Kogi State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has vowed to resist attempt to sabotage the free education policy of the state government.
Speaking at a press conference in Lokoja on Thursday, the State Commissioner of Education, Hon. Wemi Jones, said the ministry has uncovered 7,702 students smuggled into registers by school principals.
He explained that the authentic register verified by the ministry recorded 15,033 students to benefit from the free West African Examination Council (WAEC) registration fees initiated by Governor Yahaya Bello.
The Commissioner said after the approval of N497million for the payment of the 2023 WAEC examination fees for students enrolled in the state’s public schools by Governor Bello last year, some principals began to smuggle in ghost students into their registers.
He explained that the ministry engaged principals in each of the three senatorial districts in the state and embarked on physical verification of registers and claims by each schools.
“Principals of public secondary schools were instructed to submit their school registers, which they did. And we came up with 15,033 based on the registers submitted by the schools.
“Of course, we are not just going to take those numbers like that without verification. But, when we got approval and the release of funds by Governor Bello, the next thing we did was a physical verification process to ensure that the 15,033 students were duly registered to undertake WAEC. We needed to do some capturing and so we advised students to remain in their schools for capturing. By the time we were done capturing, we realised that we had captured not just 15,033 students but 22,735 students.
”We wondered how we got 22,735 students instead of the 15,033 students in the register. This is high. This put us on an inquiry, and we discovered what happened. We discovered that some school principals had gone to inflate the figures with fictitious names. Some of them had gone to the extent of getting names from private schools and importing those names into their registers; they wanted government to pay that money for people who are not supposed to benefit from the intervention of the government for this year’s WAEC.
“The other thing they did was to go and invite all manner of people so that their schools could have a population. They went to the extent of asking people who had previously written WAEC to come and get captured so that government would be paying money for people who wrote and failed WAEC a couple of years ago. We went there and we knew that something was wrong. That was why we insisted on physical verification,” he said.
The Commissioner told newsmen that 14,400 students have since been fully cleared by the ministry to benefit in the 2024 WAEC payment initiative.
He, however, stated that principals of 27 secondary schools refused to show up during the verification exercise, adding that those who came for the exercise all had faultless records.
“This is about 95 per cent of the entire students. The people making the noise that my ministry is coming up with draconian conditions to register students for this year’s WAEC are those principals who refused to come for physical verification and they all have questionable characters. The principals of these schools will be made the scapegoats because they want to use the system to defraud the government.
“Parents should hold the principal responsible if there is any student that started right from the onset in that school, did transfer to another school, and the child is not cleared. The parent should ask the principal questions,” he added.