It is that time again when the blood pressure level of parents and their children who sat to the school-leaving examinations keeps rising to the sky. Results of the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) are out. And they make grim reading.
So grim are the results that the university classrooms could be empty in the next school year except things change ahead of the next group of WASSCE candidates and the candidates must apply for space at the university while awaiting results for that to happen. They have become known as the worst results since the WASSCE exams started, and probably the worst school-leaving exams results since records began.
Of the 39 subjects examined, including English Language and Mathematics, there were only seven in which candidates had an accumulative pass of 40% and above. And without meaning to demean anyone’s speciality, of those seven only French and Core Science can be referred to as challenging. The others are Physical Education, Applied Electricity, Metal Work, Woodwork, Food and Nutrition.
Apparently reflecting the poor teaching of English Language in schools which is clearly evident in the inability of many among them some university graduates to speak good English, only 7% passed English and 3% (three percent) made it in Mathematics.
Even Grammar School and Annie Walsh that are tops did abysmally poorly. Of the 145 candidates Grammar School fielded in only 18 got a credit in nine subjects, while of its 366 candidates, Annie Walsh could only manage six candidates with credit in nine subjects. The following schools could only manage one candidate each with a credit in nine subjects: St Joseph’s Freetown, Albert Academy, St Francis Makeni and Government Secondary School in Kenema. This is unacceptable! This is scandalous! But just what could have been responsible?
The reason for the poor performance may have shocked but certainly not surprised me. Who needs telling that standards are falling abysmally if not already, especially in public schools where extra lessons are the rule rather than the exception. With pupils crammed in classrooms like sardine sand paying little or no attention, it begets the teachers money which seems to be the sole aim of many of them.
Take for example Albert Academy and Ahmadiyya Secondary School in Freetown. How could they each have supplied 999 students as candidates to the exams? How could they have been teaching those numbers? How could they have been monitoring them? What are the facilities to cope with those numbers? How many classrooms and teachers and attention could they muster to seriously teach those bloated numbers?
Grammar School supplied a relatively low number of candidates (145) of which 76 had credits in five or more subjects. In my view they performed the best with more than 50% of their candidates making it. But could the reason for the low number be because it is now a private school with huge fees that very few can afford, or did the school reject some to maintain their standard? Whatever the reason, it is a very good start that can only make other schools want to go private unless government proves its worth.
Public school teachers pay more attention to their extra classes where they fleece parents and guardians who can afford it. They will tell you the reason is poor and scandalously low pay which I think should be reviewed. However that is not sufficient reason for their lack of interest in the imparting of knowledge. Otherwise they should change career. Talking about change of career of teachers, I wonder how large the number is of those who are the the profession just in transit.
But also who needs telling that the kids in school these days have as priorities anything but education? Their priorities range from English Premiership football to Nollywood movies and early and rampant and reckless sex life especially among girls! The boys will tell you about the latest football transfer even before BBC know about it. And the girls will tell you about the latest Nigerian movie ahead of Nollywood. They spend more time in school and outside of school talking about the latest pop stars etc. That, in itself, may not necessarily be a bad thing. But doing so leaving no time for their studies is one reason that accounts for this poor performance at WASSCE and is bound to continue in college. In some schools around the country, more and more pupils get pregnant, while in urban areas, abortion is the order of the day.
In all this many parents, especially fathers, shack their responsibility of caring for the children, with work and their own pastime preoccupying most if not all of their attention. They expect the poorly-paid teacher to perform the magic wand of teaching, caring and goading their children for them.
In all of this, the Freetown/provincial divide is stark. The top five schools are all in Freetown, while 6th to 10th positions are occupied by provincial schools mostly from the south. In sixth place is Ahmadiyya in Bo which supplied 589 candidates with only 29 candidates getting a credit in five subjects and above. Amazingly, in seventh place is Murialdo in Lunsar which supplied 113 candidates with 24 of them getting a credit in 5 subjects and above. I say amazingly because the north is a part of the country where tradition and long years of half-hearted central government approach left education less competitive. And it is worse for girls.
Additionally, how come Benevolent and Ahmadiyya Kabala, both in the north, had their result not yet released because they were late in submitting their continuous assessments? This is a recklessness that is beyond forgiveness. Now the innocent pupils have their heart in their mouths and they are on tenterhooks.
By the way Christ the King College, Bo School and Holy Trinity are in 8, 9 and 10 places. So what is happening to the east of the country? Kono, Kenema and Kailahun are fast becoming the axis of lack of education. And especially for Kono, no-one seems to care. Where are the science labs? Where is the incentive for teachers not to decide to leave the district? I was in the district during the last summer vacation and students from tertiary level had go back to their home district to organise free holiday classes for the district’s young men and women who would otherwise be left in the lurch or have their parents pay through their nose expensive fees for extra lessons.
This country is doomed if we do not go back to the drawing board on education. There should be a thorough investigation on why such terrible performance. And such an investigation should not just shelve its findings. But even without any such findings, the welfare and commitment of teachers should be carefully looked into and then looked at. Otherwise the fleecing of parents and punishing of pupils under the guise of expensive extra classes which have, as a matter of fact, not worked at all in view of the massive poor result, will continue. Alternatively, let there be a National Conference on education IMMEDIATELY. By Umaru Fofana