In the wake of pronouncement by the Government of Liberia that it will no longer subsidize West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fees for students, the Congo Town headquarters of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) has been flooded with senior high school students in search of money to settle their WASSCE fees.
For the last five years, the Liberian government shouldered the payment of fees for students who sat for the WASSCE.
Students from the various high schools in Montserrado County continue to congregate at the CDC’s headquarters, imploring its standard bearer, Senator George Manneh Weah, for assistance.
“We have gathered here to call on Senator Weah to pay our WASSCE’s fees because many of us cannot afford it with the current economic situation,” Patrick Edwards said.
According to Edwards, who attends the William Gabriel Kpoleh Memorial High School in Gardnersville, he needs US$65 which is equivalent to LD$7,560.
“My parents cannot afford this money requested by the Ministry of Education and WAEC to sit for WASSCE. The government needs to understand the current situation and cancel or change their decision,” he added.
J. Ewil Wilson, a student of the Virginia Christian Academy, said the recent pronouncement by MOE to cancel subsidizing WASSCE fees is worrisome and has the propensity to put many students whose parents cannot afford, out of the exam.
“Senator Weah has often helped students and parents with school fees so I am optimistic that he will continue to help Liberian students, especially with the decision coming from our government,” student Wilson said.
According to him, the situation has the potential to disturb the minds of some students who are struggling to keep themselves in school in the absence of family support.
“The timing is very short and most of our parents cannot afford the US$60 that is being charged. I’m optimistic that Senator Weah will come to our rescue, because of his goodwill and he understands the problem faced by students across the country,” he said.
According to WAEC’s authorities, over 10,000 senior high school students will be sitting this year’s exam.
“We want to encourage students to study hard because they will also be taking nine subjects for WASSCE,” WAEC authorities said on the LBS Bumper Show Thursday. “There is no time for students to be loitering around. This document will now be recognized throughout Africa as compared to the previous test.”
Suleiman D. Sesay of William Gabriel Kpolleh Memorial High School said only Senator Weah can rescue them or enable them to participate in this year’s WASSACE, which is scheduled for March next year.
According to Sesay, hundreds of students of the William Gabriel Kpolleh Memorial High School stand at the risk of missing the pending WASSCE exam if nothing is done to arrest the situation.
“We need the support of everyone, including parents who are financially potent, corporate organizations operating in Liberia, international donor agencies, and philanthropic private individuals in order to be part of the WASSCE,” he added.
“My parents don’t have such an amount to pay for three students because they are not doing any business to raise such money. This means I may not be able to complete high school this year,” Sesay said.
Jefferson Koijee, youth wing chairman of CDC, said students have been flooding the premises of the party’s headquarters over the last couple of weeks.
He said CDC does not see education as a privilege as it is being made to appear by the Unity Party government; rather it must be the right of every Liberian child regardless of their affiliation.
“Our students should only have the responsibility to go to school and leave the rest with the government. The CDC does not believe that they should be looking for WASSCE fees now,” he said.
Chairman Koijee said Senator Weah has helped students with payments of their WASSCE fees over the past three weeks but has now decided to write President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to consider finding a solution to the plight of the students.
Meanwhile, the students also expressed fear of massive failure, taking into consideration the lack of laboratories, which makes the timing of WASSACE risky.
“The GoL is obviously no longer in a financial position to shoulder the responsibility of paying examination fees for any group of candidates at WASSCE level in view of the various commitments currently competing for the very lean resources available to her.
“We, therefore, appeal to parents, corporate organizations, international donor agencies, and philanthropic private individuals to brace up towards the payment of WASSCE fees for their children and wards or the provision of scholarships for the poor students,” said Dr. Romelle Horton, deputy education minister for instruction.
This new standardized regional examination was introduced in the region in 2006 and this year would be Liberia’s first time writing it nationwide. Moreover, the country has often been rated among the least performing countries in regional exams. The country’s poor performance has often been blamed on the effects of the 14-year civil war and lack of adequate instructional staffs and materials.