Govt, private school owners flex muscle over policy
The Enugu State Government is at war with owners of private schools over the implementation of ‘uniform examination’ introduced by the government in the state’s schools
There’s no going back on policy – Commissioner
School owners: It’s not added value, enhanced performance
Kenneth Ofoma ENUGU Six years after the introduction of a uniform examination by the Enugu State Government in the state’s schools, controversy has continued to trail the implementation of the education policy.
This is as proprietors and operators of private schools in the state have kicked against the implementation of the policy, calling for its scraping. Following the resistance and criticism against the ‘uniform examination’ policy in the state, proprietors of private schools, a critical stakeholder in the state education project, are also calling for the scrapping of policy.
The state government had in 2016 introduced the policy of uniform examination for all schools in the state, but which has since continued to generate controversy in the state’s education sector. Despite the resistance by the stakeholders, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Uche Eze had for the umpteenth time insisted and made it clear that there was no going back on the policy.
The examination is currently being made a precondition for pupils and students in primary schools as well as Junior Secondary School (JSS II) and Senior Secondary School (SS2) before they could write terminal examinations. In their opposition against the policy, the proprietors had alleged that the state Ministry of Education in collaboration with the state chapter of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) mandated pupils in Primary Four and Five in private schools to pay the sum of N400 per pupil in order to write the uniform examination.
Besides, they also alleged and accused NAPPS of forcing private schools to register as members of the association and that pupils, who refused to write the uniform examination were prevented from sitting for the state’s Common Entrance Examination as well as the First School Leaving Certificate Examinations.
Similarly, JSS 2 and SS2 students in private schools, who did not write the uniform examination are also said to have been barred from sitting for Junior and Senior School Certificate Examination (JSSCE and SSCE), conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the Na- tional Examination Council (NECO) respectively.
Meanwhile, the Concerned Proprietors of Private Schools, who spoke to New Telegraph in Enugu on condition of anonymity, expressed worry that Enugu State was the only state in the South-East geo-political zone, where students are subjected to uniform examination, which they also claimed had no value addition and not recognised by any authority or educational body.
According to the group, schools that were being forced to write the uniform examination have not been doing exceptionally well in external examinations, while Air Force Secondary School in Enugu that does not write or participate in the state’s uniform examination has won several laurels in external examinations.
Apart from additional financial burden on parents and stress to students, the private school owners said that the introduction and implementation of the uniform examination is contrary to the National Policy on Education, which prescribes two tests and one examination for students in every school term, which forms the assessment of students for a session or school year.
The proprietors, however, alleged that the uniform examination was not devoid of pecuniary interests and gains, stating that the majority of the education managers in the state are from one section of the state, thereby constituting themselves to a cabal causing a crisis in the education system.
“For instance, you know that the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Eze is from Nsukka, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Nwanneka Onah; the Chief Registrar of the Examination Development Centre, Dr. Amaka Ezeh (recently retired) and the state Chairman of NAPPS, Dr. Ike Ugwu are all from Nsukka in Enugu North Senatorial District of the state,” they noted.
The source also said that the state chapter of NAPPS, which organized and embraced the uniform examination for private schools, only directs the proprietors to go to the Area Inspectorate of Education of the state at the local government council headquarters to collect question papers, which they photocopy and administer to their students.
“After the examination they marked the answer scripts and returned the script to NAPPS. They are not interested in marking the scripts, but the schools will mark and return the scripts, as they are only interested in the money raised through the examination,” the group added.
But, while reacting to the allegations, the Commissioner for Education and the state Chairman of NAPPS, Mr. Ike Ernest Ugwu said that the uniform examination had come to stay, insisting that the examination was compulsory not only for students of private schools, but all schools in the state, including public schools, Catholic Education Commission, Anglican Education Commission and Methodist Education Commission.
The duo also maintained that uniform examination had been introduced and is being written in other states in the South East, noting that the examination would go a long way in helping to prevent a situation in which some students skip classes, as well as migration of students from one school to another especially during terminal examinations.
