Parents and students in Zamfara and Sokoto states have expressed disappointment over what they described as failure by their state governments to enrol the final year students in the states’ secondary schools for this year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). Daily Trust on Sunday reports.
Students, parents express displeasure in Zamfara
Over 20,000 students in Zamfara State will miss the 2022 West African Senior School Certificate examination because the state government is owing the West African Examination Council (WAEC) fees for 2019, 2020 and 2021 exams, which amounted to over N1 billion.
Some of the students who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday said it was shocking and disheartening for them to miss the examination, adding that it would definitely affect their academic fortune.
They said many final year students in the secondary schools may not secure admission into tertiary institutions. This is because those who can’t pass NECO may have no any other alternative than to wait till the following year.
“I don’t know what I will do now; it appears we will miss the WASSCE, and how do we prepare for admission into tertiary institutions? I have told my father that should I fail NECO, it would not be easy to secure admission the same year.
“We are calling on the state government to pay for the WAEC fees so that students, especially those from poor families, can have access to tertiary institutions,” a student identified as Aliyu Usman said.
Dr Mansur Buhari and Sokoto State Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Bello Gwiwa
Another student identified as Aminu Yusuf said students from less privileged homes will not have the means to write the examination. He said the registration fees for the WAEC currently stands at more than N20,000.
“One third of the students can’t afford paying for external examination. Some of those who might fail some subjects in the NECO can make it in WAEC. Now that we are not enrolled, we have no alternative,” he said.
In the same vein, parents of the students have expressed anger over the matter, saying that some them, especially those with the means, would have to enrol their wards to write external examinations.
“Some of the reasons the authorities are giving is that the students are flunking the examinations and that they are wasting resources to pay for students only for them to fail.
“But, if you are talking about failure, who do we blame? Parts of the blame must go to the government. This is because they did not provide enough subject teachers in our schools. You would see a whole secondary school without enough teachers or teaching facilities. Why won’t students record failure in the exams,” said a parent, Isah Aliyu.
Another parent said he has three final year students in two secondary schools in the state and he would need about N70,000 to at least pay for external exams for them and that it is too much for him.
“The examinations fees are high. For example, not all parents can pay N20, 000 for such examinations. Most of the candidates are sponsored by the state government for May/June examinations, so most parents rely heavily on the state government for payment of the examinations,” he said.
“Our orientation on the value of education must also change before any meaningful progress can be made. The reason why I said so is that when you go to our villages, you will see a man with a herd of cattle who will be more willing to sell part of the cows for the wedding proposal of his son rather than paying examinations fees or school fees for him.”
He however criticized some policies of the state government, tagging them as misplaced priorities. He said the policies would be better off if appropriately repositioned.
A former member of the State Executive Council said in 2016, a committee set up by Zamfara State Government to ascertain the actual figure of students sitting for the WAEC and NECO examinations in the state public schools had discovered that the payroll was over inflated by 2,300 external candidates.
He expressed dismay over the practice, saying that students are being recycled.
“What I mean by recycling is that a student will fail examination this year and he will bounce back to the school the following year on payment of some amount of money. At the end, government would pay for candidates that are not in the schools’ nominal roll,” he said.
He said the head counts conducted in some schools uncovered how some heads of secondary schools were over-inflating the names in the payment rolls largely for personal gains.
Efforts to get the reaction of the state’s Commissioner for Education, Hajiya Zainab Lawal Gummi, failed. But the state’s Deputy Governor Senator Hassan Nasiha at a press briefing said government is working out modalities to ensure that students write the exams.
Parents, students on edge in Sokoto
Also in Sokoto, parents have continued to bare their minds on the decision of the Sokoto State government not to pay registration fees for students of public schools over an unresolved issue with the examining body.
Malam Aminu Idris, whose son is a final year student in one of the public schools, said the decision was painful but there was nothing they could do since they could not afford their children attending private schools for the exams.
“I am personally touched by the decision because WAEC is the best alternative for our children due to its global acceptability.
“I am a civil servant; I depend on salary. I cannot afford to take my child to the private school to write WAEC. Therefore, I have to accept the decision of the government in good faith and continue praying for my child to succeed in NECO,” he said.
However, the State chairman of the School Based Management Committee, Junaidu Umar Jabo, said although it was not the best decision but it was caused by the insincerity of the examination body.
“I was part of the board meeting when it was decided that our children should write 2022 WAEC and the names of our candidates were submitted but WAEC refused to give them their PINs until there is 40 per cent down payment of the total registration fees despite the fact that the state is not owing them a Kobo,” he said.
He appealed to the conflicting parties to resolve their issue in earnest for the benefit of our students.
A lecturer at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, Dr Mansur Buhari, however, said that parents should start saving for their children’s examinations.
“It is only in Sokoto that parents don’t bother about the education of their children because they see it as a sole responsibility of the state government.
“Education from primary to secondary schools is free and the government pays for SSCE, buy JAMB forms for students and even pay for their registration fees if admitted into the university.
“So, everything is paid by the government. This is why parents don’t bother about the performance of their children. This cannot continue like because the government is overburdened.
