The Nigerian government has condemned enrolling younger pupils below 12 in secondary schools, describing it as a breach of the nation’s education policy.
The Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education, Andrew Adejoh, said this on Saturday while monitoring the National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE) in the country’s federal government colleges, otherwise regarded as unity schools.
Mr Adejoh expressed the government’s determination to enforce the policy, insisting that the practice contributes significantly to the challenges facing the country’s education system.
He accused parents of “continually breaching the policy.”
The official said the recommended age of entrance into secondary schools is contained in the country’s National Policy on Education but that parents have cultivated the habit of breaching it.
Tagged National Policy on Education, the document, which was last revised in 2013, pegs the pupils’ age on completion of primary education at 11, noting that at age 12, pupils are expected to be in Junior Secondary School 1.
Mr Adejoh said: “We are killing our children by allowing underage children to write the Common Entrance Examination.
“I saw children that I know that are not up to 10, and three of them accepted that they are nine years old. We are doing many things; one, we are teaching the children the wrong values. Education is not about passing exams. Education is teaching, learning and character formation.”
What National Policy Says
The National Policy on Education, as revised in 2013, structured Nigerian education into four categories; Early Childhood Care Development, 0-4 years; Basic Education, 5-15 years; Post Basic Education, three years; and Tertiary Education.
The Basic Education is further broken down into one year of pre-primary, six years of primary education and three years of Junior Secondary Education.
Going by the structure, a Junior Secondary School pupil should’ve attained the age of 11, having completed four years of early childhood education, one year of pre-primary, and six years of primary education.
Meanwhile, Pearl Ihaza, Head of the Making Pathway for Bloomers (MPB) Academy, Abuja, said there was a different curriculum for basic five and six in primary school.
She blamed parents for hurrying their wards to secondary schools by skipping the last class in the primary schools.
“Every school has Basic Six, but parents don’t want their children to go to that class, so it’s a problem for everyone,” she said, adding, “But schools are beginning to force them because that’s when the child will be mentally, emotionally and psychologically ready for secondary school.”
The permanent secretary has, therefore, directed the National Examinations Council (NECO), the government agency responsible for the conduct of NCEE, to henceforth make birth certificates a requirement for registration.
“Let our children get to an appropriate age before writing (sitting) this exam, and we are going to make sure NECO puts in place appropriate checks. We didn’t want to get to where we will say bring a birth certificate, but that is the stage we are going to now. In registering, we also upload the child’s birth certificate so that at our own end, we can cut some of these things,” he said.
2023 Common Entrance
Every year, NECO administers the NCEE examination for pupils seeking admission into any of the more than 100 federal government colleges.
This year, 72,821 pupils registered for the examination, with Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) accounting for the highest number of candidates, NECO Registrar Dantani Wushishi, a professor, said.
He said Kebbi had the lowest number of candidates, with 115 registered pupils.
Like the previous year, more girls registered for the examinations than boys, accounting for 38,000 compared to 34,000 boys.
This Mr Adejoh attributed to the government and its partners’ initiatives in bringing more girls to school.
Last year, 71,738 pupils sat the examination, of which 34,030 were males, and 37,708 were females.
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe
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