Our fears as 2020 WASSCE beckons: SS3 students speak on inability to finish syllabus, other issues

After a long unexpected delay occasioned by the lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) will begin in 19,129 accredited centres nationwide on August 17. Some candidates hoping to write the examination spoke with IMOLEAYO OYEDEYI and ADEOLA OTEMADE on their fears and expectations.

PRECISELY on Monday, August 17, 2020, the long-awaited West African Senior School Certificate Examination will start, going by the disclosure credited to the Head of National Office (HNO) of the examination body in Nigeria, Patrick Areghan.

In normal circumstances, the regional examination is often held between May and June every year before which final year secondary school students would have undergone regular coaching to cover as much aspects of the syllabus as possible. Also characteristic of the usual preparations was that students would have completed their full second and third terms of academic work through consistent classroom teaching in order to have adequate preparation for this examination that would largely determine their eligibility for tertiary education.

But for the year 2020, it is a departure from the norm as the outbreak of coronavirus compelled government at all levels in the country to close down all private and public schools in the country on Thursday, March 19 in a precautionary move aimed at curtailing the spread of the virus when the second term was yet to be completed.

Consequently, the WASSC examination for the year was postponed indefinitely and for over three months, the students were confined to their homes and restricted to only remote learning carried out via broadcast media for those at the public secondary schools and web-based platforms for those in private secondary schools.

Meanwhile, as the prevalence of the coronavirus worsened daily with an end not appearing in sight, the Federal Government mooted the idea of cancelling the 2020 examination, but the decision received heated public outrage with many educationists questioning its ingenuity, even though the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) threw its weight behind government’s decision, considering the safety of the students.

As the backlash continued, the government rescinded its decision and held joint meetings with state governments. It also notified the examination body of its resolve to go ahead with the examination and ordered graduating students to resume schooling in preparation for the long-awaited examination.

However, while looking forward to their final exams culminating in WASSCE by May/June, the inevitable happened throwing most students off balance until one month rolled into two and three without any light at the end of the tunnel.

One of these students is Olarewaju Rohyymah of Havannah College, Igando, Lagos, who was already experiencing what is generally known as exam fever. He said, “As a final year student, I have many fears even before the pandemic came and some of them have been whether some questions would come from some areas I was able to cover. With COVID-19 issues, my fears have become heightened.

“Firstly, being at home without having standard coaching is an issue because since we were asked to remain at home, it had become hard for me to read hard like I would have done if I were in school. I will say COVID-19 really affected my preparation because there was no group-reading with my mates which often aids my assimilation.

“Also, there had been no physical interaction with my teachers where I would have been able to ask cogent questions and get solid answers without any technological disruptions.”

Esther Agigbade, a student of Inspired College, Meiran, Lagos, also feels that COVID-19 has affected her preparations.

“As a science student, prior to the outbreak of the virus, I had been preparing well for the examination,” she said, “solving a lot of formulas on my own with the aid of tutorials and school coaching through which I got corrections to my mistakes. But since COVID-19 appeared suddenly, all these have been truncated heavily.

“Though, I have been engaging in personal study like before, there had been lack of access to physical coaching either through tutorials of school teachings, as my siblings and I had been at home for the past three months.

“As the examination kicks off soon, the only thing I just have is hope and faith but I doubt if the preparations I have been able to put in place can deliver excellent results.”

For Inioluwa Fajimi, one of the over 1,549,463 students that will be sitting for the 2020 WASSCE, the recent developments are welcome. According to her, it has not only brought much relief to her and several of her classmates; it has also renewed their fears over COVID-19 which had initially truncated their preparations for the terminal examination.

“I am happy that we were considered to start our exams, but the truth is we couldn’t finish the syllabus we were meant to cover and during the lockdown, tutorials were not organised, lessons were not allowed. In fact, the spirit with which we were preparing for the exam was dampened the moment schools were closed.

“Many of us had to go learn one skill or the other so as not to be idle when we realised schools were not going to be opened any time soon. Though we have started preparing again for the exam, the lengthy days we have spent at home with little or no consistent coaching unlike before will no doubt affect our performance. But personally, I will give my best,” she enthused.

Another SS3 student who spoke to Sunday Tribune, Ojo Aduragbemi, a student of Ideal College, Eleyele, Ibadan, said though his school has carried out the precautionary measures demanded by the examination body for a smooth exercise, he also fears that inadequate preparations due to the close-down of schools and coaching centres across the country in the first three months of the coronavirus outbreak may take its toll on students’ performance during the examination.

“We have neither done our mock examination nor completed eighty per cent of our second term works when we were suddenly asked to stay off school. Normally, if not for the outbreak of the virus, we would have completed both the second term and third term syllabuses and also undertaken a mock examination that would be very similar to what we will eventually face in WASSCE. But all these were not to be and I feel it will definitely affect our results,” he lamented.

Ezekiel Oyedele of Golden Crown College, Agbowo, Ibadan, also shared similar feelings on the upcoming exams, noting that the coronavirus outbreak was unexpected and caught many schools off guard.

“You will remember that as of early February, none of us knew what might happen. The virus just came suddenly and before we knew it, we were asked to stay off school. Some of my friends’ schools even when they were yet to undergo revision rushed through their second term examination in less than a week but majority of others couldn’t because the notification was just too short.

“It would have been a lot different had it been our schools had premonitions of the closure. Our scheme for the final year would have been adjusted while our coaching and lesson would have begun extensively since last year. But it has happened the way it did and there is nothing we can do about it. Within the short period, my school organised coaching classes for us and I have also prepared,” he explained.

In the same vein, not being able to start, talk less of finishing the third term syllabus is a headache for Akinleye Esther.  In an interview with Sunday Tribune, she expressed fears that the whole scenario might affect her general performance in the exams, but she has resolved to give the exam her best shot after going through some tutorials organized for her and some of her mates.

She said “There are some topics we were meant to be taught during the third term but since there wasn’t a third term, we had to study on our own. Now that tutorials have begun and a day has been fixed for the exam, I believe we have a better view of situation of things.”

In view of all these, Temiloluwa Ade-Alao, an educationist is of the opinion that not completing the syllabus before the outbreak of the pandemic would affect students’ educational growth and performance at the 2020 WASSCE.

“I believe not completing the full session schemes will have serious implications because there are reasons those topics were formed by the ministry of education. So if the students weren’t allowed to take third term lessons, they won’t be able to cover those topics and it would affect their performances in the examinations.

“Also, it might have a bearing on their future because even we in the academics right now, there are things I learnt way back in Senior Secondary School that still work for me. So if they don’t learn it, remembering the topics will become a problem later in the future. As the situation has played out across the country now, the best thing is for the students to be tested based on what they were taught. But you and I know that WAEC will give them questions based on the entirety of their three-year full syllabus,” she explained.

However, even as students show apprehension as the case is during examination periods, WAEC’s Head of the National Office in Nigeria Areghan says the examination will take a different format unprecedented in its 68-year history. For a successful conduct of the examination, the HNO said: “Schools must provide wash hand buckets with running water, soaps, hand sanitisers and thermometer hand-gun to check the temperature of all concerned.

Speaking further on the guidelines, he said “All examination functionaries, including the council’s staff on distribution, supervisors, invigilators, inspectors, candidates and school officials will be required to wear face masks, wash and sanitise their hands daily and throughout the duration of the examination.”

Areghan further noted that the council would adhere strictly to physical distancing in the examination halls by ensuring that candidates sit two metres apart.

 

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