Why Ghana towers over Nigeria in WASSCE Award

THE NATION Newspaper- Kofoworola Belo-Osagie

Last Thursday was a special day for three Ghanaian teenagers who excelled in the May/June 2014 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). They were rewarded with the WAEC International Excellence Awards during the council’s 63rd yearly meeting at its international office in Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos.

The awards are presented to candidates with the best Total Scores (T-Score) in eight subjects in the examination. If they wrote nine subjects, their best eight subjects are chosen for assessment.

The trio of Hasan Mickail (Ghana Secondary Technical School, Takoradi), Kenya Blaykyi (St Augustine’s College, Cape Coast), and Archibald Enninful (Mfantsipim School, Cape Coast) made A1 in (Mathematics [core], Integrated Science, Biology, Chemistry, English Language, Social Studies, Physics and Mathematics [elective]). Hasan had a T-Score of 682.0933, compared to Kenyah’s 680.4287, and Archibald’s 676.9348.

With their performance, they led 2,018,497 candidates who sat for the examination in The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Since the establishment of the WAEC Endowment Fund, which has been sponsored by the Sir Augustus Bandele family in the past 29 years, the contest for the coveted award has been between Nigeria and Ghana. However, Ghana has dominated. Since 1984, Nigeria has won the top three prizes eight times (1986, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006), while Ghana has won it nine times (1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014). In the eight years where the prizes were won by candidates from more than one country (1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2001, 2007, and 2011), Ghana has featured more than Nigeria.

With Nigeria producing the largest share of candidates (and funding) for the examination annually (about 80 per cent of the candidates for 2014 WASSCE were Nigerians, the natural question on the minds of many Nigerians would be why Nigeria cannot produce the winners, if not all, most of the time.

That question was what the Registrar of WAEC, Dr Iyi Uwadiae, said all stakeholders need to ponder on when asked to give reasons for Nigeria’s lukewarm performance. Uwadiae, who was head of the WAEC Nigeria National Office before he was appointed Registrar, said that Nigerian parents, students and their teachers have important roles to play in reversing the domination of Ghanaians in the examination.

He said: “What we should do as Nigerians is that we should go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves that years ago we used to have – at least one – on many occasions, we had two Nigerians out of three. What is happening now that the three positions, none is Nigerian? And this has happened for about three years now. So we should ask ourselves what is happening.

“There are so many factors. We as parents must play our parts; students must play their parts. Parents should take the trouble to ask their wards what they did in school, monitor their academic work, that is the first thing we should face. Education starts from home; we don’t leave everything to the teachers. The children themselves must be interested.

And of course those who teach them must impact knowledge. Facilities are necessary. But there are times you improvise. And that is why there are some schools that are not the best but yet are able to bring out students that win our awards. That is to say that if parents play their roles, students play their role, and teachers also play their roles, with or without those facilities, students would perform.”

A public school teacher, Mrs Juli Orukpe, also thinks parents and pupils must do more. She said pupils are not focused on their studies because they are easily distracted, and blamed parents for not calling them to order.

“We have to put in more efforts; and our students have to be counseled. Our students are not serious. There is a lot of distractions and parents are not even helping matters because they do not provide materials for their children. If you tell them to buy textbooks, it is wahala,” she said.

However, Principal of King’s College, Lagos, Otunba Dele Olapeju is not quick to conclude that Nigerian candidates are inferior to their Ghanaian counterparts. He said since the examination scripts from the five-member countries are not inter-changed for grading, Nigeria should not feel bad for losing the prizes to Ghana. He also said the Ghanaian education system has its own problems.

“There is nothing that has gone wrong. You lose some, you win some. You cannot win all the time. It does not mean Nigerians are not good. Ghana also has challenges with its system. That is why they have increased schooling at senior secondary level to four years. Their SS3 is the fourth year.

“Also, the markers of the examination are different. We do not send scripts to Ghana and Ghana to Nigeria. Nigeria marks Nigerian scripts and Ghana marks Ghanaian scripts – so there is no issue. We are not necessarily declining in performance,” he said.

Nevertheless, for the founding chairman of the Examination Ethics Marshal International (EEMI), Sir Ike Onyechere, Nigeria can learn some lessons from how Ghana runs its education system and has instituted a culture of ethics.

Onyechere said WAEC Ghana, for instance, named and shamed examination cheats in 2010, which sent strong signals to the citizens that integrity of the examination is important. However, he said WAEC Nigeria has failed to do so, despite announcing each year that there were cases of examination malpractices.

“Years ago, I think in 2010, some students were caught perpetrating examination malpractice. The society condemned it strongly and insisted that they be named and shamed. Since then, Ghanaian parents and candidates have learnt that the fear of examination malpractice is the beginning of wisdom.

“But come down to Nigeria. Every year, WAEC, NECO, NABTEB announce that thousands of candidates were caught in examination malpractices. But that is where it ends. They will even go ahead to announce that so-and-so number of invigilators, supervisors, examiners and others were involved. But when we meet them to give us their names, they say ‘no, we have reported them to their employers. Most times these employers are the ministries of education and the cases are swept under the carpet,” he said.

Onyechere also said the politicization of the free education policy practiced by many states has not helped the proper running of the education sector as well because quality is compromised.

“Free education is politicized. Quality is not there. It takes a minimum of four years for the impact of politics in education to show. If you take a bad decision, you do not see the effect until about four years later, which is dangerous.

“For the new government coming in, the change or transformation we desire in Nigeria must seriously start from education so that when we say something is black, it is black. Invigilators, supervisors, others should be made to understand the seriousness of education. Ethics must be instituted,” he said.

National President of the Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), a group of private school owners, Mrs Ifejola Dada said government must also put the right people in education.

“The fault has been from our leaders. The round peg must be put in round holes. People are not put in the right places. This is the only sector I discover that professionals are not allowed to work. By the time we allow the right people to perform, we will recover. If we are all professionals, we will all sit down and discuss how we can elevate quality above quantity,” she said.


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