“Government must come up with a policy which will force parents to pay if not all, at least 30 per cent of the total examination fees. This will make them value the education of their children.
“There is the need for us to understand that so many things we enjoy in the north, particularly in education, are privileges and not rights.
“It is not the responsibility of any government to sponsor or pay tuition or examination fees of anyone. It is first the responsibility of the parent(s). Governments do that on compassionate grounds.
“The responsibility of government is to invest in our schools and not to spend on our students because it does not make sense and would not give us the kind of outcome we expect from such students, giving the nature of our society. Call it “yahudanci” if you like because it sounds somewhat awkward to you, but that does not change it from being the truth,” he said.
He advised that government should reverse to its former policy to pay examination registration fees of WAEC and NECO for only students who have the ability to pass these examinations.
“I once asked us to take a careful look at these statistics which I obtained from the Sokoto State Ministry of Education in my investigation of Sokoto State government’s spendings on WAEC and NECO vis-à-vis students’ performance for a period of six years (from 2010 to 2015).
“Total amount spent on WAEC/NECO registrations (for the six-year period) is N1,889,566,220 (N1.8 billion). Average success/performance (for the six-year period)–WAEC 19.8 per cent and NECO: 29.83 per cent.
“Average performance in the two examinations for the periods covered: 24.81 per cent.
“Total candidates (for the six-year period): 248, 177 and Total candidates with 5 Credits (for the six-year period): 62,771.
“Total candidates with 3 Credits (for the six-year period): 32,274 and Total candidates that failed (for the six-year period): 153,132,” he said.
He added that “In the Nigerian school grading system, 24.81 per cent over 100 is an F. By this logic therefore, our government has spent billions over a period of six years on an F.”
Why Sokoto public schools’ students aren’t registered for WAEC
Students of public schools in Sokoto have not registered for the West Africa Senior Certificate Examination because of unresolved misunderstanding between the examination body and the state government, according to Daily Trust on Sunday findings.
The state government has been paying examination fees for final year students in all the public schools across the state, including NECO, WAEC and NABTEP.
Our reporter learnt that even last year, no student from public school wrote the examination in the state.
The Commissioner for Basic and Secondary schools, Muhammad Bello Gwiwa, said the problem started last year when the council developed a new software for students’ registration.
“The names of our students were distorted. For instance, somebody whose name is Danladi would appear as Banladi on the new platform and his other details like date of birth and so on, were not there.
“When we realised that, we notified them and pleaded with them to correct them so that our children would not have any problem after writing the exams.
“They refused to correct the mistakes despite series of reminders because we wrote four letters to them.
“It was after receipt of the fourth letter that they agreed to affect the correction but on the condition that we will pay N5000 for each correction, meaning if three letters were corrected on one name, we will pay N15,000.
“When we added the money, we realised that it ran into hundreds of millions. And they asked us to pay additional N100, 000 for each school, where students’ names were corrected and we have over 360 schools with 36,000 final year students.
“We told them we cannot pay the money because the mistake is from them not us. We complained to the federal ministry of Education and the representative of the Minister in the board of WAEC intervened but to no avail.
“This year, they came to us for resolution and we agreed that our children will write the exams. We have 37,000 writing final year exams this year. We submitted their names and asked for their individual PIN number which is the normal procedure.
“But the council declined our request, saying we must make a 40 per cent down payment before they can release the PIN numbers. These were the same people who came and pleaded for peaceful resolution of the issue. This is why our students didn’t register for their examination.
“So, for them to say they were not aware of why our students are not writing the exams, they are being economical with the truth. They know the reason,” the Commissioner added.
“Our students can do without WAEC. They wrote NABTEP and NECO last year and some of them are currently studying in various universities in the country and oversea. So, the WAEC doesn’t have that monopoly because we have national examination bodies.”
A statement signed by the spokesman of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Malam Muhammad Bello, further explained that the reason why they didn’t enrol students for the body’s examinations in the past two years, was the Council’s refusal to furnish it with details of its Tax Identification Number (TIN), which made the government to look elsewhere.
“Instead of supplying the state government with the required financial propriety code, WAEC chose to ask for an advance payment of 40 per cent of the 30,000 candidates proposed for sponsorship by the government last year.
The state government was not indebted to WAEC as they erroneously claimed.
“For instance, from 2016-2020, the state government paid WAEC a total of N1,655,328.300bn for 119,318 candidates, just as the sum of N1,091,544.250bn was paid to NECO for 111,703 candidates within the same period. In 2020 alone, the administration spent over N260m on WAEC registration fees for prospective candidates.
“Prior to the advent of the incumbent administration, the SOSG had procured the services of both exams bodies for over N1.9bn between 2000 and 2015.
“However, jettisoning its dealings with WAEC recently did not roll back the commitment of the state government in bankrolling the payment of exam dues for deserving candidates. Between 2016 and 2020, the sum of over N2.7bn was spent on WAEC/NECO exams fees. Also, between 2021-2022, the government expended over N1.9bn on the same project,” the statement concluded.