The federal government has banned underage children from participating in the National Common Entrance Examination for admission into Unity Schools across the country.
It also directed the National Examinations Council (NECO) to put strict measures in place to prevent underage persons from registering for the examination, including making birth certificates compulsory as registration requirement.
The permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr David Andrew Adejo, gave the directive yesterday in Abuja while monitoring the conduct of the 2023 Common Entrance Examination into the 110 Federal Government Colleges across the federation.
He stated that 72,821 candidates sat for the examination nationwide.
Adejo noted that to get into secondary school, a candidate should be at least 12 years old, adding that one could be 11 plus during the examination and by September, such a person would have attained the age of 12.
After monitoring the exercise at the Federal Government Girls College, Bwari and Government Day Secondary School, Bwari Abuja, he expressed unhappiness with the underage persons taking the examination.
He said allowing children less than eleven years was unacceptable, adding that Air Force schools among others do not accept candidates less than 12 years.
“This year, I have advice for parents and I beg you, take this advice to any single home you know. 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 just about passing exams. Education is teaching, learning and character formation.
“I beg parents, let these children do the exams when they should. We don’t get value by pushing your child too far. Most of the times if a child starts too early, he or she will have problems later in life.
“Education is designed in such a way that at any particular stage in life, there are messages your brain can take and understand and be able to use. We are moving from education that is reliant on reading textbooks and passing exams.
“We are getting to a stage where education is what you can use your knowledge to do for the society. You put a small child to go through all the rigors, by the time he finishes secondary, getting to university becomes a problem. I had that experience with a friend. Till date that friend has not got into a university, simply because he was put into school earlier than the age he was supposed to be put in.
“Let our children get to appropriate age before writing 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 birth certificate but that is the stage we are going to now. In registering also upload the child’s birth certificate, so that at our own end, we are able to cut some of these things,” he said.
He said the number of girls that registered for the Common Entrance Examination this year is 38,000 far above the previous years.
Registrar of NECO, Professor Dantani Wushishi, said the conduct of the examination was generally smooth and orderly, saying from the reports gotten from across the country, the examination went on hitch-free.