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Furore over WAEC’s new examination diet

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DISAGREEMENT
Less than one week that the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) unfolded plans to introduce a new diet for external candidates, key stakeholders have faulted the move, kicking that it would not see the light of the day
 
While Nigerian students and their parents are yet to recover from the confusion generated by this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) registration, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), last week, introduced a new diet in its examinations, which has continued to generate debate among stakeholders.
With the new diet, expected to take off next year between January and February, students will now have the opportunity to sit for the school candidate (May/June) Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the private candidate (Nov/Dec) SSCE, otherwise referred to as GCE O’Level, and the new diet for external candidates.
Rising from its 65th Annual Council Meeting hosted by Nigeria in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), between March 20 and 24, 2017, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), among other decisions, approved for its national offices across the five-member countries, the conduct of additional diet of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for private candidates.
According to the examination body, the reason for the new diet is not unconnected with “the growing concern among stakeholders over what they perceive as discrimination or denial of equal opportunity against private candidates.”
It added that the wave of agitation, criticism and appeal across the sub-region for the Council to find a way of addressing the agony of ‘long waiting’ being experienced by the private candidates, who desire another attempt at WASSCE, propelled the decision to introduce the diet.
As part of efforts to sensitise the public ahead of the commencement of the new diet, the WAEC Registrar, Dr. Uyi Uwadiae, while addressing journalists last Thursday, expressed Nigeria’s readiness to blaze the trail.
He said: “I must be quick to point out that though, the Council has given the nod, the conduct of the additional diet may not take off in all the member countries immediately or at the same time. But let me assure stakeholders in Nigeria that the Nigeria National Office has indicated the willingness and readiness to blaze the trail by making the examination available to Nigerians in 2018.”
Uwadiae added that the details of the examination, including the scheduled dates, available subjects and location of centres, among others, would be provided by the Head of Nigeria’s National Office at the appropriate time.
However, this is coming at a time, when WAEC is complaining of decline in the enrolment of private candidates for its examination, with stakeholders blaming the situation on the introduction of the National Examination Council (NECO) by former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar in April 1999, as the first federal organisation to offer subsidised registration to candidates in the country.
This was even as some members of the Governing Board of WAEC, who spoke exclusively to New Telegraph on the condition of anonymity, expressed doubt about the feasibility of the new diet.
They claimed that they had kicked against the idea when it was tabled at the last Council meeting for approval, but that “like a dog doomed to go astray, its ears would be deaf to hunters’ whistle.”
According to them, it would not be right to openly condemn a decision jointly taken at the Council, but it is obvious that the new diet was dead on arrival.
One of them said: “Why introducing new diet in the face of reduction in enrolment for private candidates? And the argument of preferential treatment for school candidates does not fly because each examination had been holding once in a year.
“There are so many things that are wrong with the system. When you look at the number of subjects the candidates are sitting now, they are about 70. That is for what? Ghana that we are emulating is already adjusting that? We need to look inward and address all these issues.”
In their reactions to the development, other major stakeholders in the nation’s basic and secondary education sub-sector, including the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), and the National Association of Parent Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) expressed strong opposition to it, saying WAEC is fond of imposing its decisions on the country without carrying along relevant stakeholders.
They claimed the new diet would destabilise the schools’ academic activities and calendar, even as they called on authorities to order the stoppage of its implementation.
The National President of NUT, Comrade Michael Olukoya-Alogba, said the union was not carried along in the decision, and that as a body of teachers, who would eventually implement WAEC’s decision, it was not right for anyone to merely make pronouncement without prior consultation.
Olukoya-Alogba said: “Let all stakeholders be carried along and the issues discussed before pronouncement.”
But, while echoing NUT’s position, his ASUSS counterpart in Lagos State, Mr. Kasim Labaika, however, berated WAEC for what he described as the examination body’s selfishness and greed, saying even the adjustment in the timing of its school candidate diet, which he said now commences in March instead of May, has affected the school calendar, as most schools no longer complete the syllabus before going into examination.
According to Labaika, teachers are usually not considered when authorities make education policies in this country, and that is part of the major challenges facing the sector.
He said: “How do you defend the introduction of another diet, either for school or private candidates? It would definitely destabilise the school calendar because rather than harmonising their activities, each examination body in Nigeria conducts their affairs as if they are independent and exclusive.
“For instance, the NECO and WAEC syllabuses for Literature-in-English and Yoruba are different and there are no different times to study them. How do you expect a single teacher to teach about 17 literature text books and the students would comprehend? Now, with the addition of new diet, same school halls will be used, same teachers would invigilate and mark. How would that not affect the school calendar? They are deceiving themselves and it should not be allowed to stand.”
Meanwhile, the National President of NAPTAN, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, has said his association would next week meet with the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, over the development, adding that it was already scheduled for discussion at the PTA NEC meeting scheduled to hold on April 26.
According to Danjuma, the new diet, was a clear indication that WAEC is only out to make money and not for the success of the candidates, accusing the regional examination body of attempting to frustrate NECO out of the business of examination conduct.
“We were surprised when we read about it some days ago. Even the existing examinations have in one way or the other affected the quality of preparation of candidates, and now a new diet was being added. Does WAEC exist in a vacuum? Why is this arrogance that it would only pronounce something as if there were no relevant stakeholders in this country? Is it an attempt to kill NECO? This won’t stand,” Danjuma noted.
But reacting to the development, the Director of Special Duties at NECO, Dr. John Tumba, refuted the claim that the new diet introduced by WAEC would ‘kill’ NECO examinations, saying such belief was not only erroneous, but also unfounded.
According to Tumba, both WAEC and NECO have co-existed for some years without any rancour, and that the latest development should not be viewed as an affront on NECO.
He said: “Whether it would lead to low enrolment for NECO examinations cannot be substantiated or confirmed now, and so we need to wait till then. If it does then, we will address it. NECO is a creation of an Act of parliament and so it cannot be ‘killed’ just by the introduction of an examination by WAEC.”
However, to WAEC, all issues raised by the opponents had been factored in before reaching its conclusion on the new diet, and that the adjustment in the schedule of the school-based examination was beyond it.
According to Uwadiae, the introduction of NECO had necessitated the readjustment, and that the claim of non-completion of syllabuses by the schools due to the situation was an issue that could not be single-handedly handled by WAEC.  

