Legal icon, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has said disallowing students from writing the 2020 West African Senior Schools Certificate Examination would cause irreparable damage.
The Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, said this in a statement on Tuesday in Ado Ekiti.
He said the decision by the government would particularly cause irreparable damage to students sitting for 2020 WASSCE.
According to Babalola, WASSCE is an annual examination for final year secondary school students in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia, of which Nigeria cannot pull out.
He said about 1.5 million Nigerian students who had registered for admission into various tertiary institutions in the country were earnestly waiting for WASSCE results to get admission into universities of their choice.
He added: “Even though the Minister of Education insisted that it was not safe to re-open the various institutions in the face of the increasing wave of COVIDI-19 pandemic, he did not indicate when it will be safe for Nigerian students who have been staying at home since March 23 to participate in the annual examination.
“When will COVID-19 disappear?: To be sure, it will be with us for a long time to come. Like Small Pox, Malaria, Influenza, flu, Leprosy and Cholera, it may not be completely exterminated from planet earth.
“That means that Nigerians have to manage COVID-19 pandemic the same way as the world has been managing previous pandemics.
“From history, pandemics had been tackled over the ages by relying on social distancing, which Nigeria has embraced and is practising. This has been applied to churches, mosques, weddings and many elections in Nigeria. Why not WASCE?
“It is my firm belief that the future of these 1.5 million young Nigerians, who have registered for WASCE should not be put in jeopardy.
“It is a known fact that all schools, colleges and tertiary institutions in the country are currently shut down. This affords the Federal Government the opportunity to use them for WASCE halls.
“What the government should do is to prepare the empty rooms for WAEC examination – fumigate the halls and the premises, use face mask, provide sanitiser and ensure that WHO rules are obeyed to the letter.”
According to Babalola, the WAEC Law provides for a National Committee of WAEC in all the five-member countries.
He suggested that the matter should be taken up by the National Committee of WAEC in Nigeria and the general body in Ghana before the declaration to withdraw Nigeria from taking the examination.
He said: “One continues to wonder why the other four countries under the WAEC umbrella have not cancelled the WASCE in their respective countries.
“Are the other four countries not affected by COVID-19? What steps have the other countries taken, which would enable them to take WAEC examination, which we cannot take?
“Why is Nigeria the only country out of five that is pulling out of the annual examination? Are we saying that other four countries do not appreciate the lives of their students?
“Did the Minister take into consideration the moral and legal implication of Nigeria as a signatory to WAEC laws or the effect of such unilateral declaration of withdrawal.”
Babalola said what was required to take the WAEC examination was proper management, consultation and discussion instead of unilateral cancellation of annual international convention.
He said if the Federal Government insisted that there would be no WASSCE this year, the students would not have lost only one calendar year but an integral part of their entire lives.
He added: “We should always remember that after all, ‘time is life and life is time’.
“A year of idleness for 1.5 million people may breed frustration and promote criminality.
“The Federal Government should allow the WASCE to take place in the empty spaces, which are wasting away in our tertiary institutions, secondary schools and elementary school, which can conveniently accommodate them with a lot of social distancing and due compliance to WHO rules.”