By: Alex A. Bah, Public Relations Assistant, ACC
Following an earlier meeting, held on Monday 23rd October 2023, between the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), key partners in the educational sector, on Thursday 26th October, 2023 brainstormed in the Conference Room at Integrity House, Tower Hill, Freetown, on strategies to institute to combat corruption in the educational sector, beginning with examination malpractices.
These partners and stakeholders include; the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE), the West African Examination Council (WAEC), Sierra Leone Police (SLP), Office of National Security (ONS), Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (CPSS), Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU), Civil Society Representatives etc.
Delivering his address as the Chair of the meeting, the Deputy Commissioner, ACC Augustine Foday Ngobie expressed his delight on the turnout and quality of representation, adding that the Commission does not find pleasure in making radical advances to curb anomalies in the educational sector, as it reserves high expectations of all its stakeholders, especially teachers.
He said that the meeting is to advance discussions on more pragmatic, realistic, and robust measures to employ in curbing Examination Malpractices, and other challenges confronting the sector.
Mr. Ngobie stressed the importance of all stakeholders and urged them to exert draconian measures to restore and maintain the once admirable standards of our educational system.
He expressed the importance of re-visiting and reviewing the existing Communique that was signed few years ago, to assess its content and make it potent to mirror new developments.
"Our 2008 Act as amended in 2019 has a clear provision in Section 128 sub-section 3 that criminalizes all forms of educational and academic malpractices (fraud) and it carries a sanction upon conviction, a minimum Fine of 50 Million (Old) Leones or a five-year minimum jail term, or both," he disclosed.
In his statement, the Minister, MBSSE, Conrad Sackey underscored that there are many questions on qualifications from Universities, employers, and even the very holders and beneficiaries as they are mostly young people.
He further said that this shows how big the trouble is, and if the trend continues, absolute control will be lost.
This is what informs such a meeting, adding that examination malpractice is now pervasive, endemic, and widespread. "Somebody has to give these kids monies to buy exam papers; somebody has to leak the papers for people to cheat; somebody who is looking at the data of schools and sees that a school has 250 students at SS1 and SS2 and that same school submits examination entries of about 1000. Somebody should know that is not right and somebody else at WAEC has accepted that," the Minister disappointingly averred.
He also said that the issue of exam malpractice is systemic, and all parties should take responsibility, accept culpability, and commit to addressing the anomaly.
The Minister further stated that, even Universities are not exempt from this as the issues of Sexually Transmitted Grades and Dissertation Originality are among the most prominent and pervasive issues, more so now, when there is generative Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Hon. Sackey committed to making the resources available to expedite work on updating and reviewing the Communique in the bid to commence effective interventions to tackling corrupt practices in the sector.
Mustapha G. Koroma, Head of West African Examination Council (WAEC) Sierra Leone, in his presentation detailed the role of WAEC and the challenges including Examination Malpractice.
He provided a Statistical Data and Analysis of the most recent examinations conducted, showing increasing figures of candidates involved in different forms of malpractices.
He dilated on the award of fictitious continuous assessment grades by school authorities to candidates who are not even eligible to take the school exams.
Dr. Josephus Jeremiah Briama, Chief Technical and Higher Education Officer, Ministry of Technical and Higher Education in his contribution noted that, in order to tackle this anomaly it is important to take the issue of examination malpractices seriously and have grand aspirations to sanitize the system.
_"The fault lies with all of us, and that is why we should all hold ourselves culpable and try to change this narrative" he stressed.
He added that if all stakeholders, including parents make their input, there will certainly be good output where by students graduating will be fit for purpose. He therefore urged all to commit to fighting corruption within the Educational sector, emphasizing the urgency.
"If we want to curb corruption we need to start at the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education" the Civil Society Representative, Alphonso Manley and Executive Director, Civil Rights Coalition underscored in his statement.
He commended the passion of the Minister and the Commission and also suggested a review of the Code of Conduct for Teachers.
Director of Intelligence and Investigation Department, ACC, Evelyn Kuyateh earlier in Powerpoint slides presented some of the interventions made by the ACC through its Elite Scorpion Squad, showing Whatsapp messages, Examinations taken in Special Rooms among others.
The Committee resolved that there would be future engagements/meetings geared towards reviewing the existing Communique and curbing the menace in the Sector.
©️ Public Relations Unit, ACC