Newly appointed Education Minister Ansu Sonni sounded very pessimistic here Monday, 2April the eve of the administration of the 2018 West African Senior High School Certificate Exams or WASHSSCE to 12th graders across the country by the West African Examinations Council when he regretted that Liberian students are to write the exams, because they are not prepared. He didn’t stop there. The minister immediately turned prophet of doom, predicting mass failure among the students, adding that their dismal performance could be recorded in the Guinness Book of Records.
Minister Sonni’s comments, coming on the eve of the exams amounted to telling all 12th graders in the country to boycott the test, because as head of Liberia’s education system, he doubts whether they could perform.
But then why didn’t the Education Minister, who is a former lecturer at the University of Liberia and ex-Dean of the College of Business and Public Administration as well as former Vice President for Administration, respectively of the UL, say so earlier, having spent about two months at the ministry.
WAEC Office Liberia believes strongly that it is time students in Liberia particularly 12th graders get on par with their counterparts in the subregion by transitional from the Liberia Senior High School Exam to WASHSSCE to standardized the curriculum in member countries of the West African Examinations Council.
As member of the five nations subregional body, it is not only demeaning, but unacceptable for Liberia to continuously have or administer separate exams to its students from the rest of the other countries namely; Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia and Sierra Leone.
Accordingly, the office in Monrovia in collaboration with the Ministry of Education conducted pilot tests in selected schools to assess the IQ of students in readiness for the exams, which Minister Sonni is fully aware of though he was not at the ministry then.
But we all know that government is about continuity and the new Education Minister might have met this WASHSSCE test issue on his desk immediately upon taking office. In fact, this administration headed by President George Manneh Weah reportedly paid some US$2.1 million as fees for all 12th graders to write the new exams.
As one of the first cabinet member nominated by President Weah, he could have raised this reservation expressed at the eleventh hour, which we believe was not timely at all, coming from a leader. The comment sent everyone – parents, students, instructors and school administrators subdued and perplexed, with confidence eroded.
Minister Sonni also spoke as if WAEC Monrovia Office had acted along in transitioning the country from the Liberia Senior High School Exam to WASHSSCE, a more comprehensive and essay dominated test rather than the objective and multiple questions type that Liberian students had been used to.
We are fully aware of the challenges that have plagued the education sector over the years, including lack of adequate qualified teachers particularly, for Mathematic and the Sciences; lack of laboratories to adequately prepare students for science subjects and poor supervision by the Education Ministry itself, among others. However, we caution that our leaders should be very calculatedly circumspect in their public utterances even with all the good intentions and purposes or else, they send the wrong message.