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Atiku Abubakar (Photo Credit: Channels TV)

Nigeria’s former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has said Nigeria’s decision not to let its students participate in the 2020 May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) was a wrong one.

The federal government recently reversed its earlier announcement on the resumption of schools, saying no Nigerian school will participate in the regional examinations earlier scheduled for August 5 to September 5.

This year’s examination, administered by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), was postponed indefinitely in April after it was earlier scheduled to commence in May.

The postponement was due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the globe for months. Nigeria has so far recorded over 20,000 infections and over 600 deaths.

Mr Abubakar, in a statement Friday, said the federal government’s decision “will further create chaos in the public education system and exacerbate an already bad situation.”

According to him, the cancellation will cause a set back for 1.5 million Nigerian youth who write the examination annually.

“To abruptly cancel this examination is to set back our nation’s youth, and place them behind their contemporaries in other West African nations. This is perilous, because Foreign Direct Investments and other economic indicators, are tied to the educational indexes of nations.”

He said Nigeria already lags behind other African nations in crucial indices, like school enrolment, pass rates, and out of school children.

Suggesting a way out, Mr Abubakar stated that “rather than cancellation, there are better ways to protect the health of Nigerians and prevent the pandemic from escalating.”

“We could mobilise all available public and private infrastructures including primary schools, stadia, and cinemas, for the examinations,” he said.

“In the alternative, the federal government can prevail on WAEC to have staggered examinations with a different set of questions for each shift. Doing so will allow WAEC Nigeria implement social distancing and achieve the goal of carrying out the examinations. A win-win scenario.”

Mr Abubakar then urged the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to consider a reversal of the decision “because if this policy is not reversed, tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, will breach social distancing rules to cross over to neighbouring West African nations to write their WASSCE, rather than miss a year.”

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