As next year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) looms, many students are apprehensive about their chances of passing key subjects in the absence of science laboratories in their schools.
Fatu Konneh, a student at Dr. Henry M. Reeves Memorial Institute located on Pipeline Road, said she believes that Liberian students are not prepared for the upcoming exam, considering the late announcement of the test and lack of preparation.
The Daily Observer spoke with students from various high schools in Montserrado County who recently converged at the CDC headquarters in Sinkor to implore its standard bearer, Senator George Manneh Weah, to assist them in paying the WASSCE fees.
The examination fees range from US$65 to US$80 and many schools have set December 20 as the deadline for payment, which is compelling many students to seek financial assistance from individuals, including Senator Weah and philanthropic organizations.
The Government of Liberia recently announced that it will no longer subsidize fees for students, and has set January 15 as the deadline for the payment of the fees.
“The WASSCE materials or lessons start from 10th grade and not just 12th grade, which will hamper us next year. The fees that are being requested by the various schools and Liberia’s head of WASSCE are high; getting the money is hampering regular learning activities, taking students from class to go in search of the fees,” Konneh said.
According to Konneh, instructors at her school have done a short summary on eight of the nine books on which WASSCE exams are based. They include math, biology, physics, English and chemistry preparation materials for the examination. The students’ worry is over the lack of practical learning in laboratories, because they don’t exist at the various schools.
“I strongly believe that the absence of books listed for WASSCE and laboratory education will lead to massive failure in the first national WASSCE exam. Even some instructors today do not have knowledge on how to demonstrate procedures in the lab, which will affect our performance on the exam,” she added.
Konneh said she believes that WASSCE is tougher than the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and requires more time to get adjusted to the materials.
“Government needs to ensure that all high schools have a modern lab for practical education because Liberia is poised to join other nations to write one test. Liberian students can make the difference, but they need the necessary materials.”
Smith Flomo of Zinnah Foundation on Duport Road said establishing community labs for students would help address the gap within the education sector of Liberia.
“The building of community laboratories within the various communities across the country would help to improve student-performance and place Liberia in the top performing level. We need a system that can easily work with students by showing our level of performance,” student Flomo said.
According to him, the lack of WASSCE materials in Liberian schools will hamper their success on the exam, which has become a growing concern of students, school administrators and parents.
Joe F. Freeman, a student of the Grace International Christian Institute, located in Paynesville, said the transition from the West African Examination Council to WASSCE will hurt their performance.
“The government needs to have all the necessary materials for the exam before allowing students to sit for the test. This will be our first time taking the WASSCE exam and we don’t have any knowledge of or access to the materials,” he said.
Dale G. Gbotoe, head of the National Office of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) said, however, that “Some school administrators are instilling fear in students, which is wrong. There is no difference between the past and present exam. I trust the ability of Liberian students.”
According to Gbotoe, Liberian students are prepared for the upcoming exams based on the past experiences of students who sat other exams in Liberia.