“Finally, our schools are gradually opening,” was the expression on my lips upon the announcement by the Ministry of Education after its meeting with other stakeholders, having initially stated that schools would be opened when it is safe to do so. The joy didn’t last long when it struck me that only the exit class in the secondary class are making their way to school beginning from August 4.
Exit class? Definitely, that’s our precious SS3 students who were to take the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE), but the COVID-19 outbreak halted the process. Before the announcement, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) had already slated the exam to commence by August 17 through to September 12.
August 4 is barely about two weeks to the examination. Even some state governments announced other dates from that of the federal government, reducing the time frame. A thought that kept flashing through my mind was, “are our students prepared?”
Before the outbreak and lockdown brouhaha, the preparation was on the high, but going four months down without the usual class activities and engagement certainly reduced the zeal. Refreshing and getting the minds of the students ready for the examination within a short time is way impossible to achieve.
A glance at previous years’ performance indices of the students, even with the usual high level of preparedness and focus, is way too low compared to the over 1.5 million that take the exam annually. Of the over 1.5 million students that took the exam in 2017, only 59.22 percent got the minimum five credits including English Language and Mathematics.
A 9.24% drop was recorded in the following year in same category while 2019 saw 64.18 percent record, all with minimum 1.5 million registered students. How can just two weeks of preparation take the performance index for this year higher is a big question with an answer not too close. The workload on the students will be more than normal as classes for the nine subjects they opted for would run uninterruptedly.
Some quarters might argue that the students had four months to prepare. No doubt, this could be true but more closer to being false. At the initial phase of the lockdown, the tempo was sustained as the students continued to get ready with the hope that the spread of the virus would be contained as quickly as possible. The urge went down when they discovered it is taking more time than expected as one month turned two, then three to four.
To incite the downtrodden mind suddenly with examination is not the best. Even advance examination and professional bodies fixed theirs for September and onward with an upfront information to their prospects.
Knowingly or otherwise, the gateway for examination malpractices might be widely open as the students and their overzealous parents and even the teachers would opt for a better means of making their papers at a go. Why can’t the WASSC Examination be shifted to give time for our students to get ready for the big and life changing task ahead of them?
––Shotonwa Waheed, firstname.lastname@example.org