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Education

2018 UTME: Candidates protest exam date, seek postponement

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Human and vehicular movements along Bariga-Akoka road, Lagos, were, this afternoon, impeded when hundreds of candidates, who have registered to sit the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) staged a protest over what they described as the inconsiderate stance of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) by fixing the examination for March.

The candidates carried placards with various inscriptions such as; “Admissions are yet to close, why conducting another UTME now?”; “JAMB isn’t for revenue generation, stop milking our parents,” “2017 UTME held in May, why March in 2018?” “2018 admissions not transparent,” among others.

They said many of them who had hoped to be admitted by various institutions during the 2017/2018 academic calendar year just found out this week that they were not admitted and that less than one month cannot be enough to prepare for another examination.

But JAMB has justified the decision to hold the examination between March 9 and 17, noting that it was a decision jointly taken by other examination bodies to avoid clash of timetables and to ensure that all admissions are concluded by August every year for smooth academic system.

The examination body, however, advised the 245,000 candidates billed to take part in its Monday Mock test to visit the website to reprint their slips and prepare adequately for the examination.

Addressing the press during the protest, the National President of the Association of Tutorial School Operators (ATSO), Mr. Dotun Sodunke, who led the candidates to the streets, said if allowed to hold as scheduled Nigeria would experience another round of mass failure.

He said if JAMB was not only concerned about generating revenue for the government it would consider the candidates in fixing the date for the examination, saying it is obvious that there was no way the candidates would complete the UTME syllabus under one month.

Sodunke added that institutions like the University of Benin, Yaba College of Technology, among others, still released admission list on Wednesday, and that the students who had applied to such institutions but are yet to be admitted would not concentrate on preparation for another examination.

He said; “The new head of JAMB needs to be called to order. He should not be carried away by the euphoria of revenue generation. The future of this country depends on these children. JAMB is sure that if you conduct the exam early, many candidates would fail, and they would come back to register again next year. This is so because their children don’t school here.

“Admissions are yet to be concluded, yet you are fixing date for another one. Who does that? The introduction of the Central Admission Processing System (CAPS) is also a fraud. You would be admitted on JAMB portal and on CAPS page it would deny you admission. Everything is done in secrecy as we don’t even know which schools are organizing post-UTME and which ones are not. Every institution is doing what it wants. Things must not go on like this.”

However, the Head of the Press and Public Relations Unit of JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, explained that there was yet no basis for the postponement being sought by the candidates, saying the date had been fixed as early as December, 2017, and that it was made public.

