The threat by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) to withhold the results of 402,000 candidates whose state governments owe it over N4 billion in examination fees for the May/June 2015 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) is yielding positive results already. Since the threat was issued last week, a few of the 19 debtor states have either paid up or are making frantic efforts to do so within the two-week deadline given by the examination body.
However, it is bad that the states neglected to pay the examination fees in the first place. Owing WAEC that huge sum of money could have totally grounded its operations, or severely compromised its ability to conduct credible examinations. It is well known that the examination agency is not a commercial enterprise. It largely relies on the fees paid by candidates taking its examinations to conduct its operations.
Again, the fact that more than half of the states in the country were owing fees for their candidates who had graciously been enrolled and allowed to sit for the very important examinations on trust does not speak well of the affected state governors’ attitude to education. States ought not to trifle with matters relating to education, as appears to have been the case in this instance. Yet, some of these states are quick to talk about their “free education” policy, when it is in reality only a campaign gimmick.
We expect education to be a top priority at all levels of government in the country. It is a fundamental tool a government can use to arm its youths to give them hope for a better future. On the contrary, however, secondary school education is given scant regard, with teachers’ salaries often the first casualty whenever expenditure is to be cut. Most public schools are in a sorry state, with inadequate basic infrastructure and teaching facilities. The future of students in these schools is in jeopardy.
It is good that many states have undertaken to pay WAEC fees for their candidates, but they must know the importance of this responsibility. The payment is not something they can wilfully postpone to whenever they feel like, because the education and future of the children simply cannot wait. Let the affected governments abide by their resolution to pay these fees, and desist from exposing their students, who are the future leaders of their states, to ridicule and embarrassment.
We commend WAEC for not exacerbating the trauma of the affected candidates by releasing the list of the debtor-state governments. These states know themselves and should immediately do the right thing.
Nigeria cannot afford a situation in which some states would fail to pay the money. The implication will be too grave as many of the candidates will be unable to gain admission into higher institutions in this academic year, with its attendant psycho-social implications. Let the states clear these debts before WAEC goes ahead with the threat to withhold the results of these candidates. The examination body is right to demand the payment to meet its financial obligations.
To avoid this situation in future, WAEC may have to insist on the full payment of examination fees by intending candidates before they are enrolled and allowed to sit for its examinations. States should support WAEC to succeed in its assignment, and not constitute a cog in the wheels of its operations.
We hope that this will be the last time that these states will renege on their obligations to WAEC. They should not mortgage the future of students in their states.