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How COVID-19 affects conduct of terminal examinations in basic, high schools

By Ujunwa Atueyi
18 June 2020   |   2:31 am
But for the coronavirus pandemic, which brought virtually all activities including teaching and learning to a halt, candidates due for the 2020 terminal examinations would have been through with their summative assessments by now.

Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba

But for the coronavirus pandemic, which brought virtually all activities including teaching and learning to a halt, candidates due for the 2020 terminal examinations would have been through with their summative assessments by now.

They are grieved that the unfortunate incident has put a clog in the wheel of their academic journey. For instance, the National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE), which assesses primary six pupils for admission into the country’s unity colleges, would have long been concluded with the education ministry processing admission of pupils by now.

Last year, the NCCE took place on April 27, 2019, and by May 7 the federal ministry of education has released the results. Officials of the ministry started processing admissions into JSS1 by 14th of May and before the first week of June last year, the first batch of admissions have been made public.

At high school level, the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) would have been concluded by now, while the National Examination Council (NECO) would have been ongoing and at a concluding stage.

The Guardian gathered that the WASSCE examination earlier scheduled to hold from Monday, April 6, would have ended on June 5, 2020, but for the pandemic. The 2020 NECO also, was initially billed to commence on Thursday May 28 to Friday July 10, 2020.

Around this time last year, candidates have completed their common entrance and O’ level examinations, while those seeking entrance into higher institutions were getting prepared for post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (post-UTME).

Sadly, the pandemic has disrupted academic calendar and put almost everything at a standstill. Already, there is an outcry from different quarters pressurising government to authorise schools’ reopening, even as experts cautioned against the consequences of such action.

While Nigerians particularly students are anxiously waiting and hoping that the narratives surrounding the pandemic will soon fade away, there are insinuations that COVID-19 war will not end anytime soon.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), last week admitted that COVID-19 situation is getting worse around the world, hence, the need for people to abide by the stipulated safety guidelines.

Chatting with The Guardian on the situation, Head, Information and Public Relations Division, NECO, Mr. Azeez Sani, said Nigeria and of course the global community are going through a trying period, thus candidates must be patient and abide by safety rules.

He said though the 2020 June/July SSCE was originally scheduled for May 28 to July 10, “the council like every other stakeholder has to abide by all protocol put in place by the government at all levels to protect the candidates and all Nigerians against the scourge.

“The council enjoined both candidates and parents to abide by all the measures put in place to check the spread of the disease. They should also know that the various protocol put in place by government is for the good of all. Candidates are however advised to use the period of the lock down to study hard in preparation for the SSCE, as time is of the essence at this trying period.” Sani further stated that the council would align its examination timetable with directives from the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) when it is time.

“The council is prepared for the examination, but only awaiting FME directive to that effect.” For the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), the situation is also the same as the council suspended the conduct of the 2020 WASSCE for school candidates.

The examination was earlier scheduled to commence on Monday, April 6 but the Head of National Office, WAEC Nigeria, Patrick Ehidiamen Areghan announced that it has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic; which has generated anxiety among the populace.

“This decision was a demonstration of the organisation’s concern and support for the various protocols being put in place by the Federal and state governments of Nigeria and the governments of other member countries to check the spread of the disease.

“Consequently the earlier released timetable for the conduct of the examination is hereby suspended until further notice. The council said the decision would be reviewed once the health situation improves. New date will be communicated in due course.”

The council also opened a portal for candidates to enable them to get an update and also follow the trend. Head public affairs, WAEC, Demianus Ojijeogu, said the body has made public the chief examiner’s report and candidates interactive portals in its websites, which is accessible to candidates

He said “As we eagerly await the end of COVID-19 and the resumption of normal activities in the country, WAEC in Nigeria wishes to urge candidates to take advantage of the rich resources provided by it on the following portals to keep themselves updated, pending the commencement of the examination.

“The chief examiner’s report gives reasons why candidates who sat previous examinations performed below expectations and also help candidates avoid errors that affect performance. This portal gives a comprehensive analysis of performance in all subjects, identifying their strengths and weaknesses.

“For candidates interactive portal, it is an information-sharing platform that allows the council to effectively engage candidates before, during and after examinations. We admonish candidates not to play around this waiting period, but to study hard for the postponed examination. A new timetable will be announced once normalcy is restored.”

Interestingly, the Federal Government is also showing concern to the plight of Nigerian students, as its recent pronouncement on school reopening was hinged on developing strategies that would help students in terminal classes conclude their programmes without further delay.

Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, recently explained that the Federal Government is working out a model that will ensure all students don’t return to school at the same time. Nwajiuba said the plan entails adopting a two-shift system and allowing those who will write terminal exams to return earlier than others.

“The model will ensure that all the children do not return to their schools at the same time to ensure physical and social distancing as well as proper sanitation and hygiene at every school.”He added that the government was also considering allowing senior secondary school students finish first before others resume at a later date. He also stated that the government will rely on the opinion of experts and the guidance of the WHO before taking any decision on school resumption.