Benjamin said; “We need to place the interest of this country above selfish interest. The candidates are not the ones staging protest but the tutorial centres operators, and parents must intervene to rein them in. They are doing this because they want to keep the candidates at their centres till May so that they can get more money from them. Things are not done that way.

“JAMB is not alone in this business. All stakeholders in Nigeria’s education sector have realised that our calendar must be organised and firm as we experience abroad, and it must start somewhere. Even if heaven will fall, the new government wants to ensure that academic calendar starts every August, and that is why all admissions will be concluded by August this year. So if these candidates are affected, we apologise to them, it is for their good and the good of the nation.”

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Mixed reactions trail Lagos’ Yoruba preservation law

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NUC: Law against universities admission policy

•JAMB: NCE has exclusive right on admission

•ASUU, SSANU: Better to introducing language as general study

POLICY

Stakeholders are divided over the Lagos’ Yoruba preservation law, set to deny candidates without a Credit Pass in Yoruba language, admission into the state’s higher institutions

With the new Yoruba Language Preservation and Promotion Law promulgated by the Lagos State Government, the state may have stirred up the hornet’s nest, particularly among stakeholders in the education sector, if the reaction trailing the policy is anything to go by.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had last week promulgated the law, which seeks to make Credit Pass in Yoruba language at the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) level, one of the prerequisites for admission into any of the state’s higher institutions.

While some of the stakeholders see the law as a welcome development, but with suggested modifications, others condemned the decision in its entirety, insisting that no state government is empowered to add such conditions to admission requirements.

The agencies of government that are concerned with admission processes such as the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the National Universities Commission (NUC) have described the law as misplaced priorities and illegal.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), whose members are involved in admission processes on various campuses, have also raised some fundamental issues about the new law, suggesting how best the governor’s intention could be achieved without ‘localising’ the institutions.

On Thursday, last week, Governor Ambode, flanked by the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Olawale Oluwo, his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan and the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akinyemi Ashade, among others, formally assented the bill into law “to provide for the preservation and promotion of the use of Yoruba Language and for connected purposes.”

By this step, Lagos became the first state to enact such law, seeking to preserve and promote its indigenous language.

There were other six bills assented by the governor on the same occasion and they included: the Amended Land Use Charge bill, School of Nursing bill, Cooperative College bill, Cancer Research Institute bill, Amended Customary Court bill and the State Electric Power Reform Bill.

On its part, the Yoruba Language Preservation and Promotion law provides that all the laws in the state “will be translated into Yoruba Language and all state-owned tertiary institutions are to incorporate the use of Yoruba Language in the General Studies (GNS) courses.”

It added: “The use of Yoruba language shall be an acceptable means of communication between individuals, establishment, corporate entities and government in the state, if so desired by the concerned. It shall not be an offence for a person to speak Yoruba language by the state government.”

As a stern warning to those who may be willing to contravene the new law, the provision of Section 2 of the law states that any institution found guilty of flouting it commits an offence and is liable on first violation to issuance of warning and on subsequent violation be closed down and also pay a fine of N500,000.

According to the state government, the socio-cultural value of the Yoruba Language Preservation and Promotion Law 2018, “has also made it mandatory for all candidates seeking admission into our tertiary institutions to secure Credit Pass in Yoruba at SCCE. Yoruba will now become a major requirement to engage in normal business communication in Lagos State.”

Adding, the state’s Commissioner for Information was quoted to have said: “This is a clear and conscious commitment to the position which Lagos State prides Yoruba language as the cultural vehicle for us to be able to articulate our position and it also shows that Lagos has further recognised the importance of language as a vehicle for development.”

With the law, Bamigbetan said anyone seeking admission into the Lagos State University (LASU), Lagos State Polytechnic, Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Lagos State School of Nursing and Lagos State College of Health Technology, among others, must have Credit Pass in Yoruba language.

However, in its response to the development, NUC has described the law as illegal, saying admissions and regulations of universities’ programmes are exclusive of the National Council on Education (NCC), which comprises the Federal Government and state governments’ representatives.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with New Telegraph, NUC’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Mallam Ibrahim Yakassai, said NUC is not bothered on the matter, and that the ball is on the court of the candidates who may be denied admission based on the law. He said such candidates have the right to challenge such decisions in court.

Yakassai said: “Lagos State does not have such power as it concerns universities admission. All admissions to universities in this country must be through JAMB. I don’t know about other higher institutions, but as it concerns the universities, states do not have such powers.

