WAEC DEBT: Governors Playing Game With Students’ Academic Future

StudentsThe news that results of students in 19 states, who sat for last year’s West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) May/June Examination would be withheld by the exam body jolted many across the country.

However, it is not the first time that WAEC would be announcing that state governments owe the exam body. Before now, WAEC had once implemented what it is now threatening to do, even with little or no public outcry. The results of some students in one of the Southwest and South-south states were withheld for same reason last year. This time, it appears to have raised more curiosity because WAEC deliberately avoided making public the affected states.

The outcry, this time around, showed that many Nigerians were taken aback that state governments could not pay salaries as well as smaller, but very crucial items as payment of examination fees. Ironically, many of these state governors display students writing WAEC exams on their billboards as ‘dividends of democracy.’ They sometimes publish it, not just in brochures, but also in newspapers and magazines.

The disclosure by WAEC also showed that the debt profile increased by one billion naira, compared with last year, when it announced that states owed three billion naira. Probably, it was because the debt had increased that made the organisation to go public again. Besides, the exam body also explained that it was affecting its operation, as it was having challenges paying its suppliers and adhoc staff.

If the debt is shared among the 19 states, each state is expected to pay the sum of N211m, on the average, into the coffers of WAEC. That should not be a huge burden for state governors, who take home hundreds of millions of naira as security votes. The governor of one of the South West states was recently criticised because the petitioner felt disillusioned that the governor was taking huge security votes, but leaving the state workers unpaid and hungry.

Although the House of Representative had waded in by asking the affected states to pay the debt, that might not be enough. This is so because the House of Representatives has no mechanism to enforce what it has suggested.

If WAEC finally makes good its threat, if some of the states failed to meet the deadlines, there are negative implications for these students and their parents. Some of them may forfeit more than a year academic session, especially those that might get admission into university.

Luckily, one of the states owing has decided to pay, but it is ironic that those who claimed they are at the forefront of free education and brandish such policy are the ones owing.

Stakeholders wonder why these leaders wait till WAEC threatened to withhold results before they see it as something of priority. It implied that if not for the continued condemnation that has followed the announcement, these governors would not have taken action.

A concerned parent, Mrs. Joy Okechukwu said that it was unbecoming of the governors to owe such money considering that children of the governors are sent to expensive schools on the bill of taxpayers.

“Yet, many of the children of ordinary Nigerians are involved in this. It just shows how insensitive our leaders are. Many of them did an open show when they initially started paying the WAEC fees of candidates and even castigated past administration of the state for not seeing that as a priority. It is the same governors that are not fulfilling its obligation. It is a shame.”

In her view, the way forward is for the President to demand the list of affected states and ensure that as the next federal allocation is being released, the money is deducted at source.

She also wanted WAEC to design a new agreement with the states on the payment format so that it would be one that will not give room for debt.

“There should be a device that would ensure that the money is paid as at when due. This has shown that the state governors are not reliable and responsible and what it means is that they cannot be trusted especially since it is not the first time,” Okechukwu stated.

Another parent, Mr. John Badmus said that it is only a state that toys with its future that would not pay the WAEC fees of students.

According to him, it is surprising that states are owing because many of these state governors, especially those on their second term, did so voluntarily.

“So why on earth would they now decide not to pay? It also shows the lip service our leaders pay to issues that affect the common man. Education is not what a serious country and government should play with. It is what gives life to a country. I wonder if they would allow that to happen if their children were involved. These people usually feel unperturbed about things that concern us. They are only serious and concerned about things that affect them and show them in public that they are good.”

He however called on the exam body to publish the names of the affected states so that the people can know how to pressurise the state government to pay.

“At least, if the states are known, the citizens of these states could organise protest marches to their offices to force these governors to pay. Else they would claim they met empty treasury and cannot meet that obligation now. At least, if it is to paint these governors black through public ridicule, these affected states should be mentioned.”

This parent also felt publishing the names of the WAEC debtor-states could also have positive result because once the affected states are listed, it means many of these governors would not want to engage in frivolous spending, especially in public.
“If they do, they know the public can easily take them on, knowing full well that they have not paid the exam fees owed WAEC. Therefore, it is important for WAEC to announce the names. Even the president can demand that the affected states should be made public. It is a pity this is happening in this age.”

Also speaking on the exams fees debt by states, Mr. Seyi Aderibigbe pleaded with WAEC to allow candidates, whose result are to be seized, but could afford to pay the fees on their own should do so individually.
“WAEC should allow that because if a student has gained admission to a university using awaiting result, the proper result would be required at the point of clearance, so that such student would not lose the opportunity.

“And if he loses that admission, it means he would have to pay to write another JAMB, besides losing at least one academic session. He would probably attend a tutorial class for at least three months. All these have cost implications for the students and their parents. So WAEC should allow parents who could afford to offset the exam fees to do so.”

Chairman of Governors Forum, Governor Abdulazeez Yari of Zamfara State said some of the state governments could not pay the fees because they needed to verify the amount to pay WAEC; they want to know if the figures for private schools were computed into the debt. He also claimed that some state governments needed to crosscheck with their ministries of education and other departments of education.

But does verifying with state ministries take a whole month to do? Is the NGF chairman saying that the state and its ministry do not have the figures of students in its school and also have no record of those, who sat for last year’s WAEC. Or is it that WAEC, too, had been compromised by lumping students of private schools into the pool for states?

A retired teacher, Mrs. Adebisi Anjorin said the excuse by the chairman of NGF is not tenable because WAEC claimed it has written to the affected states, yet there was no response.

“What does it take to know the number of students that wrote the exam? A call to the permanent secretary should be able to provide the answer. Except the governors and their permanent secretaries do not have the number of public schools in the state. If they do, then they should know the number of students in these schools and those who wrote the exams. Any serious state should even have the statistics already because this is a critical element for planning. The governors should agree that they have failed the people and pay up the debt and not continue to give excuses that are illogical. It is a pity we are playing with the future of our children. They cannot pay teachers well, they cannot provide the necessary teaching facilities in schools, and paying examination fees is still a problem,” Anjorin stated.

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