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Opinions of Monday, 3 August 2020

Columnist: Kwami Alorvi

Who leaked the 2020 WASSCE integrated science paper?

File photo: Students sitting for WASSCE examinations File photo: Students sitting for WASSCE examinations

Ghanaians went to bed on Friday 31st July 2020 with a despicable incidence that no doubt, is bound to bring shame and dishonor to our beloved country: The 2020 WASSCE Integrated Science question papers scheduled to be written on Monday 3rd August 2020, had been leaked to the Senior High Schools!!!


With the first batch of SHS students back to school to prepare for their West African Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) amidst fears among parents of COVID-19 infection, the unceasing debate as to whether quality has not been compromised under the double-track free SHS or not, has once again taken the front burner in our national discourse.

Critics of the poor manner in which the free SHS has been handled by the Minister of Education Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh and H. E. the President of the Republic, have not ceased predicting poor performance of students in the 2020 WASSCE.

Concerns raised by critics about the implementation of the fSHS include, but not limited to:

1. Wholesale placement of BECE candidates in the SHS, with grades as low as aggregate 49 and 50. Some of these students could not even spell simple words like female and male correctly, or understand the meaning of Sex when filling their personal data forms in school at the point of being admitted.

2. The implementation of the policy was hurriedly pushed through without adequate preparation for financing and infrastructure.

3. A widely detested double-track system which forces students to stay at home for avoidably long periods of vacation.

4. Overburdening of teachers, some of whom teach for long hours each day, and in both the traffic light green and gold tracks, without any holiday.

4. Intimidation of Heads of school and teachers who speak about challenges the system imposes on effective teaching and learning.

Notable among the distinguished Academics who advocated caution in the implementation of the SHS were Prof. Ivan Addae Mensah, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon, and Prof George K. T. Oduro, former Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast.

Surprisingly these distinguished people, and many others, came under scathing attacks from the Minister of Education and other people such as Prof Stephen Adei much to the astonishment of a large section of the Ghanaian population.

5. Frequent changes in the double-track academic calendar even at shot notices.

The Minister, GES Officials, government appointees and Party Communicators have ferociously fought against the claim that quality is falling under the free SHS and refer to the critics as naysayers and people with jaundiced and politically biased minds.

The President of the Republic himself has been on record to have told the SHS candidates to pass the upcoming WASSCE well "to shame the naysayers of the free SHS who claimed quality has been compromised". He said this in Nkawkaw SHS in the Eastern Region while addressing the school's Speech Day in November 2019.

In spite of these public machoistic posturing, the reality has not been lost on the Minister and the Government that there are indeed quality challenges with the implementation of the SHS. The Akufo Addo Government has, as a result, put in many knee jerk interventions aimed at proving that quality has not been compromised and that, the first batch of students pass the exams well.

These measures include:

a. Supply of 400,000 WAEC past questions and Chief Examiners Reports to the SHS3 Candidates in December 2019. This is unprecedented in the history of Senior High education in Ghana.

b. Intimidation and warning of headmasters that there is going to be ranking of schools in the 2020 WASSCE results and Heads whose schools do not perform would be removed from office.

It thus appears to many that the Akufo Addo Government, through the Minister of Education, is so desperate to prove a case of the fSHS doing so well with the results of the first batch of students. The stage is thus set for what it takes for the Government and School Heads to achieve results, fair or foul.

It is within this toxic examination environment, and with the examination anxiety that some of us are not surprised to see in the public space that the upcoming WASSCE questions and their marking schemes have been "allegedly leaked" to the schools, three clear days before the paper is scheduled to be written. Many questions beg for answers.

1. Are the leaked Integrated Science papers actually those scheduled to be written on Monday 3rd August 2020, or they are fake?

2. If the leakage is real, who leaked them on Friday 31st July 2020?

3. Was it WAEC, the examining body????. I have my doubts. For what reasons will WAEC do so?

4. Has the leakage emanated from the Ministry of Education? My instincts tell me there is that probability even if the leakage is not official. This probability is due to the conclusion I had drawn above: The desire by government/ Ministry to prove their case of quality not plummeting, could compel some bad elements or political fanatics within the Ministry to act with careless abandon.

Nature of the leakage

i. So far, two papers have been allegedly leaked-Integrated Science and Core Mathematics. But it is the Integrated Science which has been making the rounds. Even some students have approached their teachers in school with the questions on their phones.

ii. The leaked question paper is in PDF form with an attached password, rx12my9 which grants one access to the questions.

iii. The title "Lock_2020-WASSCE-INT. S.." is what you see on the PDF.

There were whispers that the "leaked" questions were sent to the Heads of Schools with the marking schemes to be passed on to students either before, or on Monday. It was a very strange rumour indeed. There have been references to a few Heads of School who take delight in misleading students to cheat in these exams to hide their unsatisfactory performance. But I'm convinced that a vast majority of CHASS Members will not countenance this practice which they know can reduce their image and credibility before their students. So where did the idea of compromising Heads of School enbloc come from?

The danger to students

My motivation to come out with this piece in a timely manner is the concern I have for our dear students.

Whatever this leakage turns out to be, it presents a serious danger to our already COVID-19 traumatized WASSCE Candidates.

1. Truth be told, they are in possession of the leaked papers and will spend all their time and energy chewing to pour on Monday. Should it turn out that the leaked papers are fake, they will enter the Examination Hall unprepared but with high expectations of their Apor dropping.

2. If the question papers are the real ones WAEC has set for them, there is no doubt that they will be withdrawn and replaced with another set of papers.

Either of the above scenarios, students will meet sets of questions on Monday different from what they might have wasted their weekend studying. They will enter the Exam room unprepared. Disaster thus looms ahead of these unfortunate students who have to suffer for the mischief of adults put in charge of their proper upbringing.

Heads of boarding schools need to move fast to brief their students and reorient them to be fully prepared for the exams on Monday. The problem however, is day students whom the Heads do not have access to before Monday.
It is my hope that now that this plan has failed, other unfair measures will not be pushed to coerce Heads and teachers to compromise the integrity of the impending exams by teaching the candidates.

There is an urgent need for an independent investigation into the matter by the Parliamentary Committee on Education to fish out those behind this despicable act to save the image of the country. Ghana deserves better.

Under the capable watch of Prof Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang as Minister and John Dramani Manama as President, Ghana has chalked remarkable feat by winning the best awards at WASSCE for four consecutive years. It appears to me this achievement under Prof Nana Jane Opoku Agyemang in the WASSCE is giving nightmares to some officials in the Ministry of Education thus pushing them to do things to equal her achievement. The panic button has been pressed and only God knows to what length people are determined to go.

But we cannot reverse the clock under this bizarre and shameful circumstance. We must not be teaching our students, who are our future leaders, the use of foul means to attain their goals because we adults want to prove a case of our policies being effective. They would grow up to be corrupt politicians, dangerous medical personnel, undeserved engineers, dishonest teachers, etc, putting us all at risk in future. Order must be restored.