“Education may be on concurrent list, but admission is central and exclusively for Federal Government. Universities admit but admission letters are issued by JAMB, and there are guidelines for admissions. That is why every year, the National Council on Education (NCE) meets, and this involves representatives of all the 36 states of the federation. That is where such policy decisions are made.”

Yakassai further explained that there is a window of opportunities for the universities to introduce such languages as general studies course on various campuses, and that they may compel their students to pass such course upon admission, but not as a condition for admission.

Similarly, to JAMB, such law is strange, and that rather than promoting the language, it would only end up reducing it to a local subject among its speakers.

An official of the examination body, who craved anonymity, said JAMB, would await the state or the Lagos State University (LASU) to write it before it takes any decision.

The source said: “JAMB will be waiting for communication from the state before taking any decision. But what is clear is that only National Council on Education has the exclusive mandate to determine admission requirements.”

The President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said such initiative aimed at protecting indigenous language is supported by the National Policy on Education and the constitutional provision that places education on concurrent list.

Ogunyemi, however, cautioned that it would be better if the language is introduced as a general study course in the institutions and not as requisite for admission.

He said: “It is not new for a people or country to seek to protect their languages. Some programmes in higher institutions in Finland, China, Germany and even France are taught in their languages and not English. Before you can be awarded their certificates, you would have been made to go through the languages.

“So, Yoruba Language can be brought in through that means. It is a welcome development because our languages are fast losing their pride of place.”

Also speaking, the National Public Relations Officer of SSANU, Mr. Abdulsobur Abdulsalaam, hailed the development, but also toed the line of ASUU President.

Abdulsalaam, who is on the admission team of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said by introducing the subject as a general studies course, it would help in promoting the language, even among its non-speakers.

“We cannot close the doors completely against those who had never studied the language by introducing it as a requirement for admission. Rather, if it is introduced as a general studies course, as it is done abroad, then non-speakers of the language would be made to experience it, and by that, it would further expose it to outside world,” he advised.

Meanwhile, efforts to seek further clarifications on the law from the Special Adviser on Education to Governor Ambode, Mr. Obafela Bank-Olemoh did not yield result, as he neither picked his call nor replied text message sent to his phone.

However, the state’s Commissioner for Information, Mr. Bamigbetan promised to give detailed information about the law and respond to the questions on the legality of the position on Monday.

The short text message sent to New Telegraph by Bamigbetan reads in part: “Please expect a robust response on Monday morning. I need to quote sections of the law.”

On his part, former Rector of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Mr. Olawumi Gasper, an engineer, said the policy would ridicule the “universality of the university system.”

“With this bill it means a Brazilian, Briton or German, who intends to study at undergraduate level at the Lagos State University (LASU) and to further research on his ancestry has been deprived such opportunity going by the new policy for admission,” he added.

According to him, universities have common global standards and shared values, which the bill has already defeated.

On the effect of the policy on the system, Gasper said “wherein lies the autonomy of the university,” even as he further queried whether the policy received the concurrence of the university Senate, or not.

Also, a Professor of History and International Relations at Osun State University (UNIOSUN), Osogbo, Prof. Siyan Oyeweso, described the bill as a welcome development and a right step in the right direction.

He, however, commended Lagos State Government for what he described as “a Yeoman Job,” saying the state deserves great commendation for its foresight in promoting Yoruba language.

“The Yoruba Language Bill is a right decision taken by the Lagos State Government at this crucial period when the language is almost going into extinction,” Oyeweso said, stressing that Yoruba language deserves its right place and recognition like other foreign languages in our school system.

The don, who noted that the passage of the bill epitomizes the revival of Yoruba language, recalled the important role scholars such as the late Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola and Adebayo Faleti had played in the growth and development of the language. He lamented that scholars of Yoruba Language are fast diminishing.

He, therefore, called on other states of Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun and Ogun to emulate Lagos State, even as Oyeweso said: “We don’t need America, Germany and Britain to develop our language for us.”

He praised the state lawmakers for doing “a wonderful work,” and sought the enforcement of the bill, saying any school that failed to comply with the policy should be sanctioned or have its operating licence withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the Proprietor of Rholak Group of Schools, Meiran, Lagos, Dr. Olakunle Ologun, said since education is on the concurrent list, Lagos State has the right to formulate its education policies.

