Time for Innovation Regarding 2020 WASSCE Impasse

By Kingsley Omose

At the last count over 183 countries according to John Hopkins
University, have been affected in one way or the other by the
CoronaVirus pandemic with global infection rates passing 13,589,273.

Of this number 585,906 deaths were recorded between March and July 16,
and though this seems a drop in the ocean when compared to the over 7
billion world population, Covid-19’s impact on the world economy has
been devastating.

The global economy has been in lockdown mode leading to national
governments all over the world pumping in over 8 trillion USD to keep
their economies afloat.

This stems from the fact that there is currently no known cure for
Covid-19 other than treatment management of those infected by the
virus resulting in health-care facilities in many countries stretched
to breaking point.

There are over 120 researches worldwide for a Covid-19 vaccine, but
the only option open to national governments have been to impose
lockdown, social distancing, intense testing and contact tracing to
slow infection.

This has produced two main types of responses across the world,
countries with the resolve to adhere strictly to lockdown, social
distancing, intensive testing and contact tracing and those countries
that cannot.

China, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, Iceland, Finland, New Zealand
fall into the first group while countries like Nigeria, Iran, South
Africa, Brazil, United States of America fall into the second group.

Much of the countries in Europe, North Africa and Middle East, Asia,
Caribbean,Oceania,Africa fall in between these two extreme responses
with varying degrees of impact.

The key difference has been the resolve of national governments of
these countries to impose lockdown, and enforce social distancing,
intense testing and contact tracing for Covid-19 infections.

The national leaders of these countries that showed resolved in turn
got the willing support and endorsement of the citizens, and as the
principle goes, when leaders lead the people will willingly offer
themselves.

The reverse has been the case in Nigeria where the six weeks lockdown
first of all was not national, and secondly was observed more in
breach than in compliance and Nigerians are today reaping the
consequences.

Worse, the accompanying intense testing for Covid-19 that should have
been conducted during the lockdown and more importantly after the
lockdown was lifted, has been most pitiable.

With a population of 200 million citizens, Nigeria is currently not
conducting up to 1500 Covid-19 tests a day nationwide, and we still
have states like Kogi and Cross Rivers that are in denial regarding
Covid-19.

Contact tracing for purposes of tracking and quarantining those who
may have come in contact with infected Covid-19 persons on the other
hand has been a mirage as many give fake addresses to avoid
quarantine.

The result is that unlike the United Kingdom which is carrying out
230,000 tests daily and has now been able to ease off lockdown
measures, Nigeria has only conducted 202,097 tests in four and a half
months.

Even the United States with the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the
world, 3,536,658 resulting in 137,897 deaths, has been conducting
close to over 400,000 Covid-19 tests a day.

All we know in Nigeria is that mortuaries are filled to the brim,
doctors are complaining about more deaths than normal, and grave
diggers are digging more graves in burial grounds than usual.

This is the environment in which West Africa Examination Council wants
to conduct West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination for
1,500,000 Nigerian secondary school between August and September.

If the Federal Executive Council and State Executive Councils across
the country are holding virtual council meetings, why should our
children be the ones exposed physically to Covid-19?

If South West Education Commissioners and the Development Agenda for
Western Nigeria can meet virtually to declare that South West States
are considering reopening for WASSCE, why should our children be the
ones exposed physically to Covid-19?

If the President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private
Schools, Yomi Odubela, is holding a virtual meeting to announce that
private schools are Covid-19 ready for WASSCE, why should our children
be the ones exposed physically to Covid-19?

If the private school proprietors across Nigeria can be Covid-19
compliant to reopen for WASCE in August and September, who takes
responsibility for government owned schools across the 774 Local
Governments of Nigeria knowing the state of public education?

There are over 100 Federal Government Colleges across Nigeria that are
all full boarding schools, and having student populations drawn from
other parts of Nigeria, who takes Covid-19 responsibility for these
students?

Many private secondary schools students have been receiving support
online and some state governments are doing so too and also on
electronic media but this has not been widespread, so what happens to
students who have not received any support teaching since March?

Who also takes responsibility for the teachers, support staff, WAEC
invigilating officials, transport and logistic support personnel
distributing exam questions and collecting examination answers, will
they be tested for Covid-19 regularly during this WASSCE?

During this crucial period when Covid-19 infection is yet to peak in
Nigeria, who takes responsibility for ensuring these 1,500,000
Nigerian school children are protected against Covid-19 in their
commute between their homes and the examination centers?

And while I won’t join issues with the National Parents Teachers
Association of Nigeria declaration of commitment to ensure that the
returning students are protected from Covid-19, are the parents of
these children really prepared to put their children in harms way for
the sake of WASSCE?

If these parents are really prepared to put their children in harms
way for the sake of WASSCE then this explains why the skepticism and
sometimes downright unbelief about the existence of Covid-19 is so
prevalent across Nigeria, and this also explains why infections are
running rampant.

As for those children who see nothing but their participation in
WASSCE as their sole definers choosing to turn blind eyes to the
ravages of Covid-19, ignoring the global reality that stares all in
the face is not the solution.

Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education has expressed a strong desire
not to loose any of these students to Covid-19 because of 2020 WASSCE,
I think this is commendable and the starting point for finding
innovative solutions for WASSCE that do not entail gambling with the
lives of our children.

We may also come to find out that the impasse over 2020 WASSCE is the
least of Nigeria’s problem and that there has to be an entire rethink
of school education and accompanying curriculum and teacher education,
especially as Covid-19 intends to hang around for a very long period
of time.

Mr Omose contributed this article from Lagos

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