Graduating students in secondary schools across the country on Monday expressed joy over the reopening of schools for them to write their final year examinations.
Many of those interviewed said they were tired of staying at home and saw the reopening of schools as a glad tiding.
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Officials of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) said they have registered 1, 549, 463 candidates from 19, 129 schools to write the West African School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Nigeria.
But teachers and some parents expressed mixed feelings with some of them predicting mass failure considering that their students and children have been at home due to coronavirus.
They said the students missed “precious months” at home and that with the exception of few, the students did not use the opportunity to read ahead of the exams.
Health experts also expressed worry that asking students back to school could be a recipe for further spread of coronavirus.
The federal government said yesterday that all secondary schools in the country will resume academic activities for final year students on August 4, 2020.
A statement by the spokesperson of the ministry, Ben Goong, said: “Students will have two weeks within which to prepare for the West African Examinations (WAEC) due to start on the 17th of August, 2020.
“These were the unanimous decisions reached today (yesterday) at a virtual consultative meeting between the Federal Ministry of Education, Honourable Commissioners of Education of the 36 states, the Nigerian Union of Teachers, (NUT), the proprietors of private schools, and Chief Executives of examination bodies
“The meeting also resolved that a passionate appeal be made to the federal government through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and public spirited Nigerians for assistance to schools across the country to enable them fast track the preparations for safe reopening, as agreed.
“Another meeting is to be convened tomorrow between the Federal Ministry of Education and Chief Executives of examination bodies namely, NECO, NABTEB and NBAIS to harmonise their examination dates, which will be conveyed to stakeholders expeditiously by the Federal Ministry of Education,” the statement said.
Yesterday’s decision was a new twist to earlier comments by government officials.
The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, had last week said they would opt for the GCE since the WASSCE cannot be rescheduled for any reason.
He stated this during the bi-weekly Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
We’ll pass our exams
Abbas Musa Abubakar, an SSS 3 student at Hayatul Islam Private School, Jos, said he was happy that schools would resume.
He said, “We are not reading at home since the closure of schools because friends and other activities at home won’t allow you to read. Besides, we don’t have someone to serve as a teacher. Now that the school is resuming, we believe we can catch up with what we have missed,” he said.
In Lagos, an SSS 3 student, Mariam Musa, expressed joy over the development, saying it will enable her to conclude her secondary education and forge ahead without any delay.
A student of community secondary school Oyigbo, Rivers State, Chidinma Nweke, said “I am happy that we are going back to school, but I want to appeal to the federal government to give us a little time to enable us recover some of our lost time and prepare for the exams.”
Another student, John Ikechukwu, said, “We have been at home since March and this has affected our studies. I would like to commend the federal government for reopening schools.”
In Kaduna, Shimi Jatau of Anchor College said the announcement was too sudden.
“I am indifferent about it because it is too sudden. I mean, we should have been told this earlier or given more time to prepare our minds. But at the same time, I am okay with the idea of resuming August 4th because we will be moving forward and not staying at home doing nothing.
Abubakar Ahmad Musa of Command Secondary School, Kaduna, said he had prepared for his final examination.
“I am ready because I can’t wait to complete my secondary. Already, we have a WhatsApp group where we discuss various topics with my classmates during the lockdown,” he said.
Time too short to make students ready
A Senior Secondary School English teacher with Capville Schools, Abuja, Hassan Taiye Ibrahim, said two weeks would not be enough to get the students prepared for examinations.
“Many of the students saw the COVID-19 lockdown as a prolonged holiday and it is now that they will start scraping to read up. Only a few of them are prepared for the exams,” he said.
Hassan Sani, a teacher in Kano, Michael Yusuf who teaches mathematics in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, and Yafati Babagana, a guidance and counselling official in Maiduguri, said they feared mass failure if the WASSCE is held in the next two weeks.
“The students missed a whole term and I don’t think it is possible for them to recover in two weeks,” Sani said.
“I pray our students pass but there is no magic in writing exams…If you know, you know,” he said.
Yafati on her part said students would require a lot of mentoring to succeed. “We know how difficult it is but I want to suggest that governments at all levels provide opportunities for extra lessons for the students in order to cope,” she said.