This was as Prof. Eze pointed out that the uniform examination had helped the state to keep a database of all the students and pupils in the state schools, who are given registration numbers. While stressing that the introduction of the examination had also helped in improving the quality of teaching and learning in the school system, the Commissioner said: “Uniform examination was introduced in Enugu State in 2016, based on the decision of the State Executive Council (SEC).”
“The State Executive Council after considering a number of issues and searching for a way to improve the quality of education decided to institute a unified promotion examination for all primary and secondary students in Enugu State,” Eze adde
The Commissioner, therefore, said that contrary to insinuations, Enugu State has always been ranked among the first 10 states in the country in all external examinations, even as the students have won several laurels and prizes due to exceptional performance in examinations. Prof. Eze further said of the criticism:
“The group is ignorant, ignorant in the sense that every year students from Enugu State have continued to win different prizes. I do not know whether you have heard about Cynthia Ali, who was rewarded by Enugu State Government for having nine A’s in WASSCE; I do not also know whether you have heard about one Okeke, who won the first prize in the NNPC science quiz competition.
“Enugu State has been winning prizes and in the state’s rating in the WASSCE has never gone beyond the ninth position since 2015. Enugu has consistently been among the first 10 states that perform well in WAEC every year.”
On the benefits of the uniform examination to the state’s education sector and in the overall performance of the students, the Commissioner, therefore, said: “This uniform examination is not only helping the state government to monitor school achievement and students’ performance, it has helped us to build and develop a reliable data base for the ministry.
We can all see what is happening in WASSCE. What some of the students usually do is that when they get to SS II class is to leave for another school to complete their SS 3, while when some of them get to SS3 they will also abscond and enroll in miracle centres. Some of them will go to rural communities to register for their SSCE where they believe they can cheat because the supervisors might find it difficult to supervise them during the WAEC examination.
“But, we said that with the uniform examination, it will help the government to develop an accurate record of students who completed SS II in a particular school and year. Indeed, what some of them are complaining about now is that we are insisting that every student will write SSCE in the school where he or she completes his or her SS II class and that has been the policy of the state government before I was appointed the Commissioner.
They probably ignored or refused to implement the policy because those schools that encourage examination malpractice prefer students to register in their schools. “You know what is associated with this as some parents are ready to pay anything to ensure that their children passed all their papers and we said no. We cannot allow that to continue.”
On his part, the state NAPPS chairman, Ugwu denied the allegation that the government was helping the association to force private schools to join the association.
He said: “NAPPS is not an association you are mandated to join because it is an association that has to be joined willingly. You cannot exist as a proprietor, or own a private school without being a member.
But since our administration came on board, I believe the number has increased as every notable school in Enugu State is now a member of our association.
“As it is now, we have data of all active members put on a portal and which was created for our active members. If you access it, you will see that we are well over 1,138 proprietors. You can check our students’ figure from our portal, which houses only Primary Five and Six; and not all the schools are on the portal.
This is because a child has to get to Primary Four before we key him or her into the portal. So, if you look at the portal we have about 65,000 pupils in our private schools, excluding students in Primary Four and JSS I because we will only key them into the portal in the next one month.
“The 65,000 enrolment figure, which I just supplied, is pupils and students in Primary Five, Primary Six, as well as JSS 2, JSS 3, SS 2 and SS 3. In all we have six classes, but in the next one month, pupils in Primary Four and students JSS 1 and SS 1 will be keyed into the portal in the preparation of the uniform examination.” Expressing satisfaction over the introduction of the examination,
Ugwu said: “The idea of uniform examination came because the government wanted to monitor students’ promotion because what is happening in schools now is that parents will come and tell us that they want their children in Primary Four to be enrolled in JSS1 and that is the sharp practice that has killed education in the state.
But, with the portal that we introduced currently and coupled with the uniform examination, students are being promoted from Primary Four to Five.
Now, even when a child plans to leave a school for another, the owner of such school, either public, private or Catholic School has no power to put such student in another class. If they put such students in a class, he or she will only be a ghost student because the system will keep promoting them till they get to Primary Six, when they will write transition examinations, and if not the child cannot register for the examination.”