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20 Jun 2017

WHY BENUE IS YET TO WRITE JUNIOR SCHOOL EXAM - Education Commissioner Explains

By Jimin Geofrey

Benue State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Professor Dennis Ityavyar, today spoke with journalists on why Basic Education Certificate Examination, BECE, has not yet been written in the state.

He also updated Benue people on the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Benue State University Chapter.
Jimin Geoffrey was there and brings you excerpts from the interview:
Question: Sir, can you tell Benue people what is responsible for the delay in writing the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in the state?
Prof. Ityavyar: There are two reasons: one reason is that Governor Samuel Ortom has emphasis on education and he doesn’t want anything else except that which is excellent. And if the BECE examinations were conducted, it would not have been excellent. Number two is that the management of Benue State Examinations Board had some issues bordering on integrity. So, for these reasons, we have withheld the conduct of the examination, but it will be held very soon. We have explained the issues, government has spoken to the management and I like to say that His Excellency the Governor has approved the repositioning of the Benue State Examinations Board.
The Executive Secretary of the Board has been sacked and redeployed to Teaching Service Board because he was a teacher before he was appointed Executive Secretary. Other management staff in the Examinations Board have also been redeployed because government wants to reposition the Examinations Board.
I assure you that BECE in the state will be conducted as soon as next week. A timetable has been prepared already. A new acting Executive Secretary has been appointed and later in the day, a timetable for the examination will be out and the examination will be conducted.
Question: Don’t you think students at that level in the state would have been drawn back when you compare them with their colleagues in other states of the federation?
Prof Ityavyar: Well, what we want is the best for our students and for our state. I had already said that if the examination were conducted when you expected it to be conducted, it would not have been excellent. But now we have put everything in place to have a very well conducted examination and this is consistent with Governor Ortom’s idea that anything that is to be done should be excellent. We do not want half measures. We are here for change and we are repositioning everything including the educational sector. And so it is good to tell Benue citizens that the problem of Examinations Board has nothing to do with even money. It has to do with management issues at that stage. I have seen some posts on facebook and so on that people have misappropriated money. No! It has nothing to do with misappropriation or anybody in government. It has to do with management of that agency and we have repositioned it. If you know that the Executive Secretary has been removed and about nine other officers in that organization have also been redeployed, then you know that there was a substantial problem and in the wake of that, we wouldn’t have conducted exams.
Question: Was suspension of Mock Examinations by state government part of the issues you are talking about?
Prof Ityavyar: No, the Benue State Executive Council considered Mock and the examination was charging people about N10,000 and sometimes close to N15, 000 on Mock Examination. And we know that Mock is just a test examination to teach people how to conduct themselves in West African Examinations Council, WAEC examinations. Many of us wrote Mock but it was conducted by the schools. The head teacher of the school will just prepare the examination in the mode of WAEC and then people will write. So why charge people Ten to Fifteen Thousand Naira on Mock which is not a compulsory examination? You don’t have any certificate for Mock, you don’t present it to get a job or admission, so it is completely not mandatory. And this government is for change and on the side of the people. That is why this government cancelled Mock. And I think there is no apology for that whatsoever. Instead, we have received a lot of praises from citizens of Benue that we are very sensitive, our explanation is good because parents themselves were writing and saying that the cost of Mock was too high. And then we took a decision and asked ourselves that what is this Mock all about? So we have cancelled Mock and have now directed all secondary schools that the teachers in those schools will have to conduct Mock. It is not that Mock examination is cancelled completely, but for now, parents do not need to pay anything for the examination, not even ten kobo. The teachers there are capable of conducting Mock. I also took Mock when I attended Government Secondary School Gboko, and you also took Mock in your own schools, so why charge people Fifteen Thousand Naira and at this time of recession when things are hard and parents are not supposed to be charged for things that are not useful? So, as a government that is on the side of the people, we took this decision for the good of the people of Benue.
Question: What latest information can you give to Benue people about negotiations between the State Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities, Benue State University Chapter concerning the ongoing industrial action?
Prof Ityavyar: Well, this government has always said that university education is very central. His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortom had a meeting with stakeholders drawn among distinguished sons and daughters of Benue, and they put Benue State University on first line charge and they have been receiving their pay. But when ASUU went on strike, they had about six issues and government has held meetings with them about four or five times. All other issues have been settled except, perhaps, what they call earned and academic allowances. I would like you to know that as soon as Governor Ortom took over, earned and academic allowances were not introduced in the salary. So, we are talking of arrears of six years ago when we were not in power, but government is continuity, so the government of Samuel Ortom has agreed to pay the earned allowances when there is money. But because they have gone on strike, we have to get the students back to the university, so we have now negotiated and government has agreed to pay the arrears of six months. And because of paucity of funds, government decided that they are going to pay each month the arrears and that will continue in the next 24 months. When we said that, ASUU said they will not take that except the money is paid in bulk. The truth is that Benue State University, in terms of academic and earned allowances, is better than any other university in Nigeria including federal universities. There are universities which are not getting full salaries. Benue State University is getting full salary because of the way this government takes that university. And even earned allowances, they are being paid and government has also accepted to pay the arrears that have accumulated in the past for six months but they want the money in bulk. They do not want a situation where they will be paid every month. So, government is still negotiating with them, but I think this information is important so that the people of Benue State will know that government has been trying very hard so that our children will go back to school.
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