The West African Examinations Council is in the cross hairs again, after three subjects in the ongoing West African Secondary School Certificate Examinations were leaked to students mainly in the Greater Accra and Eastern Regions. Social media has been swashed with pictures of students with answers written on their thighs to be transported into the examination hall. WAEC has been dogged by such incidents of leaked questions year after year, and seem incapable of stemming the tide. Last year, five Basic Education Certificate Examination subjects had to be cancelled due to a similar incident. It is most disheartening for students to prepare assiduously for three years only to be confronted with incidences of examination leakage. Last year, when the BECE papers leaked, there was hue and cry and the BNI was called in to investigate. According to reports, 13 people were initially picked up and the Head of the Ghana Office of WAEC, Rev. Samuel Nii Nmai Ollennu was also interrogated. Currently, two people are being prosecuted for their roles in the leakage of the 2015 BECE papers while three staff of WAEC have been dismissed.
The latest leakage is shocking especially coming after assurances from the examinations body that it has put in place adequate measures, including technology, to prevent any such incident. What is more baffling is the attempt by WAEC to confuse Ghanaians with technicalities. According to WAEC, what happened was not leakage but fore-knowledge. Whatever technical name is given to it, the fact still remains that some students had access to the questions prior to the examinations. But this notwithstanding the Council has said it will not cancel the leaked papers. This raises a number of questions. What will WAEC do to those schools and students who had access to the questions? How will the Council compensate those schools and students who did not have fore knowledge of the questions? The point has been made over and over again that the perennial leakage of the question papers cast doubts over the integrity of the certificates awarded to the students. Some teacher unions like NAGRAT have suggested the scrapping of the WASSCE system so Ghana can hold its own examinations supervised by an independent body. A policy and research Think Tank, VIAM Africa Center for Education and Social Policy, has also suggested the setting up of an alternative independent examinations body, as it is in Nigeria, to break WAEC’s monopoly, and ultimately stimulate competition and quality. But, that cannot be the panacea to the problem. It will be disingenuous and hypocritical to put all the blame on WAEC. What about those parents, students, teachers and proprietors of schools who go to any length to have access to the papers ahead of the examinations.
Unless, there is a change of attitude among all the stakeholders, even if the examinations body is made up of angels or CIA agents, there will surely be leakages. In the same vein, sacking the Head of WAEC, cannot solve the problem. The craze to have access to the examination papers ahead of time is due to unhealthy competition between schools. It is now fashionable for schools to erect giant bill boards advertising their schools as having clocked 100 per cent in examinations. And because of the unnecessary value placed on paper qualifications, parents and students prefer schools where all the students supposedly pass in the examinations. But what is the essence of achieving a 100 percent pass when it was fraudulently procured? As a nation, it is about time we found better ways of assessing students. The best student is not always the one who tops in an examination, and it is not also the case that the one who did not do too well, is not a good student. Moving forward, the nation will also have to take a second look at lumping all students together to take the same examinations. Perhaps, the marking scheme can be adjusted to reflect the facilities available in each school. In other words, a student from a remote village who scores an aggregate 36 should be seen as having performed better than a student from a well-endowed school, who scores an aggregate 15.
BY: MAWULI ABASESE FROM KLIKOR IN THE VOLTA REGION.