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Kudos, knocks for WAEC over new exams diet

By Iyabo Lawal
27 April 2017   |   4:15 am
The distraught young lady looked into the empty space.. Her misty eyes daring the noon sun, probably asking the invisible dweller amidst the clouds: “Why me? Why did I have to fail again and wait another year? God, why?”

West African Examinations Council (WAEC) on Thursday said it had approved the commencement of an additional diet in its examination for the private candidates every year.<br />

Private candidates sitting for O’ Level examinations may have cause to smile and hope to meet the requirements to proceed to higher institutions in just one academic year. This is because the West African Examination Council (WAEC) is introducing its January/February exam diet for the candidates. Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal, writes that while the initiative may be the needed fillip to reduce the number of years students spend at home, it may also be a strain on them and affect their performance.

The distraught young lady looked into the empty space.. Her misty eyes daring the noon sun, probably asking the invisible dweller amidst the clouds: “Why me? Why did I have to fail again and wait another year? God, why?”

In her late twenties, Bisi Adelaja had sat for the West African Examinations Council’s Nov/Dec O’ Level examination five times without making any headway. She had to endure ridicule, frustration and a sense of hopelessness.

“But succour came my way at the seventh attempt. By that time I had started working somewhere. But shame and a steel resolve that I must have at least a good O’ Level results were my driving force. I went on to do a part-time course in one of Lagos’ higher institutions,” Adelaja said.

She could not afford to register as a private student in a school to write the May/June exam, so Adelaja had to wait for seven unbelievable years to pass her O’ level.
WAEC is an examination board formed out of concern for educational development in Nigeria and West Africa at large. The council is said to have developed a team of well trained and highly-motivated staff that conducts examinations at local and international levels.

In 1948, a meeting was held to discuss the future policy of education in West Africa; at the meeting, one Dr. George Barker Jeffery was appointed to visit some West Africa countries such as Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Nigeria. At the end of the visit, Jeffery’s recommendation for the establishment of WAEC in 1952 was adopted.

Established by law to determine the examinations required in the public interest in the English-speaking West African countries, the body conducts examinations and awards certificates comparable to those of equivalent examining authorities internationally.

When the council announced last week its plan to introduce a second diet for external candidates effective January 2018, not a few people applauded the news. The young lady mentioned at the outset could relate with the news.

“Even though I have gone past school age, it is great news for many people who may be in the situation I found myself several times. I could not afford the fee charged by schools for me to enrol as a private candidate to write the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE). I had only one chance each year to write GCE. But now, there’s more opportunity for a student to cross the hurdle of O’ Level exams as soon as possible,” Adelaja noted.

Perhaps from 2018, what she went through will not happen to any student again.Addressing reporters at the council’s international office in Lagos, the WAEC Registrar, Dr. Iyi Uwadiae, had said, “The West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination for private candidates known as the November-December diet for private candidates will also be conducted in January-February.”

Speaking further he stated, “We have concluded arrangements to introduce a new diet for private candidates effective 2018. The development became necessary to address the growing concern of stakeholders on alleged discrimination against private candidates. Due to the fact that the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for school candidates comes up first each year and the result is released ahead of the conduct of same examination for private candidates, school candidates who wish to retake the examination usually have the opportunity of doing so. With the growing concern of stakeholders over perceived denial of same opportunity against their private counterparts, there has been a wave of agitation, criticism and appeal across the sub-region for the council to find a way of ameliorating the agony of long waiting experienced by the private candidates. This situation is often cited as being responsible for the level of desperation sometimes exhibited by the perpetrators of malpractice at the private candidates’ examination centres. Council after painstakingly considering the matter has given approval for the national offices to commence the conduct of one additional diet each year; this will take place in January –February every year in all the member countries. This development, however, does not affect that of the school candidates, popularly called May/June. That one remains once a year for all school candidates.”

But when the news of conducting the private O’ Level exams twice in a year broke out, it was with mixed feelings that people received it. Why?To some, WAEC’s initiative is simply an attempt to earn more revenue and not that it is genuinely interested in the plight of private candidates. They feel that the regional examination body should maintain its primary focus of conducting credible exams free of malpractices, pointing out that by its mandate, WAEC is expected to assist in the development of sound education, to ensure that educational standards are maintained and give the people of West Africa a vision of the great potentials which lie beyond examinations.  

