By Osehobo Ofure
In July 2020, the Federal government announced the reopening of schools for only pupils in Primary 6, and students in JSS3, and SS3 to enable them to prepare for their national ans state moderated examinations.
Speaking during a COVID-19 briefing in Abuja, the Secretary to Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said that students in graduating classes of Primary six, Junior and Senior Secondary schools were to resume in preparation for their examinations.
The Federal Ministry of Education later released a schedule for various National Examinations for these exit classes, beginning from August 17 to November 18, 2020. In the schedule, it stressed that the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC-SSCE) would start on August 17 while the National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB) would hold from 21st September to 15 October 2020. As for the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) for SS3, conducted by NECO, it said it will start on the 5th of October and end on 18th of November, 2020
It also stated that the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) conducted by the State Ministries of Education, for Junior Secondary School (JSS) 3 would hold from August 24 to 7 September 2020. In addition, the Ministry said the National Common Entrance Examination, (NCEE) which is a one-day NECO examination for the First School Leaving Certificate and intending applicants into Federal Unity Colleges, and even State Colleges (JSS1) will run in-between the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination i.e on Saturday, 17th October, 2020.
It is on record that only Final year pupils of Primary Schools are eligible for the National Common Entrance Examination. Primary school final year ranges from primary 5 to primary 6. This is because the highest level in some primary school is five. Final year Pupils of Primary Schools are expected to be less than 10 years or more than 13 years as at September 2020.
Based on this schedule, many State Ministries of Education in the country went on to create the enabling environment, amidst Covid19, for the conduct of the examinations. It is five months after the dates set the Federal Government and nothing was said about the examinations in Edo state until this week
It is however, heart-warming that Edo state is considering awarding its primary 5 and 6 pupils, their First School Leaving Certificates in form of a letter from the State Education Ministry though it also says the 2020 First School Leaving Certificate or FSLC in Edo has not been cancelled. The government bases its argument on the New National policy on Education (NNPE) section 4 subsection 19, which it claims gives it powers to promote pupils from primary 5 or 6 to Junior secondary automatically without any examination. Furthermore, it said in Edo, “the conduct of primary six examination is not to serve as a requirement for entering Junior secondary school but to provide an opportunity for a child leaving primary school to write a certificate examination hence, it is called first school leaving certificate”, and, “for those who do not have primary six certificate for one reason or the other, the Edo State Ministry of Education usually issues them a letter of confirmation of primary school attendance for whatever purpose it is required. Essentially therefore while in future, the 2020 set of Primary 5 and 6 pupils from Edo state schools will be brandishing Letters of completion of Primary Schools, their counterparts in the same country will have their First School Leaving Certificates on hand. The scenes at our Courts in future with some of these pupils seeking elective offices can be imagined.
This is because in Anambra state, South East Nigeria, no fewer than 77,000 candidates in March 2020, sat for the FSLC/common entrance examination into Junior Secondary Schools. The State Commissioner for Basic Education, Prof. Kate Omenugha revealed this while on inspection tour of the schools in Awka, where pupils actually sat for the examination. He said that no fewer than 2,000 centres were approved and screened to accommodate no fewer than 77,000 candidates enrolled for the examination. None of the pupils ended up with Covid19 after the exams.
To ensure that it was free of examination malpractice, the answer sheets of candidates were customized and their examination numbers already written in their answer sheets. According to Omenugha, the pupils were carefully screened by making sure they did not take the examinations in their schools, in order to avoid malpractices.
In Delta State, South-south Nigeria, the Chairman, Delta State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Hon. Sunny Ogwu emphasized the importance of First School Leaving Certificate/Common entrance examination in the nation’s educational system, as according to him, Primary School Certificate is a foundation certificate which qualifiesthem admission into secondary school.
He described the concluded Common Entrance Examination conducted across the state as well organized and very successful andexpressed satisfaction that the Common Entrance Examination was smooth and hitch free as there was no shortage of examination materials.
In Ondo state, Southwest Nigeria, of the over seventy thousand candidates sat for the 2020 FSLC/common entrance examination for pupils seeking placement in the 297 state owned secondary school in oOndo state in December 2020, none of them became a Covid19 case.
The Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr Femi Agagu said that despite the disruption of school calender in year 2020 largely due to the covid 19 pandemic, the common entrance examination for primary school students seeking admission into state secondary schools could not have come at a better time than when it did.
Candidates across private and public primary schools clad in their various school uniforms sat in accordance with covid 19 protocol of physical spacing with their facemasks. Mr Agagu who represented by permanent secretary, Mr Akin Asaniyan monitored the conduct of the exercise
The Primary 6 or entrance examination into public secondary schools was also held in Kaduna State, North Central Nigeria, on November 7, 2020. Commissioner for Education, Shehu Muhammad, said the secondary schools’ entrance examination was jointly conducted by the Ministry of Education and the Schools Quality Assurance Authorities after candidates presented their passport photographs and birth certificates before writing the examination, which was conducted in strict compliance with all COVID-19 safety protocols. He said temperature checks; compulsory wearing of face masks and provision of handwashing facilities with class sizes of not more than 20 students in a class with 1.5 metres to 2 metres physical distancing was enforced. None of the pupils tested positive for Covid19 thereafter.