As the controversy rages on between the federal, state governments and other stakeholders in the education sector on the conduct of the 2020 West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), South-West states, and two others from the South-East have resolved to reopen schools for their students.
The Federal Government had said it was not ready to reopen schools for Nigerian students to partake in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Examination until it is sure the atmosphere is safe against the current coronavirus scourge in the country.
The FG’s decision not to reopen school came after the Federal Executive Council meeting of July 8, when it said government had suspended the plan to recall graduating students for WASSCE, against its earlier announcement that schools would reopen August 4, 2020.
The Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, who reiterated government’s decision on Wednesday, while speaking with journalists after the Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, said, FG’s representatives were still meeting with stakeholders on the matter.
“We are still meeting with parents over the decision of the ministry. What the minister (Mr Adamu) said reflects the true position of the ministry; we are not confident yet that everywhere is safe.
“The numbers from the NCDC are still alarming and we have put this before parents and all the stakeholders in the education ecosystem, we are still meeting with them. In fact, there’s a stakeholders’ meeting convened for Monday.
“WAEC on its own part is also negotiating with other West African countries to look at possible shift in date. Once they are through with that meeting and hopefully when we are through with the consultation with stakeholders, if there is any change in the ministry’s position, we will communicate.
“But as it stands, the position of the Honourable Minister, as communicated to you last week, remains the position of the ministry until further evidence to the contrary or further agreements that may alter those arise,” Nwajiuba said.
However, against the FG’s decision, there were strong indications on Wednesday that six South-West states of Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti, joined by two South-East states of Ebonyi and Cross River have resolved to reopen their schools for resumption and for students to write the WAEC examination.
Even, with the FG’s position, there still appears to be confusion within the education sector on its stance, as on Monday, the Federal Ministry of Education issued guidelines for the reopening of schools, but without indicating the resumption date.
Likewise, before the July 8 FEC decision, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, at the PTF press conference on June 29, informed that: “Pupils in graduating classes, that is, those in Primary 6, JSS 3 and SSS 3, will be allowed to resume in preparation for their terminal examinations.”
But amid the confusion at the federal level, some state governments on Wednesday began preparations for their pupils to sit for WASSCE.
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The South-West states decision to reopen its schools was made stronger on Wednesday, with a statement released by the leadership of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), which notified of the South-West states readiness to allow their students to sit for the 2020 WASSCE.
The Director General of DAWN, Seye Oyeleye, in the statement, said the decision to reopen schools was part of the resolutions made by the state governments at the end of their online meeting initiated on Tuesday by DAWN.
Oyeleye said, the meeting was held in collaboration with the forum of South-West Education Commissioners, Special Advisers on Education and the state Chairmen of Universal Basic Education Board.
In the statement, Oyeleye said, the meeting was premised on the need for the states to jointly agree on modalities for the 2020 WASSCE, resumption of schooling activities for the Senior Secondary School (SSS) 3 students and other allied matters.
As stated in the DAWN release, “The forum, after careful deliberations, considering peculiarities of each state and options available reached a consensus on the subject matters and expresses thus: On WASSCE; state commissioners for education have signified readiness to enrol pupils for the 2019/2020 examination.”
On the resolution for resumption across the states, the DAWN DG, in the statement explained that considering the peculiarities of each state, the forum reached a consensus that at least by August 3, the SSS3 pupils should resume.
However, DAWN informed that in its decision, it was also recommended that the states should reach out to the FG and the examination body on possible postponement of the WAEC examination to an agreeable date proposed to be August 24.
“States should approach the Federal Government at the first instance seeking the postponement of the WASSCE by at least three weeks from the proposed resumption. At the second instance, states should directly approach WAEC (the West African Examinations Council) to seek an extension of the WASSCE, to week commencing August 24.”
The DAWN said it also resolved that on assumption, all schools when reopened should have in place incident managers and that wardens should be appointed for every classroom.
It also informed that there would be “intense advocacy campaigns of the stakeholders, parents, teachers, caregivers, proprietress/head teachers, and the pupils, on what is expected of them when schools resume.”
The state governments in their resolutions, also urged WAEC to encourage the use of computer-based tests while each state should deliberately intensify efforts and invest more in education technology.
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to Governor Ben Ayade on Education, Castro Ezama, who also communicated the readiness of Cross River State to reopen schools for students in the state to partake in WASSCE, said, the state was already preparing for the reopening of schools for its students.
“Very soon the pupils will resume. We are concluding arrangements for that to happen. We have not fixed a date yet,” Ezama.
The Ebonyi State government had also proposed the reopening of schools for between August and September.
Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi, who stated this on Wednesday, during a virtual meeting of the executive council in Abakaliki, the state capital, said, the reopening of schools in the state would be done in phases.
“The public should note that Ebonyi State will reopen her schools immediately, not in the month of July, we have to start the process that will lead us probably to reopen our schools between August and September,” Umahi said.