By Lansana Fofanah.
For the past three weeks, students attempting to sit to the private West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) have been storming the corridors of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and Rokel Commercial Bank to pay their examination fees. But each time they got there, they were being told that scratch card was no longer available which left hundreds of them disgruntled.
In the early hours of yesterday, hundreds of students barricaded the entrance of the WAEC Headquarters to demand the authorities to explain why they have not been able to get access to the services that would allow them to take the exam.
The situation was put under control with the arrival of the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Alpha Osman Timbo.
Mr. Timbo then led a delegation comprising of senior staff of the Ministry together with Chief Superintendent Sani Sesay; deputy head of the Criminal Investigations Department to the WAEC office.
Senior officers of the WAEC were then asked to help in the investigation at the banks to ascertain what exactly the problem was.
According to the Management of both banks, the total of four thousand six hundred scratch cards were given to them for students to purchase which they have distributed to their various branches countrywide.
The Minister knowing the seriousness of the matter, immediately ordered the banks to give him an update of the cards that have been sold and the remaining ones before noon as the matter had attracted the attention of President Bio.
During the afternoon briefing, the Minister said that, the said amount of cards has indeed been bought by either candidates or business people with the intention to sell them at a higher rate based on the statistics presented to him by the banks.
He demanded both banks to make available the correct figure of those that have registered for this year’s private WASSCE and to update him about 2015 to 2017 figures to enable him correlate and tally the turnout.
He also urged WAEC to put out a statement that those who are still holding on to their cards, should hurry up and register before the deadline of the 31st May.
He called on both parties to address the matter as the fate of students should not be gambled with as education is one of the priorities of this government.
He said that the banks cannot be blamed for simply performing their service delivery role because they only sold what was given to them.
Speaking on behalf of WAEC, Mr. Mustapha Koroma said that the registration portal was opened as far as February. But with the 40,000 cards given out, only 33,000 candidates have so far completed registration which implies that some candidates are still in possession of cards without completion of their registration formalities.
Both Rokel and Sierra Leone Commercial Banks expressed their regret for the inconvenience throughout this week as they accepted the offer to sell the cards because they wanted to partner with WAEC in ensuring access to education.
David Ndomahina is one of the aggrieved students who said that, the banks had been secretly selling cards to internet cafes who in return sold them exorbitantly above the authorized amount.
He said that, WAEC has been proving their ineffectiveness to conduct public exams over the past years.
The Minister is expected to meet today with all concerned authorities to lay the matter to rest.