By Maximus Attah, a Lecturer.
This year’s Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) began throughout all the Examination Centres in the country today. According to a timetable released by the West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC) in Accra, “Examinations for the Candidates for 2021 will begin on Monday, November 15, 2021 and end on Friday, November 19, 2021.
The BECE is the main assessment to qualify students for admission into Secondary, Senior High, and Technical schools in Ghana. Since its inception in 1991, it has always been School-based until 2019, when WAEC succumbed to pressure from members of the Public and Civil Society Organizations to open up the space for Private Candidates, who might not have performed very well to gain admission to the next stage of the education ladder. This ushered in Private BECE. Like the West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), the School-based BECE has always been held between May and June every year. When the private BECE was introduced in 2019, like its private counterpart for Senior High Schools, it was also held between November and December, a phenomenon which has become known to parents and students as Nov-Dec Examinations.
This therefore meant that this year’s BECE is going to be the first since 1991 that the main Examinations have been shifted to November, which also means that the Private Examinations are likely to be rescheduled to a later date.
Last year, a total of 531,705 Candidates from 17,440 Public and Private Schools sat for the BECE, while a total of 571,894 Candidates will be sitting for the Examinations from more than 18,000 Junior High Schools across the country this year.
WAEC in the usual fashion, has announced a raft of measures aimed at curbing Malpractices at the Examination Centers. Out of the total of five key measures announced by the Examinations custodians, there seems to be a heavy tilt towards measures aimed at preventing or containing the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) thus stressing how Information and Communication Technology (ICT), is being deployed to curb or totally prevent any Examination leakages.
According to WAEC, “Officials of the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB), monitored the production process – printing, sorting and packaging of the papers and are confident that there would be no leakages”.
To the avid Ghanaian Examination Watcher however, these measures by WAEC do not seem to be far-reaching, since they are at best, routine. This is because historical records do not favour WAEC’s announcements on conducting full-proof Examinations, especially as the Examinations body has not moved swiftly enough to deploy ICT tools to help curb the incessant leakages. There is unimpeachable evidence that these days, most of the purveyors of the leaked questions use technology-enabled platforms to disseminate questions to their willing clients. Which is why WAEC should be moving ahead of the Examination Malpractice Entrepreneurs by deploying technologies that would be difficult to breach. For example, it should be possible for the Examination body to move away from printing and distributing hard copies of Examination questions to centres days ahead of writing a particular subject. Every region in the country is currently connected to internet, which means that the Examinations questions can be embargoed by the National Office of WAEC in Accra until the very morning or a few minutes to the Examinations before being released to the Regional Heads of WAEC, who would then immediately deploy them to all the key centres.
After all, from the inception of Examinations in Ghana, the Centres have always been selected based on their resource endowments, which means that the BECE is not written in any deprived school for that matter.
Again, if it is a matter of resource constraints, the Private Sector and other bodies can be called upon to support WAEC to help sanitize the organization of Examinations in the country. Because one Examination leakage is one too many, as this cancerous situation only teaches the students that laziness is not frowned upon in the country and that no matter what happend, ‘apor’ as Examination leakages have come to be infamously referred to, is bound to happen every year.
One of the consequences of the Examination leakages is the untold burden and hardship it places on children who travel long distances to Examination Centres, sometimes at the mercy of the elements to take the BECE.
What is even more worrying is that unfortunate child in the rural or ‘overseas’ areas do not have the benefit of accessing the leaked papers, but when the papers are canceled, they have to bear the brunt of preparing and going back to take the Examinations again. WAEC must therefore up the ante and ensure that this year’s BECE is free of perennial leakages. Furthermore, members of the public would like to know what has become of the many suspects, both within and outside of WAEC, who have been fingered in past Examination Malpractices. Were there any prosecutions of culprits and can these be made known to the public to serve as a deterrent to others who might be planning to mar this year’s BECE with their nefarious activities? As the Nigerian Trainer, Asuni Lady Zeal once said, “many students fail examinations not because they don’t know anything but because they lack confidence to prove that they know anything or everything.” Let us encourage our children to be confident in themselves and about what they have learnt throughout their three years in school. We cannot afford to have another cocktail of leaked Examination papers this year, leading to cancellations and rescheduling of the BECE. We wish all BECE Candidates the best in the examinations.