Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has warned that the unilateral decision by the Nigerian government to cancel the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) conducted annually by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) is not in Nigeria’s best interest but rather puts the country at more risk.
Atiku gave this warning on Friday in a statement he personally signed, saying he was concerned both as a parent and an investor in the education sector.
He noted that at a time of the global COVID–19 pandemic, it is understandable that an abundance of caution is put in place to save lives. However, he said, caution, without consultation and thoughtful action, may be counter–productive.
“1.5 million Nigerian youths write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination annually. To abruptly cancel this examination is to set back our nation’s youth, and place them behind their contemporaries in other West African nations. This is perilous because Foreign Direct Investments and other economic indicators are tied to the educational indexes of nations,” he said.
Atiku said that already, Nigeria lags behind other African nations in crucial indices, like school enrolment, pass rates, and out of school children.
“This action will further create chaos in the public education system and exacerbate an already bad situation,” Atiku said.
He said rather than a cancellation, there are better ways to protect the health of Nigerians and prevent the pandemic from escalating.
“We could mobilise all available public and private infrastructures including primary schools, stadia, and cinemas, for the examinations. In the alternative, the Federal Government can prevail on WAEC to have staggered examinations with a different set of questions for each shift. Doing so will allow WAEC Nigeria to implement social distancing and achieve the goal of carrying out the examinations. A win-win scenario,” he said.
Atiku urged the Buhari administration to take into account that the lives they are trying to save will be further put at risk, because if this policy is not reversed, tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, will breach social distancing rules to cross over to neighbouring West African nations to write their WASSCE, rather than miss a year.