Areghan: How WAEC is Improving Education Standards, Tackling Malpractice – TrendyNewsReporters

Areghan: How WAEC is Improving Education Standards, Tackling Malpractice

I became the Head of National Office, WAEC Nigeria, on March 5, 2020. I was just trying to settle down when COVID-19 struck. Remember, the first index case was on February 28, and it did not really get to Nigeria until later in March. We had to go back home to lock ourselves in. I had some ideas before I came in, but all those plans were disrupted by COVID19. The ideas include; repositioning the council generally in terms of massive deployment of technology to ensure better ways of conducting the examination, ensuring better service delivery to better a lot of staff, and improving relationships between the council and our various stakeholders. In terms of infrastructure, taking WAEC to the next level by providing relevant tools and facilities for the council to do its job better. These were my main areas of focus before the disruption, but eventually, when we came back, we started doing something. And you will discover now that I have done a lot.

With the onset of COVID-19 and schools shut down, how were you able to rekindle the hope of school candidates so that they do not fail?

We had to do what we call a massive deployment of technology. Even during the lockdown, we were still able to reach the schools, the candidates and other stakeholders. We have what we call WAEC Connect learning portal; two of them. We made them available to the candidates and schools, and we told them and showed them how to log in, and they have learning materials in these portals. So even when they were at home, they were studying and learning. That is why the result of that examination was impressive. People did not really know the secret. Everybody was at home, we were appealing to parents and teachers, and we made sure that they had access to these two portals, which we loaded with various learning materials relevant to the writing of our examinations. So candidates were well equipped for the exam, and so they were able to deliver when the moment came. So that was one major way that we were able to reach the candidates and make sure that they did well in that examination.

What about the infrastructure?

On infrastructure, we have done the little we can. It is not all that glitters that is gold. It is not when you have a skyscraper that you will know that you have put up a structure. There are certain things we are doing now that I may not want to disclose them. In terms of facility, we have improved our Information Communication Technology (ICT) division. We have a state-of-the-art machine now that, within three weeks, we can print about 1.5 or 1.6 million certificates.

That is something that was taking a lot of time and energy to do before. Although WAEC Nigeria has been trying a lot, if you go to other West African countries, it is not like that. We don’t have any backlog of certificates for somebody to say that we are owing him or her. Everything has been printed to date, and all the other products we roll out, everything till date. If you go to our ICT, you will see the state of the art facilities there, so we are not really lacking. We are venturing into other areas. We have been able to roll out a lot of products for the benefit of education generally.

What are these other innovations?

We have what is called WAEC Verify. What is WAEC Verify? If you gain admission, for instance, and you are a prospective student of ABU, Zaria, for instance, and you need to travel to ABU for clearance there, and you carry your hard copies of your certificates there, anything could happen on the way. And you can fake it and get one from Oluyole or from anywhere and present it. The unsuspecting university authorities may not know until your final year when you are about to graduate. They will say WAEC ‘confirm’. But now, they can just log on to our result portal, and they will have everything and verify.

Two, we have what is called Educert. If a university student wants to do his or her research or carry out a study on Chemistry. How many candidates passed Chemistry in Lagos at credit level? How many got five credits, including English language and Mathematics, in Lagos or Ogun or anywhere? They will need to apply to us, and we need to do the approval processes back and forth. Now you log on to a portal, it leads you to the statistics available, and then you just type in there what you want, and everything comes out for you after fulfilling all requirements. That is Educert. And again, this is a big one. You have your certificate, sometimes, you don’t even know where you keep them, but there is what we call the Electronic Certificate Management System ( e-CertMan). If you wrote your examination in Kaduna, for example, in the year 2010, in a school there and you have not collected your certificate, and you want to travel to Kaduna. So what you just do is apply. Whether it is a school exam whether it is a private candidate, you apply to us. We will bring it wherever it is, and we will send it to wherever you want it to be sent.

It makes it seamless. The risk of being on the road is cut off, the cost is cut off, and you enjoy the convenience. Moreover, you don’t need to go to the WAEC office to collect your certificate. So you just apply online and fulfil all the conditions. We will print it and send it to wherever you want to collect it. Scholarship; they want placement, we carry out all these tests. The Nigeria Police, we did a recruitment exercise for them about two, three months ago and we are about doing another one now, and it was hugely successful. Whatever we do for you is impeccable. It cannot be faulted because there is no element of bias whatsoever. So you are sure, and you trust our service.

How have you ensured the timely release of results of about 1.9 million candidates each year? Any challenges?

