The sending of examination questions to students in exams hall through phones, collection of money from students by some invigilators, exchange of answer sheets between students and between students and invigilators, the availability of word-for-word WASSCE questions to some students prior to the examination, to mention but a few, are all transparent to almost everybody.
You may be tempted to ask me about malpractice in other examinations like the National Primary School Examination (NPSE), and the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).Well, those are not my focus now, though there is a plethora of comment to make on them. My focus now is the WASSCE since it is a very significant point of transition in our educational system. The questions that I want to ask are these. What is being done to avert this menace that is rife in our educational system? Who should we blame for this, the students or exams authorities? “Food for thought.”
In the past WASSCE, the results of about two thousand students were seized, in relation to examination malpractice. The structure of The West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), is highly bureaucratic in that students are not given the opportunity to seek redress when they are skeptical with their results. Once WAEC says you have “nine Fs” for example, you just have to accept it, even if your mind says otherwise. This I think is unfair on the side of students. I think WAEC should give students the opportunity to access information that will clear their uncertainty about their results.
Do you think I am in support of students that engage in exams malpractice? No, that is not my point. My point is that there are two parties to this corrupt act (exams malpractice), the students and exams coordinators. It is very difficult, or even impossible for WASSCE questions to be available to students prior to the exam, without the hand-work of prominent WAEC officials. It will also be very difficult or impossible for students to receive messages from phones, compare work, spy etc, in exams hall without the consent of invigilators. Therefore if any punishment is to be levied, it should affect both sides. But in our own case, one party suffers- the students. This I think is a clear manifestation of selective justice, and selective justice is tantamount to injustice. I was very shocked when a friend said this to me, “my dear, you do not need to stress yourself in studying to pass the WASSCE. All you need to do is find the money to pay for the grade you need.” Is my friend’s statement correct? This question will better be answered by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The Anti-Corruption Commission, which is set up by the government to stamp out bribery and corruption in the country, has been doing its job in other sectors, but little has been done by the ACC to stop examination malpractice. If the results of about two thousand students are questionable, in relation to examination malpractice, and examination malpractice has been systemic in the country, it is incumbent on the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the ACC to investigate indiscriminately and bring culprit to justice. In the laws of Sierra Leone, exams malpractice is a crime related to fraud and dishonesty. Examinations malpractices can be curtailed if the Ministry of Education in collaboration with ACC conducts proper enquiry into examination malpractice, and take the appropriate action against culprit of this act.
Fourah Bay College (FBC), once known as the “Athens of West Africa”, has lost its precious image. One of the reasons for that is the influx of students in the college who did not go through proper academic scrutiny in the WASSCE. This has made it difficult for some of the eligible students who are, though mentally capable, not financially strong to engage in malpractice, to have their college requirement. As such, some students’ results are determined by “the side and weigh of their envelope”, Not by their academic competence. Do not get me wrong, majority of FBC students are very intelligent, but there are “bad eggs” in the system.
The University of Sierra Leone (USL) is putting measures in place for all students who want to be admitted to the different colleges to go through an entrance examination. Why do you think the USL wants to introduce an entrance examination “across the board”. A key reason for this is lack of confidence in the WASSCE results presented by many students. This as such raises a question to the credibility of the WASSCE. It is never too late for all of us to strive towards bringing an end to this problem.