WASSCE cheating allegations: No response from Education Minister?

BY: Charles Ehun Andoh

These past few weeks, the education sector has recorded astounding allegations of extensive, orchestrated cheating in the Senior High School leaving examination.

One was published by an educationist, and another by an education watchdog.

Around the same time, a seemingly simple tale of a death in a village, circulated online, turned out to be an allegorical story.

Its arresting heading was ‘I murdered my own mother five years ago: a warning to teachers and educational administrators’.

It was a metaphorical illustration of the terrible possible effect on a society when an illegality becomes accepted as normal and those who should help stop it, become collaborators.

Its moral brings to mind a recent hard-hitting exposé of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) system, by an educationist, Kwami Alorvi. Mr Alorvi’s name is very recognisable as a former President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers.

The story begins with a ‘Teacher Stephen Boah’ being informed of the sudden death of his mother.

Maame Boah had only complained of a slight headache, hence her son’s shock at news of her passing.

When Teacher Boah rushed to the village to find out what had happened, the doctor held up a piece of paper and explained: “Teacher Boah, this is the prescription meant for your mother. Instead of this drug on the paper (the nurse) administered this one” and he showed an empty container to Teacher Boah.

Teacher Boah asked to see both nurses, “the one who gave out the drug and the one who administered it” and the doctor sent for them.

Boah immediately recognised the nurses as the two girls he had aided to pass their exams. “He smuggled their answer booklets out of the exam room for some scouts to copy the answers for them.”

Teacher Boah turned slowly towards the doctor and whispered in pain: “I murdered my own mother five years ago.”

The moral of the allegory is similar to the emphatic conclusion of an alarming posting on social media some weeks ago by Mr Alorvi, under the dramatic heading, "Unpacking the fraud in Ghana’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination".

After a long, detailed analysis of the alleged cheating that his team has documented, Mr Alorvi sums up thus:
“When we teach our young ones that they can obtain good results by fraud, we shouldn't be expecting to have honest and knowledgeable Parliamentarians, Ministers, Judges, Accountants, Teachers, Medical Doctors and other professionals to manage this country in future.”

Prior to that, Mr Alorvi had set the scene with the following damning introduction to his document:
“If the West African Secondary/Senior School Certificate Examination were an aircraft in flight, signals would have been sent by the cabin crew to passengers on board to fasten their seat belts because the plane is heading for a crash landing” (emphasis added).

Some other excerpts from the Alorvi critique:

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Examination question leakages and other malpractices by teachers and students in the exam halls have been with the system for ages.

The West African Examinations Council, WAEC, had been bold in the past in tackling these challenges by cancelling papers that leaked and rescheduling them.

Sadly, however, the examination body in recent times, seems to have lost its vim and biting teeth in tackling the examination fraud wiping away its integrity.

The level of examination fraud being experienced in our Senior High Schools in recent times is unprecedented, with virtually every school in Ghana, including the top grade A schools hitherto known for their strict adherence to rules, joining the race.

There appears to be well organised "Examination Cabals" in the schools.

Some Heads of School, with the connivance of their PTAs, have instituted collection of illegal fees ranging between Gh¢100.00 and Gh¢400.00 per candidate termed as "Teacher Motivation".

Trusted teachers are put in charge of collection of these levies by their Heads.

Parents of examination candidates are in a hurry to pay these levies since their wards are assured of excellent WASSCE results.

The refusal by the MoE, GES and the political establishment, to accept that there are challenges with the free SHS policy and its implementation that need to be addressed, is a major hindrance to tackling this menace.

I wish colleague teachers knew how their importance, relevance and respect are being eroded before their students.

How does a student value your teaching if he does not depend on it to pass his exams?

We are sowing the seed of our self-destruction by engaging in these fraudulent acts.

When we teach our young ones that they can obtain good results by fraud, we shouldn't be expecting to have honest and knowledgeable Parliamentarians, Ministers, Judges, Accountants, Teachers, Medical Doctors and other professionals to manage this country in future.

If we fail to take action, the education aircraft with its crew (teachers) and passengers (students), will soon crash with disastrous consequences, Mr Alorvi concluded.

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The Alorvi censure was published on October 2.

Thus one had expected that by now, the Education authorities would have communicated a response for the benefit of the public.

These allegations are too serious to be left unanswered.

Particularly distressing are the allegations that now even some of the top schools, as well as some parents, are collaborators in the stupefying fraud.

When parents are prepared to pay bribes to enable their wards cheat in exams, what sort of future do they envisage for their children – and Ghana?

In response to similar research findings by the African Education Watch, about “the growing incidence of highly organised malpractice syndicate and its normalisation as a culture in many schools”, the WAEC is introducing a number of “technology driven” measures to combat the cheating.

WAEC’s Head of Public Affairs, Agnes Teye-Cudjoe announced this at a press conference last week.

Nevertheless, I believe that it’s still necessary for the Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum to respond to the Alorvi allegations, because this is evidently a critical national issue.

Undoubtedly, all the country’s development aspirations depend on the quality of its education and the integrity of its future leaders.

Ghana needs to avoid both the predicted crash and the Maame Boah consequence.

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