEC boss said a total of 1,607,985 candidates from 20,221 schools have registered for the examination.
He said of the figure, 800,055 representing 49.76 per cent are males, while 800,724, representing 50.24 per cent are females.
Mr Areghan said about 30,000 “practising senior teachers, nominated by various ministries of education, would be participating in the examination as supervisors.”
Mr Areghan also said no application for registration was rejected based on not possessing the National Identity Number (NIN). He said though it was made as a component of the registration process, “it was not a compulsory requirement in order not to disqualify many candidates.”
“Even after the registration exercise, candidates were, and are still being allowed to submit their NIN for upload. I, therefore, want to make it categorically clear that no candidate was denied registration as a result of non-submission of NIN,” he said.
The WAEC boss decried the degenerating security situation in the country and lamented the experience in 2021 when violent agitators disrupted its examination in a South-eastern state.
He said ahead of this year’s examination, the body will work hand-in-hand with relevant stakeholders and security operatives to avert crises.
“WAEC will work with the federal ministry of education, the various state ministries of education, the Nigeria police force, other security agencies and other stakeholders, to deliver a credible examination to the Nigerian child and the general public,” he said.
He added that the final international timetable for the conduct of the examination has been sent to all schools for proper and necessary guidance of the candidates and other stakeholders.