By Allieu Sahid Tunkara
Sarah Sesay has just collected her West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) result for this year. She recorded three credits, but failed to pass English and Mathematics, the core subjects that would have guaranteed her a seat in the university.
English and Mathematics are sine qua non for a place in the Pure and Applied Sciences and the Liberal Arts or humanities respectively. Since Sarah could not make it at the WASSCE this year she decides to take another WASSCE exams fighting for university requirement.
She is expected to take private WASSCE, but expressed her intention to go for government WASSCE next year. Sarah represents thousands of pupils who performed poorly in this year’s WASSCE. In a Café at Motor Road off Wellington, former WASSCE pupils cluster there to check for their results via internet.
Almost all of them seem disgruntled, sadness written on their faces as they could not get what they wanted. Their ultimate aim is to wait for next year to face another WASCCE with hopes of emerging strong.
The hope however among the pupils again comes with a question as teachers of English and Mathematics are hard to come by. Abibatu Bangura is among the few who made it in the WASSCE. She got a university requirement, and looks determined to enter university this year.
She told Nightwatch that hard work in class pays considering that WASSCE syllabus is wide and difficult to cover.
“I studied very hard to get the result I wanted. Apart from normal schooling, I attend a number of private lessons to add to the knowledge gained from school,” she says.
But, those in the ranks of Abibatu are in the infinitesimal minority implying that their good performance cannot overshadow the weak performance of the majority. A school authority has intimated this press that pupils did extremely badly in the core subjects: English and Mathematics than other subjects.
Out of over 150, 000 WASSCE candidates that took WASSCE, only a minute percentage of 4 per cent passed Mathematics this year. He singled out English Language as the subject that recorded the worst performance in this year’s WASSCE. MR Ibrahim Bangura is a teacher of over 15 years standing in the teaching service.
He teaches English Language and Literature at Huntingdon Secondary School in Freetown where he has spent over three years. He told Nightwatch that this year’s WASSCE results were the worst since schools reverted to the old system of SSS-3 system.
He traced the cause of pupil’s poor performance to the removal of one year which, he said, would have made them properly mature before they face WASSCE. “The trouble of bad performance at WASSCE started when government stopped the SSS-4 system making it difficult for pupils to catch up with the Syllabus,” Mr Bangura pointed out.
He also sees the introduction of Civics as one that would instill a sense of responsibility in the pupils especially respect towards teachers and community authorities.
“The school system places so much emphasis on the rights of the pupils at the expense of responsibility they owe to the school and the state,” he says.
Such a situation, he continues, is a recipe for the current nightmare hunting the pupils. Mr Bangura also suggested that teachers of English and Mathematics should be highly motivated so that they deliver to the best of their knowledge and ability.
He made no mince of words that schools suffer great intellectual deficiency in those two subjects making it difficult for pupils to make it up at WASSCE. Comparatively, Bangura says, he expects good results from this year’s WASSCE results than the previous year.
“Last year was the start of the new SSS-4 model, and the situation would not be easy for the pupils. It could be understandable if the pupils performed badly,” he said.
However, he says, this year would have been a different turning point for WASSCE since this is the second year of SSS-4, but the contrary has occurred. A retired teacher, Mr Abdul Rahman Sesay too looked back at period that marked the erosion of education in Sierra Leone.
That period, he said, was in 1994 when Sierra Leone joined other West African nations: Nigeria, Gambia and Ghana in the implementation of the 6-3-3-4 system of learning.
The 6-3-3-4 education policy replaced the old system of learning, and it is hoped that the new system would bring in national progress. If the system would have been properly implemented, Mr Sesay went on; the model had the tendency to take the nation forward.
“The system has the potential to build the middle man power as it caters for pupils of different knowledge levels,” he said.
He further explained that those pupils who do not impressively pass the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) can enroll into various technical institutions for skills development. Mr Sesay is of the firm conviction that Knowledge acquired in welding, mechanics, computing, tailoring, catering among others are crucial to national development.
“Not everybody should go for white collar jobs,” he suggested.
Sierra Leone a country referred to as the Athens of West Africa has relegated to the bottom rungs of the education ladder. The country roared in the world of academia at a time she took pride in the first centre of higher learning in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Historical records show that it was in Sierra Leone that the first lawyer, John Thorpe, the first medical Doctor, and J.B. Horton and the first clergy, Adjai Crowther in Sub-Saharan Africa were produced. No doubt that the country played host to different African nationalities: Ghanians, Zimbabweans, Gambians and others who came to drink deep in the well of knowledge as Sierra Leone was one of the bastions of education in Africa.
Those nationalities who acquired Western Education in Sierra Leone used it to develop education in their countries, and have seen good results. Sierra Leone which was supplying knowledge to these nations is suffering knowledge gap.
The pupils who should fill the universities are not there, and even those who struggled to make it to universities have been categorised as Dead-On-Arrivals.
As education continues to dwindle, the country persistently lags behind evidenced by apparent weaknesses and failings in various sectors of the economy. Sierra Leone is now blessed with several universities that can turn out thousands of graduates a year to furnish Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) of state.
Since much has been given them, the public expects much from them as the present and future prosperity of the nation is entrusted into their hands.
But, our education has not moved the country forward as expected. Sierra Leone has produced a crop of engineers but our roads and bridges are made by foreign experts.
Sierra Leone has a college of medicine, but Sierra Leoneans continue to seek medical services elsewhere. Sierra Leone has produced a battery of lawyers, but verdicts handed down by the courts are most frequently overturned by international tribunals.
The aforementioned circumstances lead to the question: when shall our nation rise from the doldrums of academic deficiency in the 21st century?