WAEC intensifies efforts to stem mass failure
NOT pleased with the perennial poor showing of Nigerian students in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), which it organises and the attendant backlash from stakeholders in the society, the Nigerian Office of the West African Examination Council (WAEC), has initiated moves to curb the trend, which has become a recurring decimal.
One of the steps is the recently held training programme, which had in attendance over 400 secondary school teachers from public schools in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Among other things, the training was meant to improve teaching and learning in these schools.
In August last year, when the Head of National Office (HNO) of the WAEC, Mr. Charles Eguridu was asked the reason behind the string of poor results by Nigerian students, he took off some time to put certain things in perspective. It went thus: “The West African Examinations Council has a three-fold mandate. The first is to assist in the development of sound education. Secondly, to ensure that educational standards are maintained. Thirdly, to provide the people of West Africa the vision and the potential that lies beyond examination. Looking at these three mandates, WAEC is like a mirror and a good mirror has one function, it reflects back correctly the true image. So the performance pattern that we witness is a reflection of the quality of teaching and learning that is taking place in the school system.
“Now asking me what is responsible, it’s obvious. There are so many factors responsible. One, the teachers are not competent. You can see from the example of what we saw in Edo State, where a teacher could not even read. So how can a teacher impact the knowledge he does not possess? So the quality of teachers in the system is such that one cannot vouch for their competence and you find that even some states were trying to do competency tests for teachers, but this had to be reversed for obvious reasons.
“The other factor is infrastructural decay in the school system. There are no well-equipped libraries or laboratories, and most of the schools don’t have proper amenities. We have seen situations where children were learning under trees. So in such a situation, what do you expect? Another factor that could be responsible is the fact that parents don’t have time to supervise their children. Take the Lagos environment as an example, people leave home as early as 5 am to report to work at 7 am or 8 am, get back home at about 8pm. So what time do they have to supervise their children and ensure that they do their home works or do some reading at home?
“Another factor is that the children are distracted. The children are left without being properly counselled. They come back from school and all they are interested in is to either browse the Internet or watch European football leagues, movies and of course, move around with their peers and play football. So, the motivation to read is not even there. When last did we as a people recognise excellence in academia? But footballers are celebrated; they make millions when we win competitions but the best students are not even recognised. The most beautiful girl in Africa or Nigeria pageants attract wonderful gifts, money, cars, world tour, and is featured in the media for her beauty. But the one who spent time in the classroom to read and excel in his examination, what do we do for him? He is not celebrated. So the children themselves are not even motivated to read. Why read when playing football for a club side for just six months will give you the money you need in a lifetime?
In lamenting further, Eguridu stated, “The values of our society are so distorted. So if you combine these factors, you will find that the Nigerian child is a victim of his environment because children live what they see. People are blaming WAEC but WAEC is not supposed to doctor marks to please the society.”
A further confirmation of the worries Eguridu expressed late last year manifested a couple of weeks back when the body announced that 18-year-old Ghanaian, Mickail Hasan, had emerged overall best in the 2014 May/June WASSCE.
More agonizing was the fact that Ghanaians occupied the first three overall positions in the said examination. In the last five years, Ghanaian students have been outshining their peers from other member countries in the regional examinations.
In fact, between 2008 and 2013, Ghanaian students consistently won the International Excellence Awards instituted in 1984 by WAEC to celebrate academic excellence. Member nations of the regional examination body are Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
The three Ghanaians that shone in the 2014 examination were rewarded with the WAEC International Excellence Awards during the council’s 63rd annual meeting, which took place at its international office in the Agidingbi area of Ikeja, Lagos.
To claim the overall best candidate, 18-year-old Hasan scored a total grade of 682.0933 in eight subjects, including English Language.
Hassan, who attended the Ghana Secondary Technical School, Takoradi between 2011 and 2014, with examination number 0040104251, also obtained A1 in Mathematics (core), Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Integrated Science, Social Studies and Mathematics (elective).
Nineteen-year-old Kenya Blaykyi, who had his senior secondary education at the St Augustine’s College, Cape Coast, between 2011 and 2014, had a total score of 680.4287.
Master Archibald Enninful, with a cumulative score of 676.9348 finished in third place in the WAEC’s honour roll.
The Sir Augustus Bandele family has sponsored the WAEC Endowment Fund since establishment, and the fight for the all-important diadem has raged on fiercely between Nigerian youths and their Ghanaian counterparts, with Ghana having the upper hand.
Since 1984, Nigeria has won the top three prizes eight times. That was in 1986, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. It was the turn of Ghana on nine occasions. This was in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013 and last year.
In the eight years where the prizes were won by candidates from more than one country viz 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2001, 2007, and 2011, Ghana has featured more than Nigeria.
In the view of Registrar of WAEC, Dr. Iyi Uwadiae, who spoke recently, the lack-lustre performance of Nigerian students remains a source of concern to all well-meaning Nigerians.
Uwadiae, erstwhile HNO of the Nigerian Office of WAEC, like the incumbent maintained that Nigerian parents, students and their teachers have critical roles to play in stemming the tide.
“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.
He added “… 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.”
Speaking at the opening of the training programme in Abuja, jointly organised by WAEC and the FCT Education Secretariat, the Eguridu, who was represented by the Deputy Registrar, Patrick Areghian, said the council was concerned about the poor performance of candidates in WASSCE.
Eguridu said empirical researches have thrown up several factors responsible for the poor showing by Nigerian students in WASSCE examination, adding that there has also been a gap in the interpretation of the curriculum as it relates to the examination syllabus.
He noted that an inappropriate implementation of the syllabus was another reason why candidates performed woefully in the council’s examinations.
“Whereas, the WAEC, for example, sets questions on all aspects of the syllabus… rarely do teachers cover the syllabus. This, no doubt, puts candidates at a great disadvantage,” Eguridu stated adding that the training was also designed to highlight the very sad implication of examination malpractice.
While stressing that the training was meant to help correct the anomalies and contribute to enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in schools as well as the performance of candidates, he noted that there was need to make conscious efforts at maintaining the validity and reliability of WAEC examinations and the integrity of certificates it awards.