THE West African Examinations Council (WAEC) has made good its threat to withhold the results of students from the states that owe the Council a whopping N4 billion in unpaid fees, a situation which has rendered WAEC incapable of meeting its obligations to its examiners and unable even to pay salaries as well as meet other overhead costs in running the head office in Nigeria.
This indeed is one of the negative ripples of the poor state of finances of the states in Nigeria and another advertisement of inept leadership and irresponsible governance.
The question may be asked: what is the fault of the innocent students in this matter? The answer is: none. They are mere collateral victims of poor management of resources, profligacy, and such recklessness as has made it difficult for those states to pay salaries of workers before this embarrassment of students’ examination fees.
It is the policy among the states of the federation to pay the Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) registration fees for students whose financial background requires such support, especially those in public schools.
And if the welfare of the citizens is the primary purpose of government, this is not too much a duty to the citizens by the states. Of course, WAEC in its announcement two days ago did not name the 13 states now in default, but it is now official that students from those 13 would not have their results unless bank guarantees are provided by those states as evidence of preparedness to pay.
The problem has been long in the making. Last year, the National Office in Nigeria sounded the alarm that 10 states owed the agency N3 billion. This necessitated the agency resorting to borrowing short-term loans from banks in order to meet its basic obligations. The expected funds from the 10 states were not paid.
By January 2015, the figure had risen to N4 billion and the number of defaulting states to 19. Letters written to the states were not answered even as WAEC reeled in its own financial difficulties. Certainly, this situation is lamentable and the defaulting states have exhibited gross irresponsibility by failing in their duties and working to jeopardise the future of their young citizens.
This should not have been and should never be again. The West African Examinations Council was established by the British colonialists to achieve uniform standards in their colonies: Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
For years, secondary school graduates received the West African School Certificate, which was recognised for pursuing further studies in the United Kingdom.
After attaining independence, the countries retained the regional body while also conducting National Examinations within their respective boundaries.
Examiners are drawn from the member countries for all the examinations conducted by WAEC. The Council, with so much owed it by states on behalf of the students, is now under severe pressure to meet its obligations to banks, pay service providers as well as staff salaries and the fees of external examiners who mark the papers for millions of students.
Withholding the results of students from the defaulting states has naturally attracted condemnation from those who see the action as punishing innocent students for the irresponsibility of their states’ leaders.
Indeed, some have argued that WAEC’s action is in breach of Child Rights Act and an insensitive one that does not serve the best interest of children.
This, however, does not obviate the fact that the states or their leadership are wrong and they must rise up to their duty in recognition of the seriously negative impact on the future of those students, if their results are not released to enable them proceed with their education. This crisis reflects the criminally poor attention given to education in Nigeria by all the three tiers of government.
And the consequences are even evident in the results announced two days ago by WAEC. With more than 61 per cent recording failure in English and Mathematics, the rot in the nation’s education sector is beyond description and the descent in standard would require a revolution to reverse.
How many of the states fulfill the requirements of the Millennium Development Goals, the cardinal being allocating at least 26 per cent of their budget to education?
Is there a regular National Forum for reviewing compliance with the minimum requirement? While it has been enunciated over the years that the Federal Government should deal with general policies and the regulation of tertiary education while the states handle secondary education, leaving the local government tier to run primary education, all tiers fail in their assigned responsibilities while efforts to over-lap or collaborate as the Federal Government does with Universal Basic Education have been dogged by monumental corruption and inefficiency.
The result is a nation consciously ruining her own future by giving poor education to her children. This danger must be averted. And now too! Education is too important to be left to politics, corrupt management or the vagaries of the times. It is the sustenance of a nation and at no other time than now is the Declaration of Emergency on Education in Nigeria required.