Furore over WAEC’s new examination diet

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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