As a parent and investor in the education sector, I want to register the fact that the Nigerian government’s policy to unilaterally cancel the West African Senior School Certificate annual exam held by the West African Examinations Council is not in Nigeria’s best interest.
At a time of global COVID19 pandemic, it is understandable that caution is needed to save lives. However, caution without consultation and thoughtful action can be counterproductive.
1.5 million Nigerian youths write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination annually. Abruptly canceling this test means pushing back our nation’s youth and putting them behind their contemporaries in other West African nations. This is dangerous since foreign direct investment and other economic indicators are linked to the education indices of the nations.
Nigeria is already behind other African nations in important indices such as school enrollment, success rate and out-of-school children. This action will further aggravate the chaos in the public education system and exacerbate an already bad situation.
Instead of canceling, there are better ways to protect Nigerian health and prevent the pandemic from escalating. We could mobilize all available public and private infrastructures, including primary schools, stadiums and cinemas, for the exams. Alternatively, the federal government can induce the WAEC to conduct staggered exams with different questions for each shift. In this way, WAEC Nigeria can implement social distancing and achieve the goal of conducting the exams. A win-win scenario.
I urge this government to take into account that the lives they are trying to save will continue to be endangered, because if this policy is not reversed, tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of Nigerians will violate the rules of social distancing over to neighboring West African countries Nations to write their WASSCE instead of missing a year.
Atiku Abubakar is a former Vice President of Nigeria.
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