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Thousands of senior secondary school students poured onto the streets of Bauchi city last week for a protest over government’s failure to pay their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fees.

The students drawn from different schools held placards with different inscription including “Refund our money,” “Bamaso” (We don’t want) with others turning to song to express their annoyance. They matched to the Government House in files where they were addressed by Deputy Governor, Senator Baba Tela.

Senator Tela assured the protesters that their grievances would be looked into and pleaded with them to remain calm and return to their respective schools.

The protest prompted an emergency joint press conference where the government declared that only students who passed a mock examination will be sponsored to write the exam.

Speaking to newsmen over the matter, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Ladan Salihu said the measure would curb corruption in the educational sector.

He said, government “has overhauled the direct feeding system, reduced school fees to improve access, ensure that teachers and other school staff go to work promptly, stopped corrupt practices in education administration and built the capacity of Ministry staff.”

Salihu said N612 million 2019 WASSCE fee inherited by the government was being settled and that “this government has gone into agreement with WAEC on how the remainder will be settled fully in 9 months, along with the N183 million new 2020 registration fee.”

Salihu said, government conducted mock aptitude test for prospective candidates in all public schools where out of 21,000 students that took part, 12,000 have been found eligible. The figure, in addition to candidates in special schools rose 13,011.

On his part, State Commissioner for Education, Dr. Aliyu Usman Tilde, said the decision was line with Governor Bala Mohammed’s quest to revive education in the state,

Tilde decried that majority of the students who failed the aptitude test cannot write sentences in English, with some not even able to write their names, ‘Bauchi has remained in the 31st position in WASSCE among the 36 states of the federation.

“What I will never support is misplaced compassion even in education. If an SSS 3 student cannot even write his name well; writing Sini instead of Sani, why would government pay for his WASSCE? Neither would his father do so. I will advise the adults that instigate children to be very careful with the law.”

Tilde said the change towards better education delivery in public schools was for the benefit of all and people were making sacrifices to realize it. “Some sacrifice their time, some their resources, some their talent. Some are hereby advised to sacrifice illicit practices inimical to our common good. They should play this important role. Our fault, if any, is denying them the opportunity to perforate the ship.”

Tilde said the fight was basically between his ministry and those who believe they must be allowed to pad names of external students into the list of government sponsored candidates in the examinations.

He said the mock exam policy was actually introduced in 2008 because corrupt officials connive to siphon million in exam fees.

He said, “We effectively blocked chances of making the usual hundreds of millions of Naira from internal and external candidates. And they are not happy. We do not expect them to be. The unholy confederates are out mobilizing unsuspecting children and pushing them to the streets to protest.”

He said those involved in the scam included examination officers of many secondary schools, their principals and dislodged officials of the ministry’s examination directorate.

“I think the protesting students need to know that the N800 refund they are asking for is not with the ministry but still with the same examination officers and principals of their schools. In connivance with the old exam office staff, they overcharged parents in the upload of continuous assessment of their children, well above the N300 we recommended per candidate,” he said.

He said government would ensure that students who did not sit for WASSCE were reimbursed their N800 or N700 fully, adding that subsequently the ministry would handle all ICT matters, not contractors.

He explained that for those who did not get government’s assistance as a result of poor performance or cheating in the aptitude test, the Ministry has three options for them,

He said, “Any interested candidate should rush now to his principal and pay N13, 950 for his WASSCE. We have pleaded with WAEC for this. A number of students are doing so. Register for NECO at N11, 000 or just above. He or she has up to May to do so. Many have been doing this. If a student still cannot do either of the above, we will allow him or her to pay and register in his or her school next year, a gesture never officially made by the ministry.”

A parent of excluded students, Saidu Umar Sani, said that the action of the ministry was ‘too harsh’ and would jeopardize academic future of thousands of children, thereby increasing the number of dropouts in Bauchi,

He said, “I am hearing the precondition for sponsoring WASSCE for the first time which I think many other parents are not aware of this.”

Another parent whose daughter did not pass the mock exam, Murtala Danjuma said that the timing of the policy was wrong because parents were not notified.

“I was not aware of the policy and every the government paid for students without discrimination,” he said.

Meanwhile Bauchi State House of Assembly had summoned Dr Aliyu Tilde over the matter. While some law makers awaited explanation from the commissioners others agreed that the revived policy was good for the education sector.

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