Also, the CEO of the Voyage International School, Abuja, Yussuff Oriyomi, said many students have not been reading but watching television at home and would therefore require more time to get back to their books.
A parent in Lagos who gave his name as Mr Matthew, and whose child is in SSS 3, said he would not take the government seriously any longer on the issue of school reopening until its pronouncement becomes a reality.
“Was it not the same government that announced earlier that schools would be opened for exams and abruptly rescinded its decision? So, I won’t be surprised if the government before August 4 said it has cancelled its plan to reopen schools for examinations,” he said.
Why we support school resumption
The Secretary General of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) Dr. Mike Ene who was part of the meeting where a decision was reached yesterday, said they agreed to the resumption of schools after getting reports from state governments.
“Following the assurances we got, we have to concur…Some commissioners said they are 80 percent ready and that even NCDC has given them certificates of readiness,” he said.
He said most of the schools had finished their mock examinations adding, “What they need to do is little revisions and enter the exam hall.”
He noted that the idea of starting from 4th was to have two weeks to do revisions.
“Ordinarily, one month would have been better so that everything will fall into place, but everybody including the teachers, students, parents, government and stakeholders have to make sacrifices because if we miss August, we will have to wait until November.
“Already Ghana has started its WAEC, so the only time you can take all the four papers that the four regions will take is to start from 17th of August; after August the next one will be in November/December and if Nigeria is to go for that, parents would pay again.
“So, having looked at all the options, we see that August is the time so that we will not interrupt the entire school calendar,” he added.
Private schools applaud decision
The National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) in its reaction appreciated the federal and state governments for their resolve to reopen schools to allow students in the country prepare for their WASSCE.
The National President of the Association, Chief Yomi Otubela, said it was cheering news for students, parents, teachers, school owners and other stakeholders who had shown concerns over the initial suspension of the examination.
He assured that NAPPS was fully ready to ensure that proprietors took safety as a priority in schools.
“We shall use the opportunity of this resumption to assess the workability of safety protocols that are in place in schools and hope that we can use the success of it to ensure other students fully resume as soon as possible,” he said.
Our plans in Nigeria
The federal government said yesterday that WASSCE subject’s peculiar to Nigerian candidates would be taken from September 5 through September 14, 2020.
The Minister of State Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, said this while answering questions at the 53rd joint national briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
According to him, the exams for subjects common to all English speaking West Africa countries, (Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and Liberia) will however, proceed as previously published on August 17.
He said, “This varies the timetable we agitated earlier by as much as two weeks. What the agreement entails is WAEC West Africa and all the countries that are in it have agreed that the exams should proceed, but the exams peculiar to Nigeria will be taken from September 5 through to September 14.”
He added that Nigeria will work out an arrangement to domesticate its own timetable for the exams.
The minister said, “The exams that are common to all the countries of West Africa will proceed as previously published on August 17. This today was accepted by every state in Nigeria and endorsed by the Presidential Task Force today at our meeting. Revision classes begin from today (Monday).”
He said that this is to ensure that exiting SS3 students will have two weeks to prepare for the WASSCE examinations.
Too early to put students in class
The President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah, said Nigeria was not ready to reopen schools because of the poor level of compliance to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines against COVID-19.
He said it was not that medical experts do not want Nigerian children to be educated, but that it was important to note that only those who were alive could go to school and be educated.
He said the reason the government was reopening schools was because of the pressure from teachers, proprietors and parents.
He said parents who were insisting that their children must write examinations have also not factored the fact that their children could be infected with the virus.
Prof. Ujah said Nigeria should note that South Africa re-opened schools and many students got infected, forcing authorities to reverse the decision.
He said the federal government should have checked that all requirements for COVID-19 prevention were met before reopening schools.
He said people were also supposed to be trained on ensuring student’s compliance to use of face masks, social distancing and also carry out daily temperature checks on students. “The NMA feels the pressure put by parents on the federal government to reopen schools should be noted so that if there are issues, they shouldn’t blame the government,” Prof. Ujah said.