BY Leke Baiyewu
The House of Representatives has faulted the decision by the Federal Government to suspend the plan to partially reopen schools for pupils in final classes to take external examinations.
The Committee on Basic Education and Services particularly criticised the decision to disallow Nigerian pupils from sitting for the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination to be conducted by the West African Examination Council for the 2019/2020 academic session.
Schools at all levels have been shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had earlier in June said the Federal Government, in what it called “safe reopening of schools,” had approved the resumption of pupils in graduating classes, including Primary 6, Junior Secondary School 3 and the Senior Secondary School 3.
In approving the resumption of graduating classes, the government said water must be provided in schools for hand-washing and both pupils and teachers must wear face masks while observing social distancing.
Later, the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, had during the press briefing by the PTF announced that the 2020 WASSCE would hold between August 4 and September 5.
But the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, at the end of a meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Wednesday said all federal schools would remain closed until it was safe to reopen them.
Adamu also urged state governments that had announced schools’ resumption plans to rescind such.
The minister stated that WAEC could not determine the resumption date of schools for Nigeria. He alleged that the council announced the date of examination while the government was still consulting stakeholders on what to do.
Reacting to the development, Chairman of the committee, Prof Julius Ihonvbere, however, expressed the displeasure of the lawmakers through a statement issued on Friday, titled ‘WASSCE Should not be Cancelled.’
Ihonvbere said, “The House Committee on Basic Education and Services received with amazement, the announcement by the honourable Minister of Education that Nigerian students would not be participating in the forthcoming WASSCE examinations.
“He did not inform the country if this was in agreement with other West African leaders or in consultation with the examination bodies, the state governments, and other stakeholders in the education sector. The minister also did not also inform the public if the decision was the outcome of a meeting with all state governments that are in charge of all but the Unity Secondary Schools that are owned by the Federal government.
“This sudden policy reversal is not good for the country. It is bound to create further confusion in the education sector, create disappointment and suspicion among parents, frustrate the students and show to our development partners and Nigerians that the distortions and disarticulations in the sector are only getting worse.
“The reversal also shows that our policymakers may just be adopting a laid-back approach to the need to confront the novel coronavirus rather than taking proactive and creative steps to manage and contain it.”
Ihonvbere stated that the committee disagrees with Adamu and “believes that reconsideration is urgently needed to save our educational system.”