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EXCLUSIVE: NECO Wobbling Examination and Leadership Failure

By Tajudeen Balogun

Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Despite its 19 years of existence, the National Examinations Council (NECO) up till present, remains on a shaky footing, with regards to the real purpose it was established – conducts of a standard Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the General Certificate in Education (GCE).

Almost every year, NECO is rated low, in the areas of planning, administration, financing and logistics on the conducts of its annual examinations. The rating is deplorable, when a comparative analysis is done with the foremost West African Examinations Council WAEC’s – West African Senior School Certificate Examination WASSCE, especially with respect to the quality and organization.

If the NECO has been wobbling in its examination conducts since its inception, its ongoing (2018) SSCE unarguably is the most horrible in the history of the body, established by the Gen (retd) Abdulsalami Abubakar Military Administration-promulgated by a decree, in April 1999.

AFRICAN EXAMINER has been following the conduct of the current NECO SSCE since the beginning of candidates’ registration. It was confirmed that the registration which was said to have been closed about a month ago was extended till the eve of the week of the examination.

Specifically, AFRICAN EXAMINER’s check confirmed that the registration of the candidates was still on till around May 14, 2018, whereas, the examination commenced, Monday 21, 2018.

For instance, a section of the examination time table posed serious confusion to the students, parents and guardians. In particular, was the first week (May 21 – 25, 2018), which featured practical of some trade subjects. The worrisome aspect is that none of the subject was allocated with a specific date, within the week. This caused a lot of discomfort to students, schools, supervisors and parents as they were forced to be checking and re-checking the likely date in which the trade subjects of their concern will eventually be written.

AFRICAN EXAMINER can also confirm a case of a school in Ifako-Ijaye Local Government area of Lagos State, which registered students for garment making and was first told that the practical would be conducted Wednesday, May 23. This was not to be, as the students did the practical later last Friday, May 25. In actual fact, the school was forced to send one of its staffs to the Lagos NECO office, in Ilupeju to collect the question for the exam. This was after the designated Supervisor (a teacher in a private school) for the paper told the school’s management that her school faced similar experience in some of her practical.

Lack of organization was also evident in one of the question papers written last week. During a visit to some schools within Agege/ Ifako Ijaye and Ikeja Local Government areas, a major typographical error was observed in one of the question papers written on that day. On top of the paper where students were instructed to state their personal details on the answer sheets, SURNAME was mistakenly written as SIGNATURE.

The WAEC and NECO have what they call custodian – a designated and secured premises in various zonal areas where examination supervisors visit and collect examination papers for the schools they are posted. It was shocking to find out during a visit to another school in Ojokoro, in Ifako Ijaye that a kitchen of a commercial Bank in the area was being used as the custodian for the distribution of NECO question being written for that day.

What this however suggested is that different substandard custodians might have been used, instead of a single, central, an enclosed and a secured place.

AFRICAN EXAMINER has observed various irregularities, such as late arrival of question papers, reschedule of the examination among many others since the beginning of the examination over a week ago.

However, the thinking has been that the logistics arrangement will improve as the exercise progresses, but reverse is the case; as the situation gets worsened by the day.

The experience of the candidates on Thursday, June 7, 2018 was appalling. The papers slated for the day are: English Language (10am-1- 45pm); Electronics and Insurance (3pm-5.40pm). Pitiably, the English Language which is the first paper for the day did not start until 3.30pm. That was the time the second and third paper for the day supposed to be in progress.

The scenario automatically knocked out the conduct of the two remaining subjects scheduled for the day.

Most of the candidates who had besieged their centers in a chat with the AFRICAN EXAMINER expressed worry over the development. After being frustrated, some of the candidates gave up the hope of writing the examination Thursday, yet, could not leave as they were told to await the final directives.

They were as well advised to call their parents and inform them about the unfolding confusion. AFRICAN EXAMINER witnessed when a School head called a NECO official and asked if the examination would still hold or not; he was told categorically that the paper would be written as scheduled, but for the time variance.

Truly, the examination was eventually conducted later in the day and ended shortly before 7pm in most of the centers.

When AFRICAN EXAMINER called NECO office, a source who craved anonymity blamed the situation on the recent (May 17, 2018) sack by the Federal Government FG of the Council’s Registrar, Professor Charles Uwakwe and two Deputy Directors over alleged corruption

Although, FG did not give any official reason for its action, still checks show that the sack might not be unconnected with the award of a N25 billion contract by the management without the knowledge of either the Federal Ministry of Education or the NECO Governing board.

However, stakeholders argue that the minor purge in the Council should not have taken its toll on the conduct of the examination, more so, that the development was an in-house issue.

This position is corroborating the argument that some fundamental challenges are still associated with the NECO as an examination body.

In a chat with AFRICAN EXAMINER, a Principal in one of the Lagos State Senior Secondary Schools berated NECO over miserable payment. She told AFRICAN EXAMINER that NECO pays its ad-hoc personnel half of what the WAEC provides. This in effect, accounted for apathy displayed by most of the State public teachers – who felt the stress they face in the conduct of the examination does not commensurate with what is paid to them, thus opted out.

Consequently, the Council resort to engaging private school teachers whose demands is considered to be lower and cheaper.

Besides, the Principal told AFRICAN EXAMINER that unlike WAEC which engages the service of ‘’checkers’’ to assess the markings and entries before finally in-putting the candidates’ scores –NECO practically lacks such crucial and sensitive arrangement.

It would be recalled that at the inception, NECO faced the challenge of credibility as most of the foreign institutions did not accept its certificate from candidates seeking for admission into their schools. It is not certain if the trend has effectively changed now

As we speak, NECO is also faced with the problem of patronage. Every year, the number of the candidates who register for the examination is significantly low, compare to the ‘explosive’ population usually recorded by the WAEC.

With the past and present scruffy experiences with the Council, many stakeholders have concluded that the limited support presently being enjoyed by the body, might go from the bad to worst, if an urgent step is not taken to arrest the situation.

The position of many education stakeholders is that NECO requires total cleansing and ‘clinical’, overhauling, so as to inject into it, the needed standard; then for it to compete with the allied institutions within and beyond the African sub region. It is also reasoned that such move will ultimately make it to serve as a standard alternative – the major purpose it came into existence.

 

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