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Provocative Conscience: How Ghana Education Service and WAEC failed Gabatia BECE candidates.

BECE 460,000 BECE candidates writing exam

Sun, 11 Jun 2017 Source: Frederick K. Kofi Tse

This year’s Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) ended successfully without any of the perennial malpractices that the public have come to know WAEC’s examinations for. But there has been a sad news about some candidates in the Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo district in the Northern Region who were not able to write two of their papers because of security concerns raised by their parents.

First of all, it is about time we took a second look at how the Basic Education Certificate Examination is organised. The number of papers written by these candidates is too many. A child in Junior High School (JHS) writes nine papers and is expected to excel in order to gain admissions into Senior High. And into that bargain is the compulsory qualification in English, Science and Mathematics, regardless the programme one wants to pursue in Senior High School.

The number of subjects is not of much concern to me as the number of days it takes to write these papers. It beats my mind that BECE candidates, who are ‘inexperienced’, are expected to justify their inclusion for studies in Junior High School (form- one to form-three) in nine subject areas, and in doing so, they are given an inflexible examination timetable. So the child who is expected to excel even beyond the preparation given him in JHS-3 is expected to answer questions on what he has studied for three years. Worse, the child writes mostly two papers a day.

Even tertiary institutions who write, on average, five papers are given flexible timetables. Most universities write their papers within a three-week period. But I think WAEC and Ghana Education Service (GES) are waiting for an opposition political party to raise this issue for a public debate. To say that is how it was when you wrote it is to say change should be imposed and not initiated. The GES will fail to act until politicians begin to play ‘chaskele’ with the BECE—then they start whining.

I know I digressed…

Back to the 200 candidates who could not write two of the papers due to security concerns about the location of the examination centre. For those who are not aware of matters in the Northern region, like the public relation officers of both GES and WAEC, the security situation in some communities here are quite delicate. I write this article from one Kokomba community which is not too far from the Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo district.

Not long ago, there was a dispute concerning the location of a JHS facility between two communities and this led to violent confrontation that led to the death of thirteen people. Virtually every human activity stalled, even the School Feeding Program in the only primary school which is located in the area had been suspended. The school is located in community A and community B which has majority pupils in the school would not allow their children to eat the food provided by government. Absurd? There you have it!

So when the public relations officer (PRO) of GES rants around in the media that neither Ghana Education Service nor WAEC should be blamed, I shuddered. In fact, it was the lack of capacity by the public relations units of both GES and WAEC to share responsibility for this unfortunate incident that provoked my conscience to piece this opinion together.

How do you shy from blame when opinion leaders in Gabatia expressed worry about the security threats in Gbankoni? A little effort at gathering intelligence from the security agents in the Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo district would have saved us from this incident. Like in football matches, chances of “home and away” matches can affect the performance of these candidates as they may be filled with fear of attacks before or after the papers. It is therefore sad to absolve both GES and WAEC from blame in this matter since it should be their responsibility to make sure candidates write exams in a comfortable setting and with peace of mind.

Or do parents not reserve the right to protect their children from possible harm? And are the candidates not expected to respect their parents too? Anything can happen on the way, as many of the candidates travel miles on bicycles and others on foot to their examination centre.

I also listened to the PRO of GES that buses are provided for students who live far away from exams centres. This man should stop lying through his teeth; after all he is not a politician. In communities I have been to recently, even here in the Northern region some students travel a distance of about 10miles and over on bicycles to their examination centres. Just last week, I video-taped some candidates who travelled from Wapuli, Gbenga, Nayili, Nabua, Gbadagbam who were perspiring profusely on bicycles en route examination centre at Saboba, and it is very dishonest for GES to be claiming a phantom means of transportation for this poor children.

Both GES and WAEC should think of better ways of compensating the poor candidates who missed the two papers through their institutional negligence. They should suck in the blame and not employ lies as a face-saving gimmick.

Columnist: Frederick K. Kofi Tse