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WASSCE 2018 results are a national emergency

Madi Jobarteh is a Gambian civil society activist

The 2018 results for Grade 12 students in the Gambia is a disaster that must be accordingly declared a national emergency. For that matter I strongly hold that the National Assembly Select Committee on Education must come back from their recess to summon the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, the Principal of Gambia College, the President of the Gambia Teachers Union and all other relevant stakeholders to hold them to account for this hopelessly poor performance. While these results are indeed appalling they are not surprising at all if one considers the fact that accountability in our education system has always been low.

Ninety percent failure in any activity or performance by any person or institution is a clear case of major challenges which could be incompetence, corruption, inefficiency, misplaced priorities, poor planning, abuse or lack of accountability. Where then is the fault?

Therefore, the time has come to hold the Ministry of Education to account for the poor delivery of education in this country. For long many have held the view that MOBSE has been the best performing ministry, but exams results have always shown that this has never been the case.

Producing reports and hosting CCM meetings without fail and acting busy is not an indication that one is effective and efficient. Rather efficiency and effectiveness must be seen in the results that are produced and sustained at the end of the day. In the case of MOBSE they are not producing such high performance in the results as shown in the various examinations over the years.

MOBSE is notorious for conducting so many researches yet their impact on education remains poor. So long as the performance of students at exams is low it does not matter how much reports, meetings and compliance with donor requirements a ministry does.

For years MOBSE has been a major recipient of huge funding from a variety of donors. Secondly the ministry has the second highest budget allocation in both the 2017 and 2018 national budgets. Yet despite these huge resources not only are public schools in severe dilapidation generally, but also the way and manner education is delivered in the Gambia leaves much to be desired.

In many private schools the incidence of holiday and extra classes are a constant practice which forces children to spend more time in school than at home and relaxing. This bad practice impacts negatively on students and their performance. Yet MOBSE has been so incapable of addressing this bad practice as if they are not the policymakers and regulators in the education sector.

Furthermore, what this poor performance indicates is the low level and weak monitoring of schools in terms of their overall management, competence and performance of teachers and distribution and use of resources. Consequently, either there are more incompetent teachers who do not know how to teach or make students know how to learn or both. It also exposes that the learning materials are either not adequate or teaching methodologies are weak or not fully applied.

Some of these issues can be easily understood if one considers some other facts. For example, Gambia College is the premier teaching training institute in the country, but the state of affairs in that college in terms of services, facilities and general upkeep is a clear indication that the institution is either hugely neglected and under-resourced or severely mismanaged and corrupt. In either case the casualty will be quality teaching and learning hence it can only produce poorly qualified and incompetent teachers.

Secondly the generally poor working conditions and poor incentives of our teachers are demotivating factors that can severely affect their performance hence produce poor exam results. The conditions in classrooms also and overall school compounds all impact on teaching and learning. Not only are teachers paid very low salaries but also there are schools and classrooms in this country that are not fit for human habitation much more serve as schools.

Thirdly the increasing number of private schools in this country calls for concern. It begs the question as to how effectively and efficiently is MOBSE closely monitoring private schools to ensure that they abide by the highest standards in delivering education. It is also important to factor in the issue of bribery and corruption in the way and manner schools open up everywhere and how they recruit and remunerate teachers so as to ensure that quality ever remains on top.

Therefore, given these concerns and issues in the face of such systematic failure over such a long period of time, it is high time the National Assembly steps up to fulfil its constitutional responsibility of making sure government institutions perform and deliver to expectation. The rhetoric that MOBSE is efficient must now be put to rest and the ministry tasked to explain why these examination failures all the time.

For the Gambia Our Homeland

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