Money-swallowing snake, hijacked railway scholarships and other key education news of 2018

Registrar, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, Is’haq Oloyede
Registrar, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, Is’haq Oloyede

The year 2018 will not be forgotten in a hurry as long as the education sector is concerned. The outgoing year witnessed some controversial moments.

From a mysterious snake gifted with the powers to swallow millions of Naira, to the abduction and return of Dapchi girls (save one), to Nigerian ministers hijacking scholarships meant for young Nigerians.

Below are a few highlights:

Mystery snake swallows N36 million cash

This was one of the most trending stories in Nigeria’s education sector in 2018.

A mystery snake was said to have sneaked into the accounting office of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation (JAMB) Board in Makurdi and made away with the N36 million cash.

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A JAMB sales clerk, Philomina Chieshe, had told JAMB registrar and his team who conducted fact-finding sessions on an alleged fraud at the Board that she could not account for N36 million she made in previous years before the abolition of scratch cards by the organisation.

In the course of interrogation, Ms Chieshe confessed that her housemaid connived with another JAMB staff, Joan Asen, to “spiritually” steal, (through a snake), the money from the vault in the accounts office.

Another state coordinator of the board in Nassarawa State also came up with a rather strange story to back an alleged fraud.

This time, a JAMB staffer, Labaran Tanko, said his car got burnt and in the process scratch cards worth N23 million were destroyed in the inferno.

The board, after a thorough investigation, said it discovered that the cards which reportedly got burnt alongside Mr Tanko’s car were used by students in Nassarawa State, to register for the exams.

Buhari’s ministers ‘hijack’ railway scholarships meant for young Nigerians

Although not the first time they have been accused of doing so, ministers and other top officials of Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, hijacked railway scholarships meant for young Nigerians.

Investigations showed how some ministers and other top public officials, cornered scholarships meant for young Nigerians.

The scholarship was offered by a Chinese firm, Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), for young Nigerians to study an undergraduate degree course in railway engineering in China.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the scholarship scheme was ‘buttonholed’ by ministers and other top public officials.

The top officials who benefitted were identified in a document used by the construction firm, CCECC, to permit selected candidates to participate in the scholarship interview.

Some of the officials shown to have sponsored candidates include the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; the Minister of Communication Technology, Adebayo Shittu; and the Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Badaru.

Only candidates whose names were on the document were allowed for the interview at the CCECC office in Abuja. Each of the names were typed close to that of the top official who nominated them, as seen by PREMIUM TIMES.

Phasing out colleges of education and polytechnics

A Nigerian lawmaker, Olusola Adeyeye in 2018 also gave reasons why Nigerian colleges of education and polytechnics should be phased out soon, from the nation’s educational system.

He said the educational structures that gave rise to the institutions such as ‘standard six, grade one, grade two and grade three’, had already been phased out.

According to the senator, “there is no serious future for a society that makes the weakest its teachers,” in a veiled reference to products from colleges of education and polytechnics.

The abduction of Dapchi girls

On February 19, 2018, about 110 schoolgirls aged 11–19 years old were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, located in Bulabulin, Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe State, in the north-eastern part of Nigeria.

It is not clear how much such ransom payments influenced the decision of the group to target another girls’ school.

Al total of 105 schoolgirls were freed by the insurgents who dropped them off in Dapchi, without any resistant or confrontation by soldiers.

All of the schoolgirls have been released since March 21, with the exception of Leah Sharibu, who has remained in the custody of the insurgents for refusing to renounce her Christian Faith.

Malpractice in May/June SSCE and racketeering in Abuja education agency

Despite the anti-corruption campaign of this administration, the sector witnessed cases of racketeering and malpractice and nothing was done to resolve or punish the offenders.

WAEC

Massive malpractice rocked the 2018 May/June Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE).

Some online platforms openly solicited candidates to buy WAEC answers for papers they are about writing, which is then delivered to their handsets inside or as they enter the examination halls.

Following an outcry on the social media against the illicit trade, PREMIUM TIMES’ conducted checks which revealed that at least five online platforms are providing questions and solutions in all subjects in real time to exams candidates upon the payment of N400 or N800 to the platforms through GSM recharge cards.

The online sites visited by this newspaper are Naijaclass.com, Examcrown.com, Exponet.com, examsort.com and Gurus.com.

Our reporter registered in all the sites to buy answers for examinations scheduled for April 24.

But nothing has been done to curb this excess.

Education Resource Centre Racketeering

Shortly after the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Education Board officially ended the sale of student admission cards, employees of the Education board continued to secretly sell the cards at a premium rate to Nigerians.

Education Resource Centre (ERC) is responsible for the sales of the scratch-cards for students seeking transfer across secondary schools in the FCT or from other states.

Because most public secondary schools in Abuja are distinct as either junior secondary or senior secondary schools, requests for transfer are commonplace.

However, the official price of N2500 is inscribed on the scratch card, but a staff “helped” our reporter obtain one for N4000 that day.

The staff who refused to give her name or contact requested the money in cash. When our reporter pleaded to do electronic cash transfer, however, the worker accepted and the transfer was made to her bank account.

Increase in out-of-school children

Presently, out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5million to 13.2 million.

Presently, Nigeria is ranked as having the highest number of out of school children in the world.

Meanwhile, experts revealed that 69 per cent of Nigeria’s out-of-school children are located in the northern part of the country.

Also, Mr Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, said unaccessed UBEC matching grant by states was the reason why about 13.2 million children were out of school.

The UBEC fund is an annual grant by the federal government to help states upgrade their primary education facilities in order to provide a good education for children across the nation.

To access this fund, state governments are required to match the federal government’s grant. But many states have ignored this facility even as children studied under very deplorable conditions, including having lessons under trees and dilapidated classrooms while the quality of teachers remains suspicious in many cases across the country.

1% of Nigerian population in universities

The Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Abubakar Rasheed, in July, said only one per cent of Nigerian population form the total enrolment of students in the 164 universities across the country.

He said 75 private universities in the country account for 5.31 per cent of the total enrolment in the universities across the country.

He described the situation as “unhealthy”, saying there is a need for more access, either by creating more universities or expanding existing ones.

Reduction in cost of WAEC, JAMB and NECO forms

This is one of the decisions of this administration that has put smiles on people faces considering the level of poverty.

The federal government approved a reduction in the cost of forms for final year secondary school and post-secondary school examinations.

The cost of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) forms was reduced from N5,000 to N3,500 while the cost of National Examination Council (NECO) forms was reduced from N11,350 to N9,850.

The cost of Basic Education Certificate, also handled by NECO, was also reduced from N5, 500 to N4, 000.

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