Some students have expressed mixed reactions following the suspension of National Examinations Council (NECO) due to #EndSARS protests across the country. HENRY TYOHEMBA and IBRAHIM ABDULAZEEZ SULEIMAN write.
Anthony Ahkimieh was going full steam with her revision at her apartment in Abuja ahead of the next paper scheduled for Monday when news broke that NECO examination has been postponed due to ongoing #EndSARs protest in the country.
For a while she went void not knowing whether to feel delighted or saddened. “At first, I was sad because postponement meant the anxious wait to finish writing my exam in order to get over it will be stretched indefinitely but then it occured to me that I would get extra time to prepare for the remaining papers, I started having a mix feeling,” she said.
The feeling that overwhelmed Ahkimieh when she got the news of the suspension is similar to other students in the country. Since the #EndSARS crisis which took a toll on academic activities nationwide, NECO had announced indefinite postponement of its ongoing Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE).
The cancellation which comes barely two days that the examination body put on hold all its 2020 school certificate activities due to the curfew and closure of schools in some parts of the country has contributed to disorganization of the academic calendar.
Now, there is fear that the Examination initially scheduled to finish in November may extend next year, which may add more misery on students after enduring a tough time with the COVID-19 lockdown.
Given the civil unrest which started as a peaceful demonstration by thousands of Nigerian youths calling for an end to police brutality following a viral message broadcast on social media alleging that men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) had gunned down a man in Delta state, the protest has been reportedly hijacked.
The disorder which saw protesters, some of them armed, attacking some public facilities, had many states declared curfew and halted education activities in most states.
In most states in the country that the protest was worst hit, schooling came to a complete halt last week as discontented residents protested over continuous police brutality and need for a change.
While some are celebrating that examination has been postponed indefinitely, others have call upon authorities to work towards ending the crisis in order to allow students complete their exams once and for all.
A student of government Secondary School, Lugbe, Abuja, Amira Abdul felt that government decision to postpone NECO examination was timely as the protest was escalating into more serious issue, coupled with the fact some states were observing curfew which make movement became difficult.
Despite the fact that Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari had addressed the nation and warned that it will not fold its hands and watch citizens destroy public properties, the destruction of both public and private facilities by hoodlums is escalating, which is impacting negatively on the education system.
To NECO Governing Board, the reason for postponing the examination was to curtail the insecurity in most parts of the country.
The Board noted that due to these security challenges, some state governments imposed a curfew and closed schools in order to safeguard lives and property and in the circumstances, it has become difficult for the Council to move examination materials across the country.
“Students in the affected locations were unable to sit for the papers already scheduled in the examination time table and the Governing Board further resolved that when normalcy returns, the Council will continue with the conduct of the examinations in all States,” the board was quoted saying.
Prior to that, governments in other states have ordered the closure of schools in their respective domains as the #EndSARS protests and violence escalated.
A school teacher with Cherry Field College Abuja who did not want his name to be mentioned because he is not authorised to speak to the media, told LEADERSHIP that students have been sent home since announcement by the NECO that it is shifting its examination indefinitely.
He lamented that the postponement will have serious effect on schools that lacks capacity. According to him, “SS3 students are already there and those who supposed to have graduated are now writing NECO which should have been finished long time if not for coronavirus pandemic. Now the NECO postponed exam again because of #EndSARS protest, some schools with insufficient infrastructure will definitely face a great challenge in managing the students.”
What FG Must Do To Stop Varsity Strikes-Dr Ottah
Dr Gabriel Alhassan Ottah is the HOD of department (HOD) of Mass Communication, Kogi State University. In this interview with ABUBAKAR YUNUSA, he spoke about the need to ending Academic Staff Union Of University (ASUU) strike, among other issues bedeviling education sector.
The faceoff between ASUU and federal government has been lingering over the years. What would be your advice to both parties?
Federal Government should consider the issues raised by ASUU and look at the possibility of creating a common ground between the demands and government position. Now, look at it. While federal and some state ASUU compliant universities suffer the delays from strike, private and non ASUU membership state universities have continued to make progress without obstructing their academic calendar. In Kogi State University for instance, since the governor banned all labour unions in higher institutions in 2017, there has not been any obstructions to the academic calendar of the university.
And as a lecturer in the university I confirm that government has lived up to it word on most of the issues raised by ASUU before the ban. A major contention was the payment of the earned academic allowance which was heavily owed by previous government and inherited by Bello. He promised to pay in percentages monthly. And he has been doing that. Every lecturer in KSU today receives a percentage of the outstanding earned allowance every month.
This is happening even without ASUU on ground. I will advise the ASUU national to also consider the plight of the students and parents and suspend their action while on the negotiation table. ASUU is a body or union of academics. Let me strike a balance here that while it holds government to accountability to an extent, it contributes to some problems. I feel there are other ways to resolve some issues than strike. But this does not absolve government of failing to keep their word. It’s like when a baby does not get food, it cries, and the only way ASUU cries is by declaring strike. Some of us do not think endless strike would solve our problem.
Some experts have identified ASUU strike and low budgetary allocation as the major obstacles against education in the country. What is your take?
There is need for every party to the development of education should show commitment and will in all aspects. Governments and corporate bodies should provide enabling environment for learning. There should be a strong will in this wise. Enabling environment for learning covers both infrastructure and welfare. You cannot build tall blocks of classrooms and expect education to thrive where there are no qualified teachers or where the teachers are not well paid. On the other hand, even if the teachers are well paid and there no class rooms and basic teaching materials, it is still a challenge. So, school managers have a lot to do as we equally expect students to make good use of whatever is available for them to utilise for their education. Nigeria can become a global cinosure in education if these measures are put in place.
Looking at the education development over the years, would you say the system is getting better?
The educational system of Nigeria is not getting worse and it is not better either. In the years behind us, education was handled in very crude ways such as teachers teaching children in primary schools under mango trees with slates and chalk boards. Today, there is an improvement to an extent. In those days, schools were very few and you walked long paths to get to school. Today there are primary and secondary schools everywhere. Most communities today boast of at least a primary school. Some also have secondary schools.
The success stories on the spread of schools can be credited to successive government policy on liberalisation of schools and making education compulsory and relatively free. Thus, we give credit to governments for policy formulation, teachers for teaching and in particular, private partners for establishing and improving the standards of education.
Regulatory and examination bodies have continued to improve through reviews of curriculum at different times. If you take secondary school as an example, you see that the syllabus for students is reviewed every 4 years. There are always new ideas in new syllabus. And it reflects in the questions that are set for the final students. Recall that in the past until the new millennium, there used to be only the West African Examinations Council conducting final secondary examinations.
Today, a parallel body, the National Examinations Council of Nigeria is now on ground to enable students make choices. All these are improvements. However, Nigeria is still far from being where it should be in education. Infrastructure decay still prevails. Manpower need still stares us in the face. Lack of political will at various levels of government remains a challenge to our education. In a paper I presented some two or three years ago on who is responsible for the decadence of education, I pointed accusing fingers at all of us, that is teachers, students, school managements, unions, governments, communities and even regulatory bodies.
And I suggested that everyone should assume responsibility. So, let me summarise my answer by saying we are not worse off and we are not there yet.
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