The Niger State Government said it would discontinue the payment of the West African Senior School Examination Certificate Examination and National Examination Council fees for its students in secondary schools in the state.
The state governor, Sani Bello, disclosed this on Tuesday when he visited the Justice Legbo Kutigi Secondary School to inspect the ongoing renovation of the school in Lavun Local Government Area of the state.
Bello said government could not continue to pay N800m every year for students only for just five per cent of them to pass the examinations.
He said government would rather invest such money in infrastructure development and provision of instructional materials for qualitative education.
“We must review the issue of the payment of NECO and WASSCE fees because at the moment, we owe the National Examination Council and the West African Examination Council about N800m.
“Government spends such huge amount of money on students that cannot even have four credits. Only about five per cent of students will have four credits and above.
“Basically, it is like we are throwing away money. We will rather stop and invest the money in the facilities so that with time we will get good results.
“We have made efforts to pay part of the money and the results will be released.
“The Commissioner for Finance has met with NECO and WAEC officials and there is an understanding that the debt issue will be addressed,” he said.
He said the payment of examination fees would henceforth be based on criteria where only best performing students would be selected as beneficiaries.
But parents and guardians in the state have appealed to Bello to reverse government’s decision to stop the payment of WASSCE and NECO fees.
They argued that it would not only be a serious burden on them but that it would also affect the educational standard and future of their wards.
A Punch correspondent, who went round Minna, learnt that as a result of this decision, some parents might not be able to pay for these fees again, and this could truncate their children’s educational ambition.
A social critic, who is also a parent, Suleiman Dangana, said there was no wisdom in stopping the payment of WASSCE fees in the state.
Dangana said, “It is a sad development because the decision is targeted at poor parents, who cannot afford to pay the school fees of their children and since they cannot afford it their wards would have to withdraw from school and this will paint the state government in a bad light.”
Another parent, Mohammed Paiko, who spoke to our correspondent, appealed to the state government to look at the economic background of the students and urgently reverse the decision so that they would be able to compete with their counterparts from other states.
Paiko said, “If the state government goes ahead to implement this very sad and unfortunate decision, apart from increasing the number of children that will drop out of school, the future of our children will be hanging.”