Controversy has continued to trail the cancellation of the result of the common entrance examination into unity schools. While the Federal Government has asked the pupils to look for an alternative, parents insist that the results must be released so that their children can resume as Kemi Obasola reports
One week after the Federal Government announced the cancellation of the result of common entrance examination into unity schools, parents and other stakeholders have continued to agitate for a reversal of the decision saying it was done in bad faith.
Before the government announced the cancellation, pupils who wrote the examination, which was conducted by the National Examinations Council, had been at home for three months since August 16 when they sat for the examination.
In cancelling the examination, the Federal Government said its decision was informed by the fact that the Universal Basic Education law had been infringed upon.
In an interview, an Assistant Director of Information in the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Alphonsus Okorafor, said, ?The conduct of the examination was illegal, that was why we cancelled the results as soon as we made the discovery. The Universal Basic Education Act states that there shall be nine years of free, compulsory uninterrupted education. If you begin to bring in common entrance, you have turned education to a privilege and not a right because some pupils would definitely be deprived of their right to attend a Federal Government college. Common entrance is also a form of interruption, that is why most states no longer conduct it. There should be a direct transition from primary six to Junior Secondary School One. The government decided to obey the law by not releasing the results, moreso, Federal Government colleges have become mainly senior secondary schools.?
However, despite the cancellation, the National Parents Association of Federal Unity Secondary Schools, has said it is still expecting the Federal Government to release the results.
The association?s General-Secretary, Mr. Okwudili Akajemeli, said the delay in the release of the result was taking a worrisome dimension in the sense that the resumption date that had earlier been fixed for October 31, 2008 had been breached by the Ministry of Education.
He said, ?Unfortunately, no official announcement has been made till date. This trend is most unhealthy for the affected children who are idle at home and parents who are highly disturbed, especially as all schools are about to end the first term.
?We appeal to the Federal Ministry of Education to release without further delay, the final placement result of admission to JSS 1 for the 2008/2009 academic session.?
On its part, the National Examinations Council said that it received instruction from the Federal Government to conduct the examination. The council?s Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Folake Eweje, said, ?The Federal Ministry of Education asked us to conduct the examination, which we did. Unfortunately, the examination had to be cancelled despite the huge amount of resources that went into its conduct.?
Asked if NECO would refund the money paid by the pupils, Eweje said, ?The pupils paid N1,500 for the examination, while those who were called for interview paid extra N500. What they paid is not commensurate with the resources NECO used to conduct the examination. We printed question papers and answer sheets. We also had to recruit monitoring officers, and we spent a lot of money and expended energy. Already, the Federal Government has apologised, NECO has no plans to refund the money paid for the examination to the pupils.?
But, the Minister of State for Education, Mrs. Aisha Dukku Jubril, said her ministry was already working on modalities to refund the money to parents of pupils who wrote the examination.
Dukku, who spoke in an interview with our correspondent said, ?We have owned up that we erred. To err is human; this is why we have apologised profusely to pupils, parents and the entire public.
?We know the trauma these pupils are undergoing, but it is better to trace a mistake early and correct it instead of waiting until it is too late. It is better now than asking them to withdraw in a year or two because the examination that they wrote was illegal. It is painful but better, it is not too late for them to find an alternative.
?Already, the ministry is working out a modality of refunding the money paid for the examination to parents and guardians of these pupils. After working out the modality, we will ask them to collect their money. We will return every kobo they spent including the money used to purchase scratch cards.?
Asked why the examination was conducted in the first place, Dukku said, ?Government is a continuum, we have taken responsibility for our action, we have accepted that we conducted the examination in error, it is sad but we must move forward.?