From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi

This is certainly not the best of times for all the 75 Senior Secondary Three (SS3) students of Government Secondary School (GSS), Tse-Agberagba, Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State.

At the moment, while their peers in other schools are writing their West African School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), they are all at home licking their wounds in painful silence.

They are not writing the examination  because of any fault of theirs, but because their school somehow failed to register them for the examination.

A source from the community, who identified himself simply as Terdoo, but refused to have his picture taken, told our correspondent that some of the affected students who felt cheated visited the school and burnt down the administrative block.

Terdoo disclosed that the SS3 students actually registered for WASSCE and their names were allegedly pushed to the website of West African Examination Council, (WAEC) but, somehow, they could not be registered by WAEC due to some discrepancies discovered in the registration process.

It was gathered that, when it became obvious that they would not be participating in the examination, some students who felt aggrieved by the unfortunate development decided to set the school ablaze in the early hours of August 22, 2021.

Following the sad development, chairman of the local government area, James Jirgba, immediately visited the school for an on-the-spot assessment that day. The council boss, according to a statement by his media assistant, Amos Aar, inspected the burnt administrative office of the school.

Aar added that, although the principal was not around when Jirgba visited the school, the vice-principal (administration), Mr. Sendeh Stephen, conducted him and his team round the school to inspect the burnt section of the institution.

“Hon. Jirgba, who was accompanied to the scene by Senior Special Assistant to Governor Samuel Ortom on Security for Zone A, SP John Poor (rtd), frowned at the level of damage done at the school.

“The chairman tasked the divisional police officer in charge of Tse-Agberagba Area Command, who was also on ground at time of inspection, to carry out thorough and vivid investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the incident and fish out perpetrators,” Aar said.

Some of the students who spoke on the condition of anonymity lamented their plight, saying, after working so hard to register, the school management disenfranchised them from writing the examination.

“That principal was lucky that we didn’t meet him in that school that day. Otherwise, by now, he would have been dead,” one of the affected students said.

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Meanwhile, after commencing investigation into the matter, the state government, through the executive secretary, State Teaching Service Board (TSB), Dr. Frank Kyungun, ordered the immediate suspension of the principal of the school.

Mr. Aliba was allegedly fingered in financial misconduct, which resulted in the recent violence in the school that was reportedly razed by aggrieved prospective WAEC candidates.

Kyungun, who visited the school with some management staff of the TSB, announced the suspension of the principal and directed the vice-principal (academics), GSS Wanune, Tarka LGA, Mr. Joseph Iorja,to replace him with immediate effect.

The executive secretary, who frowned at the level of destruction carried out by the aggrieved students, expressed disappointment that traditional rulers, community leaders, the Parent-Teacher Association, (PTA) and the management of the school could not protect facilities provided there by the state government.

Kyungun also urged the community and staff of the school to cooperate with the new principal to enable him discharge his responsibilities, and requested the PTA to renovate the burnt school structures, including the administrative block and library.

While pleading with the affected students and their parents to remain calm, the ES pledged that the affected candidates would soon get news about when their monies would be refunded to them.

He also directed principals of schools in the state to allow school bursars take charge of funds of their respective schools while the principals only give approvals, to forestall a recurrence of such ugly events.

Responding, the suspended principal, who is also under investigation, blamed the incident on a PTA (casual) staff who was in charge of ICT in the school.

He explained that receipts of registration of students were presented to him with the belief that the candidates were duly registered with WAEC, not knowing the receipts were fake.

“About 75 candidates were affected while properties destroyed during the crisis include certificates of WAEC and NECO that were yet to be collected, certificate of occupancy, school dossiers, sports equipment, chemistry and physics equipment, terminal exams results, MOCK and Benue Exams Certificate, BECE, results, furnitures, school receipts, library books, among many others,” he said.

Also speaking, paramount ruler of the area, Ter IKyor, Chief Jam Gbinde, represented by the District Head of Mbatem Tse- Agberagba, Zaki Uda, District head of Mbakaaka/Tse-Agberagba Township, Zaki Liambee Adi, as well as the PTA chairman, Mr. Anthony Terhemba, all pleaded with the state government not to withdraw the school from the community, even as they promised to remain vigilant and also ensure that the masterminds were called to order.

Also, the divisional police officer in charge of Konshisha LGA, Markus Amos, a Superintendent of Police (SP), said investigation was ongoing to ensure that the perpetrators are made to face the wrath of the law.