With the ongoing crisis in the education sector over funds, lack of basic infrastructure, lack of welfare, backlog of owed allowances, ASUU strike, among others, the president’s recent approval of N2.9bn for the printing of examination materials for SSCE, BECE has received heavy criticism by educationists and stakeholders.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the sum of N2.9 billion for the award of contract for the printing of sensitive and non-sensitive examination materials.
- Gender violence: CSOs, media share touching stories
- Lekki shootings: Army rejects Lagos panel’s summons for General, Colonel
The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who disclosed this to journalists after the 21st Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, said the contract was awarded to a group of eight printers.
According to the minister, the materials were meant for the Basic Education Certificate Examination, the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, and the National Common Entrance Examination.
This approval is outside the annual budgetary allocation to the National Examination Council (NECO), the examination body responsible for organizing the examinations.
Daily Trust check showed that the examination body charges a registration fee of N9,850 for Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), N4,000 for Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and N2,500 for National Common Entrance Examinations (NCEE) per candidate.
In the 2020 examination, the council had 639 registration centres for NCEE with 92,591 candidates, 2,970 registered schools for BECE and about 700, 000 for SSCE.
The examination in addition to the money realized from registration fees has an allocation of N8.486bn in the 2021 appropriation bill, which was recently presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly, out of the N743bn allocated to the education sector.
The examination body is to expend N1, 799bn on printing of security documents and N1, 208bn on non-security documents, while teaching aids/instruments will gulp down N4, 473bn.
Daily Trust check on the three years allocation to the council showed that in 2020, N7.487bn was allocated to it out of N691bn allocated to the sector and N619, 893m to be expended on Printing of non-security documents.
For 2019, a total of N607.664bn was allocated to the education sector and NECO got the sum of N8.419bn, while in 2018 out of the N651,227bn allocated the sector, the council got an allocation of N7,327bn with none dedicated to printing of documents.
However, the approval has received a lot of criticism considering what is going on in the sector currently. There is a lot of concern on the future of education in the country following the ongoing strikes by tertiary education bodies, decay of infrastructural facilities in schools, poor quality of teaching and inadequate learning materials, among others.
Some educationists and stakeholders who spoke to Daily Trust on the approval of N2.9bn to print examination materials said the money should have been diverted to more important issues among the numerous challenges bedevilling the sector.
The National Moderator, Civil Society Action Coalition Education for All (CSACEFA), Kabiru Aliyu, said the money is not justifiable, asking, “how did they come about the amount? All this while, how much have they been expending on that and how did they come up with this?
“We work with facts; what justifies that amount when we have serious decay in schools? Teachers are lamenting over their welfare, communities are not adequately sensitised and mobilized to see education as the responsibility of all,” he said.
Aliyu said the N2.9bn should have been geared towards massive sensitization and mobilization, so that parents and individuals can even contribute to ensure that schools within their communities have examination materials.
“How can we continue to say the economy is going down and that we are having problems, but continue to derail in planning for what is most important. We have to get our priority in education right. Is the printing of papers more important? Meanwhile, when you go to schools, you will see children coming with foolscap sheet for write exams,” he said.
He however noted that there is no synergy in what is going on in the education sector in Nigeria, saying, “There is a need for stakeholders’ forum where the yearnings and aspirations of individual communities, zones, local government and states will be heard and addressed.
“You don’t just sit down in Abuja and take decisions for someone who is in Sokoto or Kebbi state or take decisions for somebody in Lagos when the challenges and demands are not the same. The federal government should look inwards and emphasize on stakeholder’s involvement,” he said.
For the Managing Director of Triumph Info-Edu Tech, Lucky Irodia, the amount to be spent on printing question papers is quite frightening and ridiculous, saying, “the problem of the educational sector in Nigeria is not the printing of question papers.”
Irodia said there’s no doubt the federal government is working towards improving education in Nigeria and that the decision to spend N2.9bn for the printing of Common Entrance, BECE and SSCE question papers could also be part of the moves, but that education mode of examinations have been simplified with the introduction of Computer Based Test (CBT).
“The educational sector is mostly threatened by COVID-19. The government is supposed to take the issue of Online Education seriously. It is high time the educational sector is digitized. We should move from analogue education to the 21st Century system, which is online/virtual learning,” he said.
He said: “The federal and state governments should work towards setting up the necessary equipment needed for CBT in schools. N2.9bn, with a little addition, will go a long way to digitalizing the educational sector in Nigeria.”
While noting that sequel to the outbreak of COVID-19, the need to change the conventional way of schooling became apparent, he said the government should improve on the salaries of teachers and make the teaching profession lucrative and attractive. “The reward of teachers should start here on earth.”
Associate professor at the University of Abuja, Ben Ugheoke, said the most important thing is to ask if they need to spend that on printing examination materials and how the contract was evaluated that it will cost almost N3bn to print.
“How did we get to this level that everything goes? Can we sincerely say to produce those materials cost that much? What is the function of some of the printing presses that we have?” he asked.
“I don’t care if they need to print whatever but can it cost that much. We need to evaluate it; let the ministry of Education come out with the details of how they arrived at that amount. I think there is a scam there, we have been duped,” he said.
Ugheoke said: “I am not too sure if we have a government. In almost every government meeting you attend, the quality of argument is so low that you will be tempted to ask: how did we get here?”
When contacted, the Director of Press and Public Relations of the Ministry of Education, Ben Bem Goong, said the contract came from NECO and not from the ministry.
“It is just that protocol demands that they should come through the ministry to raise the memo so the ministry can’t be in a position to explain the technical details of that contracts,” he said.
When contacted, NECO said the approval was made by FEC and that they do not make approvals.
However, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) when contacted told Daily Trust that the N2.9bn was not approved for the printing of exams papers alone.
Segun Imohiosen of the Public Relations Unit said it was an emergency procurement that was approved by the Bureau and that it does not necessarily have to be in the budget.
“If I am not mistaken, this should be the third time the approval has been given to them. The amount referred to is not for only one project; it’s for about 79 projects awarded to many bidders that aggregated to that amount,” he said.
“Like I said earlier, it is an emergency procurement that doesn’t necessarily have to be in the budget.”