Kwame Alorvi’s Dilemma: Ghana Education Service jeopardizing the Future of Free SHS Students

Messages have started appearing on Social Media indicating that the GES has supplied past WASSCE questions to schools to be given to the SHS3 students to help them in their preparation for the WASSCE in May/June 2020.

This is in fulfilment of a pledge made by the Director General of the GES, Prof. Kwasi Opoku Amankwa, at the Speech and Prize Giving Day/Home coming of past students of Suhum Technical School in the Eastern Region about a month ago.

The pledge made by the GES Director General and the subsequent supply of the past questions seem to many Ghanaians, to be a panic measure in response to an earlier call by His Excellency President Akufo Addo to students of Nkawkaw SHS in November 2019. While addressing the school’s Speech and Prize Giving Day, President Akufo Addo told the SHS3 candidates to pass their upcoming WASSCE well, as he put it, “to shame the naysayers of the free SHS who claimed quality has been compromised”

The past questions have been compiled into a booklet titled “West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) 2013-2018), Past Papers & Chief Examiners’ Reports for Core Subjects.” The logo of the Free SHS, the Ghana Coat of Arms and the Ministry of Education are clearly embossed on the cover page.

Sadly, the foreword to the booklet was erroneously headed Forward even in the Core English past questions booklet. The foreword to the booklet was written by a former head of WAEC National Office, Ghana, Rev. Dr. Sam Nii Nmai Ollennu.

Our SHS students preparing for their examinations will see this mistake and assume that it is the correct thing because it is coming from WAEC/GES. What happens then if they should meet the two words in a question during the exams where the correct answer is foreword? Won’t they go for the wrong word forward because they have learnt it the wrong way? Why are we always in a rush to apply adhoc measures to everything in education instead of planning? I support Rev Fr. Emmanuel-Mary Ofori’s call on the GES to withdraw the booklets from the schools and do the necessary corrections.

I have had cause earlier in September 2019 to raise a similar concern in an article titled “The Plea of an African Child: Ministry of Education, GES and NaCCA, Move to Stop the Pollution of the Minds of our Kids in the Name of a Standard Based Curriculum”. In that article I decried the many grammatical errors and distortions of history in an English text book, “Excellence English Language for Basic 1 Pupils.” Instead of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NaCCA, ordering withdrawal of the book, its Executive Director, Dr. Prince Hamid Armah only issued a disclaimer two months later that his outfit had not yet approved any textbooks for the new curriculum. The books are thus still in the system being used to pollute the minds of our young children.

Then came another booklet, this time supplied by GES itself to students with the foreword written as forward.

Have officials of WAEC seen this error?
Why did a former head, rather than the current, write the foreword to the booklet for GES?

Is it an indication that WAEC found the release of the past questions to students, the first of its kind in the history of WAEC and GES, as unethical and so decided to be like Pontius Pilate, not wanting to be associated with it?

Has NaCCA approved this booklet or it has sat back again only to issue another disclaimer?

And what about the GES Director General, Prof Kwasi Opoku Amankwa, who is the client and distributor of the booklets to the Senior High Schools? Prof., have you inspected the booklets before their distribution to the schools? GES and NaCCA, I believe, have read the foreword to the booklet but failed to realise the error.

Are we not the same people accusing teachers of bad English, courtesy teacher Kwadwo Karikari, and compelling them to write a licensure exam before they could be employed by GES?

May be our teachers need to subject some of our education managers to the same standards that they are being held to. Yes, they need to write the same licensure exams as they demand of teachers. May be some of them too might fail and be unfit for employment.


I must, from the outset, indicate that examination questions in the hands of students, with Chief Examiners’ Report attached, could be like an AK-47 assault rifle in the hands of an aggressive, adventurous and highly unstable ten year old boy. It could be not only self endangering but also a disaster waiting to strike neighbours as well.

This exactly, is what GES has done. The students may not pay attention to their teachers or books anymore. Their attention has now been misdirected by the GES to past questions at the neglect of their notes, books and teachers. They will enter the exam halls unprepared. In the process, they may resort to unapproved ways to pass their exams thereby endangering those close to them in the exam hall, or an entire student group in the exam room.

In my days as a teacher in Mfantsipim for twenty two (22) years before moving out to be a Headmaster, I used past questions to guide students in their studies. After exhaustively teaching a topic, whether in SSS/SHS or Sixth Form, I always brought past questions to class and referred students to them. I would then find out from my students if the notes and summary points I gave them could be used to answer the questions adequately. I even advised them to judge the effectiveness of my teaching, and of course other teachers, by the adequacy of their notes to deal with a variety of questions on a particular topic.
I could see the joy in the faces of my students, especially those in Form one, when they realized they could answer WASSCE or SSSCE (as it was then) questions meant for graduating form 3 students. So by the time the students got to the the final year, they had become acclimatized and conversant with the past questions and the way to answer them.
Students need not wait until a few days to their exams to be saddled with 400,000 past questions and Chief Examiners’ Report on these 400,000 questions. They will get confused.

At all times in my career, I never saw WAEC marking schemes and Chief Examiners’ Reports, officially placed in the hands of students. Those mayerials served, and should continue to serve, as a guide to the teacher, not only to know the areas to lay emphasis on when teaching, but also to guide students in their studies.

