Recently, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) threatened to withhold the results of candidates from 19 states who sat for the May/June 2015 West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) over the non-payment of candidates’ registration fees by their state governments. According to WAEC’s Head of National Office (HNO), Mr. Charles Eguridu, the states in question owe the council a staggering N4 billion between them. The spokesperson cautioned that in the event of failure to pay the outstanding fees, the council could not guarantee the release of results of these candidates.
We sympathise with the Council over this predicament, especially given that it costs huge sums of money to organise examinations on a scale as vast as that of WASSCE. Ironically, the increasing costs of the examination is the reason the now defaulting states came to the rescue of their candidates in the first place. It is fact that as part of their education policy, many of the states pay the registration fees of candidates for the WASSCE, particularly in the public schools. This financial lifeline has not only relieved many poor parents of the financial burden, it also has motivated afresh those prospective candidates who might have dropped out of school due to indigence, to continue their educational pursuits.
Obviously, everyone knows that a larger part of the council’s fees for examinations goes towards meeting some financial obligations, particularly to supervisors, examiners and other service providers. This is why we are calling on defaulting states to pay their outstanding fees without further delay. This call has become pertinent, given the fact that they voluntarily undertook such obligation to the candidates. Therefore, it would not be asking too much for a state government to pay the school and examination fees of their respective students. It is a fact that education is the grease that oils the wheels of progress in any society.
In addition, the degree of development between a society and another is a function of the quality of the educated population. This reality must have informed those governments to undertake the task of paying exam fees due to the huge benefits derivable in the end. For long, there has been mounting concern by education authorities and other stakeholders at the ever-widening gap between the educationally advantaged and disadvantaged states of the federation. The main reason for such disparity is the fact that many of the disadvantaged states claim that the majority of their prospective pupils and students are from very poor homes that cannot afford the high cost of sending them to school.
As result, many end up in the streets as urchins and beggars, with negative implications for their communities. Even at that, the entire country loses because of what it arguably would have gained by way of intellectual input from this group, if only they were educated. Moreover, rising crimes, such as kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism, rape, Boko Haram insurgency – including vices such as prostitution and child trafficking – are traceable to the increasing numbers of school dropouts.
Therefore, we counsel that the defaulting states take immediate steps to pay the outstanding fees, to enable the West African Examinations Council release the results. Further delay would not only jeopardise the future of some candidates who would have their sights on furthering their educational career, it would also have the unintended consequence of discouraging the indigent but brilliant ones from attending school and taking advantage of government benevolence.
Curiously, many Nigerians would not only be scandalised at the outstanding amount being owed by each of the defaulting states, especially in the knowledge of what accrues to the respective governors and other top functionaries as “security votes” which are often spent on frivolities and non-essential items.