They argued further that, schools and teachers should see this new development as an indictment on their teaching ability that leaves many pupils finishing secondary school without meeting the O’ Level requirements.

They also blamed the parents for paying little or no attention to their wards.For the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the issue ought to have been discussed among stakeholders before any decision was taken. National president of NUT, Comrade Michael Olukoya-Alogba said it was wrong for the council to unilaterally arrive at such a decision without the input of stakeholders.

In the same vein, the National Association of Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) faulted the initiative and accused the council of insensitivity to the plight of students.

National president of NAPTAN, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma noted that multiple examinations for students is too tasking and may not give them enough room to prepare. According to him, the new diet is a clear indication that WAEC is only out to make money and not concerned about the success of the candidates. He maintained that there was no basis for the introduction of a new diet.

He said, “Multiple examinations are tasking for our children; there is no justification for it. The timing is not even right, how can they sit for an exam in October-November and another January-February? The candidates would not even have enough time to prepare for the examinations. Besides, major stakeholders in the sector were not carried along by the examination body before arriving at such a sensitive decision.

Danjuma said the association is meeting with the education minister, Adamu Adamu to deliberate on the development alongside other issues affecting basic and secondary education.

Students were also divided on the council’s new diet; while some applauded the decision as a welcome development, others are of the opinion that another examination in addition to the existing one will make the whole exercise cumbersome and tiring.

For Emmanuel Ebebi, a student of Corona secondary school, Agbara and Ifeoluwa Akintobi of Greenfield school, Lekki, the new diet is an opportunity to study hard and invariably prepare them for the challenges ahead.

But others, including Gabriel of Albesta Academy lekki and Andrew Chuks, a student of Community secondary school Wasimi, Maryland argued that it is unnecessary. They argued that having to sit for three examinations in a year, two from WAEC and one from NECO should be enough.

“The introduction of a new diet by WAEC is not a good idea; already we have the May-June exams for school- based candidates, by June-July, we will sit for NECO exam and by November-December, we have the WAEC private exam which we call GCE. We have enough exams already, adding another diet is unnecessary.”

Earlier this year, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) agreed on a harmonised timetable with other examination bodies – WAEC, National Examination Council (NECO) and National Business and Technical Examination Board (NBTE) – in the country. The meeting, according to the board was held to find solutions to challenges faced by candidates seeking tertiary education.

The harmonised examination timetable has put to rest problems arising from overlapping of examination dates, which would have disqualified many candidates; very likely, WAEC’s January/February private exam diet was part of the discussion.

JAMB spokesperson, Dr. Fabian Benjamin had said, “At the end of the brainstorming session, it was resolved that WAEC would speak to all its authorities that from 2018, specifically between March and April, a window of two weeks should be created where all other examinations that have nothing to do with Nigeria will be held so as to allow a window for JAMB to conduct its examination.

“The bodies agreed that for the purpose of the 2017 UTME, JAMB will shift its examinations to allow students face WAEC, NECO and NABTEB. However, a 10-day window for JAMB’s UTME has been created by all examination bodies for JAMB to conduct its examination. Benjamin added that NECO and NABTEB had also adjusted their examination timetables to avoid overlap in subjects that are common to the two examination bodies.

In 2013, a former Commissioner of Education in Edo state,, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren, had said that WAEC was better and more effective than the National Examination Council (NECO). The Professor of Counselling and Psychology at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) had applauded WAEC as a better and more competitive exam body that can be used in any region on the African continent.

With the introduction of a new diet by the examination body, Osarenren said the move was to assist private candidates, most especially those who may not be able to raise funds to register for the November-December exam.

“The new scheme by WAEC is to help the candidates, it is an opportunity not only for private candidates but school-based candidates as well. Importantly, for candidates who may be unable to raise funds to sit for the November-December exams, the new diet would give them an opportunity. Anything that can help the underprivileged and underrepresented in the society should be promoted by all and sundry.

Over the years, Nigerian secondary school students have struggled to pass their O’ Level exam in one academic year, could the new January/February exam diet initiative by WAEC be the much-needed lifeline to a long list of young Nigerians determined to make hay while the sun shines?

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