WAEC: COVID-19, Insecurity Increased Cost of Conducting 2021 Exam

WAEC: COVID-19, Insecurity Increased Cost of Conducting 2021 Exam

With discussions ongoing among the five-member countries of the West African Examinations Council for the possible return of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination to its original period of May/June, ahead of this year’s examination, the Head of Nigerian Office, Mr. Patrick Areghan stressed the importance of early registration of candidates. He highlighted the impact of COVID-19 and insecurity on the conduct of the exam while appealing to states that are yet to pay last year’s registration fees to comply so that their students’ results can be released. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports

As the COVID-19 recovery process continues, the impact of the pandemic is still being felt in all sectors of the economy and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) is not exempted.

The Head of the Nigerian National Office, Mr. Patrick Areghan said last year’s examination was challenging because the council was confronted with health and physical insecurity, among other issues.

He said the health insecurity is the COVID-19 which is still an issue. According to him, the council still needs to maintain the protocols in the exam centres and it affects all the preparations and execution and eats deep into its purse.

For instance, he said last year we had to make video clips and send them to the supervisors to convey all the instructions and rules they need to comply with.

To obey the social distance rule, he said a hall that was supposed to take 100 students will now be limited to 50 students. “This means you are going to use two halls and engage two supervisors instead of one, and that cost more money.”

For the physical insecurity, he said the exam was disrupted in some centres and the council had to enrol the affected candidates for the just concluded private candidates examination for free.

In areas that are prone to violence, Areghan said the council collaborates with the state ministry of education to relocate the candidates to safe places and it affects the logistics and other factors.

“Those days we used to drive throughout the night to Maiduguri, now it is risky to travel by road, even when we are going for marking exercise, everybody goes by air. When carrying security materials, we fly, that one will even quadruple the cost,” he lamented. “Because of the general impact of COVID-19 on the economy, which has dried the pockets of everyone and every organisation, the money is not there and we are made to spend more than triple of what we were spending before.”

He recalled that in Zamfara when there was a total shutdown of communication when officials were sent there on one assignment or the other, the council didn’t know how they were faring or if they were doing what was expected of them. He said they could only return the next day with feedback that would have helped to plan for the day’s exam when another set went to relieve them.

“We are hoping that this year the situation will be better than it was in 2021 so that we can conduct the exam in peace. thank God all the state governments were cooperative,” noted the WAEC boss.

The WAEC boss regretted that three states are still owing for last year’s registration fees and their students’ results were withheld by the council.​

Three states are still owing the council for last year’s examination and their candidates’ results were withheld by the council. He urged them to comply so that the council can pay the service providers.

“Every year, there will be many appeals from various quarters for WAEC to release results with the promise that they will pay, the following year, they will come back with the same appeal and be piling up debt. but from 2020 we put our feet down and said no payment no exam, but two states were still able to come in due to popular appeal so we said no payment no release of results,” he further explained. “One would have thought that after the exam such states would be interested in getting the results for their children, some have not even asked.”

While talks continue among member countries to return the exam to May/June or thereabout, Areghan said the council will organise a sensitisation workshop for all schools, all examination officers, all principals before the supervisors.

“We are going to again bring to their knowledge the rules and regulations guiding the conduct of WASSCE and these are well spelt out in our syllabus,” he noted. “The fact is that even though some of them know, how many of them are willing to comply?”

According to him, there would be an elaborate session with the supervisors to take them through all the rules and regulations, how to treat them, and how to report them.

For the supervisors, he said aiding examination malpractice attracts various levels of punishment.

“If it’s a case of writing on the board or dictating answers or passing written answers to the candidates, we report them to the ministry of education and we recommend actions. If it is not that serious, we do blacklist them on our own and we tell the ministry not to ever nominate such persons,” he stressed. “The various state ministries of education have been up and doing, they sack, demote and apply various sanctions against them. For the schools, we could derecognise them or withdraw recognition. It means for two years the school will not be allowed to write the exam like other obedient schools.”

Apart from exam malpractice, Areghan identified non-adherence to registration deadlines as another challenge. He stated that since the council opened entries for the exam in December 2021, no school has submitted entries and the council needs time to print pre-examination, examination and post-examination materials.

He also accused some private schools of registering private candidates contrary to the National Policy on Education which states that there should not be the enrollment of external candidates for school examinations.

To check that he said the council introduced yearly upload of continuous assessment (CAS) from senior secondary one (SS1).

“They have to upload the SS1 and SS2 CAS at a particular time than when they are registering for the exam in SS3 they upload everything together. “From 2019 to 2020 the compliance level was low. But in 2021 the council stood its ground. So this year, without the CAS, there will be no result,” he said.

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