Students may see some questions in the past questions booklet similar to those in their WASSCE next year and regard these questions as the same. They will pour all the apor in the past questions booklet thinking they are responding to the dictates of the question. The result will be deviation and failure. As a teacher, I had even experienced the same (not similar) questions repeated verbatim by WAEC in a subsequent year but with some variations in the new marking scheme. There lies the danger for the student.

The conduct of the GES now could be likened to the parable of a powerful King who was invited to be the Guest of Honour at a function. He set off without adequate planning preparation against the advice of his Council of Elders. 100km into his 300km long journey, the King noticed his front tyre had flattened. Having no spare tyre, he screeched his car on the flattened tyre for many kms before having the tyre fixed for him by a Vulcanizer.

Within the next 200km, his air conditioners and windscreen wipers would not function well amidst heavy downpour of rains. He had to stop intermittently on the way, get out of the car to wipe the windscreen with his duster to be able to have clearer vision. In the last stretch of the 300km journey, the King’s radiator tank started leaking seriously resulting in engine over heating. His vehicle had to be pulled to the function grounds by a towing vehicle.

This parable of the King is what the free SHS implementation is experiencing now due to lack of proper planning. The double track, academic intervention and the 400,000 past questions to students, are all emergency measures adopted in the 3-year journey of the free SHS. And like the King, it may have to be towed to its destination by adhoc measures.

In a situation where:

  1. The MoE and GES have placed in schools students with aggregate 48 who could not even correctly write their own names much more simple words like female and , male while filling their admission forms;
  2. GES has never stuck to its original academic calendars but kept changing them at will like a baby’s diaper;
  3. Students spend more days at home than in school under an unplanned, unpopular and poorly coordinated double track system, with some teachers in mostly the single track, and to some extent, the double track ones, not going on any meaningful vacation since the tracking began;
  4. The welfare of teachers have been relegated to the background in the scheme of things amidst orders to do compulsory intervention classes the GES has paid for only once since this intervention was instituted;
  5. Headmasters, teachers and Directors have been intimidated and harassed for daring to speak about genuine challenges in the system, some of whom have been removed from office;
  6. Everybody including seasoned academics and educationists pointing out challenges in the implementation of the fSHS are labelled anti government, anti fSHS and naysayers;
  7. Poor academic environment has resulted in poor teaching and learning;
    Of what relevance then, will past questions be to students who haven’t experienced effective quality teaching and learning? It will just be like butter to a baboon.

The panic arming of students with past questions and Chief Examiners’ Reports to me, amount to putting the cart before the horse. The horses have long fled before we are now trying to secure the stable.

One of my major headaches as a teacher and Headmaster, had been the refusal by SHS3 students to attend classes or report to school in the last three months to their final WASSCE. This is more pervasive in the rural, Day and combined Day/Boarding schools.
CHASS has never had the support of the GES to stamp out this phenomenon by preventing the truant students from writing the exams to serve as a deterrent to others.

The arguments have always been the right of the child and that the student’s contract is with WAEC after registering for the exams, and not with the schools or headmasters.

So the absence from school after registration, and other acts of hooliganism and disrespect to heads and teachers, have gone on unabated. Students would attack and destroy school property if school Adminstration attempts to correct them, with Senior housemasters and Assistant Headmasters in charge of Academic issues, as the prime targets.

Now that GES itself has given students past questions and Chief Examiners’ Report, we should expect this truancy to escalate to the highest levels after the students have written their mock exams. The past questions will become their Holy Bible and Holy Quran. Their teachers and Headmasters will no more matter or be relevant to them. The Assistant Headmaster, Academic can go to hell.

The way the President, MoE and GES seem to be so desperate to prove a case of the fSHS policy doing well with the results of the first batch of students, the whole country should braze itself up for massive examination malpractices in the upcoming WASSCE. Some headmasters will compel their teachers, invigilators and supervisors to compromise on the conduct of the exams to prove with these artificial results that they have been up to the task.

Last year, reports were rife about rifts between some headmasters and their teachers who stood their grounds to uphold their professional ethics by not indulging in any exam malpractice which the heads wanted them to. Malpractices occurred though with teachers willing to compromise their integrity. The principled teachers have become enemies to their heads, especially in the community and rural schools.

Treats of removal of heads from office by GES for “non performance” has put fear in some headmasters, and is driving them mad to abandon their professional standards and ethics. Headmasters have to satisfy their Board of Governors, the GES and MoE with good results next year or risk losing their positions. They have been warned there is going to be ranking of schools in the WASCCE results come next year. The stage is thus set for what it takes for the headmasters to achieve results, fair or foul.

Oh, how I pity my fellow headmasters.
I cry for my teachers whom I have always encouraged to uphold the ethics of the profession no matter whose ox is gored.

I know such teachers and heaadmasters have done their best to deliver and don’t need any exam malpractice to prove their worth. I pray they survive the storm coming next year.

God be with you, my colleagues.

#Still a Citizen


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1 Comment
  1. […] my article in response to this titled “KWAMI ALORVI’S DILEMMA: GES JEOPARDIZING THE FUTURE OF FREE SHS STUDENTS “ I warned that […]

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