Days after authorities of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Monrovia National Office in Monrovia reportedly barred 10 of the 11th grade students of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) from sitting the 2019 exam, documents obtained by the Daily Observer has linked Margibi County Education Officer (CEO), Andrew Jlay, to the alleged educational malpractices.
A two-page letter entitled, “Concept Note on BWI’s Study/ Pilot on WASSCE with Junior Students,” reportedly prepared by the school’s administration, says that in 2017, they held internal discussions on the pilot project of the exam with the sophomore students, who would subsequently become seniors by 2018.
To ensure the implementation of the study results, the concept note says, the school through its vice principal for instruction, was authorized to begin discussions with Mr. Jlay, who was in charge of WASSCE registration in the county.
“That process led to Jlay requesting for the names of the selected 10 students that were on the pilot project,” the concept paper noted.
It continues, “Mr. Jlay subsequently communicated that he had earlier spoken with the department of instructions at the Ministry of Education,” adding, hence, the ten competitive selected pilot students along with regular senior students were registered for the 2018, 2019 WASSCE exams.
Jlay’s approval letter, dated April 26, 2019, addressed to BWI’s principal, Harris Fomba Tarnue, lauded the school for the concept note on the proposal for “your prospective graduates to attempt the WASCCE standardized test, while in their junior year.”
His letter added, “BWI junior students are the equivalent of regular seniors in our secondary school system. By the end of the junior year, the students would have completed the required course material, warranting regular senior students eligible to sit the WASCCE, and also receive a diploma certifying secondary school completion.
The letter continues, “With this criteria being met, I do not have any reservation for students, who have fulfilled such requirements to write the exams. Hence, the necessity of the pilot program is justified and legitimate because I approved it.”
It added,” As a county school system, we exercise autonomy and inform the ministry for concurrence on issues as we deem necessary. Matters of this nature should be sanctioned by the school board. However, the board has being formed, and had not begun such deliberations.”
Jlay’s communication further said, “I do not know the reason of the politics that you alluded to, however, I hoped this mail grants you any further clarity and foundation that you may need on the matter.”
Also, responding to the issue, Education Minister Ansu Sonii in a communication to Mr. Tarnue, copy of which is with this newspaper, added, “As regarding the academic standing of 11th grade students enrolled at the BWI, it is not in the purview of the county school board or county education officer or individual school principals to unilaterally determine that students are eligible to sit for the 12th grade senior high certificate examination.”
Such action, Sonii’s letter said, “requires a full justification to the board of governors of the institution, who upon a resolution to that effect, makes a case for the institution to the ministry for consideration.”
The letter continues, “the assumption is that 11th grade students of BWI would have completed the full curriculum for the senior high division and are awaiting graduation, but for one year of vocational school work,” noting, “if any portion of the senior high school curriculum materials are covered in the fourth year alongside the vocational lessons, then the 11th grade students are not the equivalent of 12th grade students, and must cover their full curriculum, both academic and vocational.”
Minister Sonii’s letter warned, “if it were true that you unilaterally approved and registered 11th grade students of BWI to sit for this year 2019 exams with no regard from members of the board, nor the ministry who has the authority to determine what level of students are eligible for the WASCE , than your action is inappropriate.”
According to the BWI principal, prior to the recent past and for many years, WASSCE Certificate was not a requirement for admission of BWI graduates to college.
Cognizant that WASSCE certification was required of BWI graduates to gain admission to college, Tarnue said there was a need to reform or re-engineer programs with a strategic view to improve students’ performance on WASSCE and was critical to the overall academic evaluation of the BWI.
He said this was when the administration initiated the internal discussions in 2017 to conduct study/pilot of writing WASSCE on what he termed a ‘6-3-3’ curricula to validate and inform proposals for policy reform to provide for BWI students writing WASSCE at the end of their junior year.
Principal Tarnue maintained that the concept was designed on several basis that include job training/ internship that sometimes takes half of the school year for junior students during their four years and that had usually interrupted adequate preparation for WASSCE.
“The past experience and effect of this led the current 2018/2019 WASSCE candidates or seniors to write asking administration to allow them forego trade shop training to focus only on preparation for WSSCE,” Tarnue said. He further said that by the end of the 3rd junior year at BWI, students would have covered almost all required high school work before going for internship/job training.