By: Alex A. Bah, Public Relations Assistant, ACC
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has in an engagement held on Friday 3rd November, 2023, at the Conference Hall of the Commission's Integrity House, Tower Hill, Freetown, cautioned Principals of various Senior Secondary Schools against illicit charges and extortion during the admission process of pupils, following the release of the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) Results.
Addressing the Principals, the Deputy Commissioner, ACC, Augustine Foday Ngobie informed the Principals that the Commission has a broad mandate to lead the fight against corruption and ensure the country is corrupt free. This he underscored, the ACC does in partnership, one of such is with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE).
The Deputy Commissioner drew their attention to the provisions in Section 128 subsection 3 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019, that criminalizes all forms of academic fraud.
He also dilated on the corresponding penalties as provided for in the subsection which he said includes upon conviction, a fine of not less than 50 Million (Old) Leones or minimum five years imprisonment or both.
"We have decided to call this meeting as a preventive approach. Prevention is one of the approaches we use through public education and other such means. If it fails, we use enforcement", the Deputy Commissioner averred.
Mr. Ngobie encouraged the Principals to comply with the approved charges provided by the Government of Sierra Leone through the MBSSE and strongly cautioned them not to demand or accept any form of bribe in the conduct of admissions or their work generally.
The Permanent Secretary MBSSE, Brima S. T. Kebbie expressed concern over the challenges of his Ministry and the Educational Sector, and the desire to address them, more so with the support of the ACC.
He stated that refusal to support and promote the free quality education would amount to a violation of someone's fundamental Human Rights and such violation occurs by our actions and inactions especially when set standards are compromised.
He added that the Ministry struggles with bloated school rolls, which is having a serious financial toll on the Government. He furthered that the Ministry conducted a school census and the total number of pupils in all schools is almost the same with the amount of entries received for only West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) candidates.
Mr. Kebbie added that he recently had some staff to do on the spot check and head count of some schools in the Western Rural on the School Feeding Scheme, disclosing that, the data for a school is over 700 and they met slightly above 400 students. "Is it possible to have over 200 Pupils absent from School in the middle of the week"? the PS asked rhetorically, highlighting it as some of the key challenges of the Ministry.
The Chairman, Teaching Service Commission, Lawa Keifala in his data driven analysis on public examinations disclosed that in the past five years there has been an astronomical increase in candidates who sit to the WASSCE Examinations, from a
29000 and 33000 total number of examination candidates in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
He said there was an exponential rise in 2019 to 115,000 with the introduction of the Free Quality Education and kept on rising with a huge jump in 2022 and 2023 to 243,000.
A significant portion of these he said are not eligible and should not be taking the examination and this huge loss of Government sadly goes into the pockets of the School Heads.
He added that Kenema in 2022, just a district presented 33,000 candidates whilst the whole of Southern Province submitted far less.
He further stated that in 2017, there were 186 Senior Secondary Schools and now there are 888 Schools in just five years.
"In 2017 there were 96 examination centers nationwide and in 2023 there were 444 Centers and some of these were dwelling houses", the Chairman further averred.
He also expressed his delight for the intervention of the Commission to help navigate and address these issues.
Civil Society Representative, Alphonso Manley in his statement referenced the Educational Sector Plan which has as one of its objectives,Eliminating Corruption in Education.
He further stated that achieving this requires a thorough cleansing of the MBSSE itself as the body with Supervisory role over Schools. Mr. Manley maintained that these bloated figures are inputted by the Ministry without due diligence done.
He also said that, this is a whole network of corruption, making the Government record huge loss of monies that should have been directed to provide improved conditions of service to teachers and or building conducive classrooms.
The Director of Prevention ACC, Rashid Turay who chaired the meeting thanked the Principals for attending and urged them to fully comply so as to prevent them coming into conflict with the law, as the Commission is poised to enforce the issues discussed fairly but fiercely.
©️ Public Relations Unit, ACC