Ologun, who hinted that he wondered why such policy should be condemned, lamented that already Yoruba language is going into extinction and a bold step needed to be taken to restore it.

“There is the urgent need to propagate the studying of Yoruba Language in our school and so Lagos has done the right thing. The policy statement should be enforced in order to make it work,” he added.

While insisting that the state has done nothing wrong with the policy, Ologun, however, hinted that in the South-East, Igbo language is being used as medium of instruction in most of its schools.

“Any candidate could go to federal institutions or in their states. It is a right policy and Lagos has every right to legislate on its education. The action does not preclude other states from doing similar thing to move their language and culture forward,” he argued.

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JAMB fraud: Stakeholders seek prosecution of indicted officials

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Stakeholders are worried over the level of corruption and other sharp practices uncovered in the ongoing financial audit at the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), calling on the government not to sweep the reports of the probe under the carpet.

This is as the Association of Tutorial School Operators (ATSO) has described the development as a confirmation of its persistent calls for the probe of the examination body, saying the regimes of the past leaderships of the examination body were full of illegalitiesandcasesof misappropriation.

Following the cancellation of the use of scratch cards for registration purpose by the examination body, JAMB decided to audit the account of its offices across the country, by taking stock of the used cards, the unused and the money realised in the sales of the cards.

As a fallout of the audit exercise, Nigeria was recently curious by the bizarre story of an official of the examination body in Benue State, Mrs. Philomina Chieshe, who claimed snake swallowed N36 million from the vault in her office. According to her, her housemaid “connived with another JAMB staff, Joan Asen, to “spiritually” steal through a snake the money from the vault in the accounts office.

As if that was not enough, barely few days after Chieshe’s bizarre story, another State Coordinator of the Board in Nassarawa State, Labaran Tanko, said his car got burnt and in the process scratch cards worth N23 million were destroyed in the inferno.

While the dust raised by the two incidents was yet to settle, more fraud cases were uncovered in other state offices of JAMB by the management. At the Kano office, the state JAMB Coordinator, Yakubu Aliu could not account for N20 million; while Priscilla Ogunsola, the JAMB Coordinator of Edo State could not also account for N31 million.

Similarly, in Plateau State, Zakada Yakubu could not explain the disappearance of N15 million, and in Yobe State, the Coordinator of JAMB, Sanusi Atose, blamed Boko Haram attacks for his inability to account for the Board’s N613,000. Also, according to JAMB, Daniel Agbor, the Kogi State Coordinator of JAMB, could not account for N7 million, while a staff of the board in Gombe State, reported that some officials forged his signature and stole N10.283 million at the state office. Meanwhile, in the case of Ondo State, the state Coordinator, Olaolu Adeniyi, said N1.34 million disappeared whenhisaccountantwason“dialysis.

” In his reaction to the development, the National President of ATSO, Mr. Dotun Sodunke said his association had always told Nigerians that the corruption in JAMB deserved probes by the country’s anti-graft agencies. According to Sodunke, the development is a confirmation of their stance that for a long time, successive leaderships of JAMB have turned theexaminationbodytocashcow, where they allegedly perpetrate all sorts of fraud. He said; “Even now things are still not right with JAMB, the corruption has just been legalized.

This is because you cannot be charging N50 for text messages by prospective candidates when only four Naira. Meanwhile, the board has said that the reasons given by the officials for the missing monies under their care were untenable. On what JAMB plans to do to bring them to book, Oloyede said “those that we want to transfer have been transferred to the (board) headquarters until they account for the missing funds, while those whose cases are ‘beyond the board, would be handed to the police immediately for prosecution.

According to JAMB spokesman, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, “all the suspects have been suspended by the board. Based on the level of fraud, he said the board will monitor with careful scrutiny how staff entrusted with sensitive responsibilities handle government funds henceforth.

However, a former top government official, declined to comment on the matter, saying since the cases are already before EFCC and ICPC, we should allow the anti-graft agencies to do their work.

But, he insisted that the Federal Government was serious about the probe and will do everything to get to the bottom of the whole issue. Also, the former Lagos State Commissioner for Education and a Professor of Mass Communication, Idowu Sobowale, bemoaned the level of fraud in the system and JAMB particularly. “Corruption is endemic in the country, and if I may quote the President“ thatcorruptionisacanker-worm, butwemustnotallowittokillNigeria,” God will provide the grace for government to deal it the right way with without and genuineness to do so,” he said.

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