The Federal Government has banned underage children from participating in the National Common Entrance Examination for admission into the Unity Schools across the country.
The government has accordingly directed the National Examination Council (NECO) to put strict measures in place to prevent underage persons from registering for the examination, including making birth certificates compulsory as a registration requirement.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. David Andrew Adejo, gave the directive on Saturday in Abuja while monitoring the conduct of the 2023 Common Entrance Examination into the 110 Federal Government Colleges across the Federation.
A total of 72,821 candidates sat for the examination on Saturday nationwide.
Adejo noted that to get into secondary, a candidate should be at least 12 years, adding that one could be eleven plus during the examination, and by September, such a person would have attained the age of 12 years.
The Permanent Secretary after monitoring the exercise at the Federal Government Girls College, Bwari, and Government Day Secondary School, Bwari, said he was unhappy to see many underage people taking the examination.
He insisted that less than eleven years was unacceptable, disclosing that Airforce Schools, among others, do not accept candidates less than 12 years for admission into their schools.
Adejo said: “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 about passing exams. Education is teaching, learning, and character formation.
“I beg the parents; let these children do the exams when they should. We don’t get value by pushing our children too far. Most of the time, 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 can you use your knowledge to do for society. You put a small child to go through all the rigours, and by the time he finishes secondary, getting to University becomes a problem. I had that experience with a friend. To date, that friend did not get into a University, simply because he was put into school earlier than the age that he was supposed to be put into school.
“Let our children get to the appropriate age before writing this exam and we are going to make sure NECO put 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.
The Permanent Secretary also noted that the efforts of the Federal Government and other stakeholders in encouraging girls’ education are yielding fruit, saying 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.
While confirming that 72,821 candidates registered for the 2023 National Common Entrance Examination, Wushishi disclosed that Lagos State had the highest number of enrollment followed by FCT, while the State with the lowest registration, Kebbi, has about 115 registered candidates.
He noted that the Council would put in place a mechanism to check some of the noticeable gaps caused by an upsurge in registration a day before the examination.