We have what we call operation 45.90. What does this mean? For the next exam now, the WASSCE for school candidates 2022 will be ending in Nigeria in June. It will be ending in other countries on June 24. Now for this, immediately the examination ends on the 23rd, we count 45 days. Within that period, the result is out. This is something that used to take months before, but because of the massive deployment of technology, processing of results and other processes that lead to the release of results, we have massively improved upon it. We can do this, and we can beat our chest and assure you that within 45 days, you can get your result. The challenges were majorly processing. If you go out there, we have 85 marking venues spread across the nooks and crannies of the country, and you have to harvest everything and bring them back. But right there at the marking venue, we can now harvest them and the scores, you bring them to a central place in Lagos for processing, and in a jiffy, you process all these things, and the result is out. So that is an improvement in technology. The challenge we have at the marking venues is having to pursue examiners to finish up to bring their scripts.

What’s WAEC doing to tackle exam malpractice effectively?

Exam malpractice is one of our biggest headaches today. Examination malpractice can be said to be any act that deviates from the set norm. Trying to cut corners to write your exams in an attempt to pass in an unfair means is examination malpractice. The candidates themselves bring in foreign materials. Some write on their bodies, some on their cloths, and anything you write is foreign material. Some bring in their handsets, and our regulation says don’t bring in cell phones. Some schools organise special centres. We do know that these centres exist, but they are not of our making, and we do not support them. So any centre where they arrange to cheat to help candidates could be qualified to be called cheating centres.

There can be collusion. It can be that you arrange with some people outside, they smuggle out something and smuggle in something. The latest one is the row website, whereby they form syndicates. They snap and post to a designated platform that they have subscribed to. They solve the questions for them, and they distribute the answers through that same platform. So if you don’t go into the exam hall with your phone, you will not have access. Sometimes, in an attempt to defraud the unsuspecting candidates, they post anything, and gullible candidates and parents will subscribe. It is the irresponsible parents that will give their children money to subscribe.

We have people who are monitoring these sites. We have a backyard team that monitors. So because we have digitalised printing our question booklets, if anybody snaps your own and posts on the internet or wherever, we will catch you. We will know how you posted it and where it was posted to. We will inform our officers in Maiduguri that somebody has just posted this thing online. Go and take a policeman, go to that centre and arrest that person. We harvest all of them nationally, and we take them to Abuja. The inspector general of police is cooperating very well with us, and he will parade them on national TV and charge them to court. So that is what we are currently doing, and this battle cannot be fought by WAEC alone. We need the assistance of the government. That is how to fight crime.

Do you think Nigeria’s education system is declining, and what’s the way forward?

As far as WAEC is concerned, if you look at the mileage of life, we are ensuring that educational standards are maintained by providing qualitative assessment. From our own angle, the standard is maintained. As far as WAEC is concerned, there is no decline standard. But when you talk of education generally, you are talking of the quality of teaching and learning in schools now. That one is different from the assessment. People are trying to reverse the order, it should be education before assessment, but people are now putting it in reverse gear. When you teach, you are teaching the candidates and equipping them according to the curriculum so that when their exam is determined today, they will do well. But that is no longer the case in Nigeria. They are now using the result of examinations to teach the students, which is wrong.

There is a disconnect between education and examination. Education should lead to examination, not examination leading to education. So you have to be taught broadly. But people now wait for the outcome of examinations, and they now use that one to teach the students. They have narrowed it down. So if you want to talk about the quality of teaching in schools, the quality of learning, the quality of facilities, you can say education has declined. But in terms of quality of assessment, we remain where we are since 1952.

The way forward is that all hands should be on deck. The government should do what it is supposed to do. Go to schools today; how many teachers will you find in a school? Some don’t even have teachers, and you expect them to pass English and Mathematics. These are some of the factors responsible for examination malpractice. So they don’t provide laboratories and libraries. There are no teaching-learning facilities in schools. There are no teachers. If they have teachers, they are not qualified.

Will you attribute this to the abysmal performance of candidates in WASSCE in the last five years?

Of course, but there is no abysmal performance. An examination that recorded 70 something per cent, 81 per cent, how can you call it abysmal? Since 2020 under my watch, it has been going well. And because we have exposed schools and candidates to learning portals, we have provided what we call chief examiners to report. We have sort of made it compulsory.

There is one document where we put all the past question papers and the answers and how to answer the questions and tell them their strengths and weaknesses and how to avoid their weaknesses and all that. We also made available to schools compulsory. So some students on their own come to buy and study. So these are the ways we improve teaching and learning. These are the ways we prepare the candidates for our examination. And those two learning portals I talked about, WAEC Connect and the other interactive portal, are exposed to them, and there are many learning materials in them.


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