ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCE, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCE, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA, MR. ADAMA BARROW, AT THE FORMAL OPENING OF THE 71ST ANNUAL COUNCIL MEETING OF THE WEST AFRICAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL, HELD AT THE KAIRABA BEACH HOTEL ON MARCH 14, 2023
Mr. Chairman, West African Examinations Council,
Speaker of the National Assembly,
Honourable Cabinet Ministers,
Members of the National Assembly,
Lord Mayors of Banjul and KMC,
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,
Members of Council,
The Registrar to Council,
Members of the Media,
On behalf of the Government and People of The Gambia, I welcome you all most heartily to our beloved country on the occasion of the Seventy-First (71st) Annual Council Meeting of the Governing Board of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I specially congratulate WAEC on their seventy-one (71) years of existence and commend them sincerely for their exemplary service to the citizens of the Member Countries over these eventful seven decades.
I found it quite fascinating when I was informed that, among the regional bodies established during the colonial era, WAEC is the only body that has survived to this day.
This, distinguished delegates, shows that the quality of structures, administrative arrangements and procedures that Council evolved and maintained over the years are viably effective.
While this is indeed worthy of emulation by other regional institutions, it is a unique achievement that represents a formidable challenge for Council. Given the dynamic nature of society, one may wonder whether Council can exist for another seventy years of such commendable success.
My humble view is that it can; but to do so, it must continue to be relevant to the needs and aspirations of its stakeholders in all the Member Countries. Also, aside from consistent quality service delivery, it has to keep abreast with this fast-changing scientific world and its ever-evolving and productive technological innovations and development.
With certainty, the world recognises the link between education and development. The reason is that convincing evidence gathered through research confirms that education is a positive and strong contributor to the development of a nation.
Mindful of this, my government continues to make interventions not only to domesticate and implement international education goals and targets, but also to reassess and restructure our education system with the objective of promoting a democratic, vibrant, and progressive economy that would enhance improved living standards for all citizens.
One policy decision in force is maintaining a free education scheme for all students at the Basic and Secondary levels of the Gambian education structure. With this, the Government bears fully the expenditure linked to staff emoluments, establishment of school facilities, and providing teaching and learning materials from the nursery school level up to the senior secondary level.
To ease teaching and learning activities through the availability of basic educational materials, we have instituted the School Improvement Grant initiative. This is a fund managed by School Heads to procure consumables and other specified materials. All they have to do is to render themselves accountable to their school boards for the sums of money they spend, thus removing bureaucratic bottlenecks.
At present, my government, through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, is revising the school curriculum. An important outcome of this exercise is the introduction of Civic Education at the senior secondary school level to instil greater citizenship awareness, patriotism and a deeper sense of nationalism.
Another development is the increase in the number of examinable subjects for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination candidates. These subjects are now grouped into programme areas to ensure that the learning and teaching process is student-centred and geared towards continuous learning and development.
I solemnly reaffirm our resolve to continue working with the other Member Countries in our bid to partner with Council for delivery of quality education to our people.
As an indication of our commitment, you may have noted that, recently, my government commenced the payment of all arrears owed to the WAEC Headquarters that resulted from non-fulfilment of The Gambia’s obligations over many years.
With reference to the Banjul Office, through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, efforts will continue to assist them in providing equipment and materials to enhance the smooth conduct of valid and reliable examinations.
Furthermore, we will never stop finding ways of improving service conditions to ensure that Council is able to recruit and retain competent members of staff.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The continuing frequency of examination malpractice in examination centres within the region remains a major cause for concern, as it poses a threat to public confidence in our examination system. The indication is that examination malpractice is getting more widespread, and the methods used are getting increasingly sophisticated. Council must find effective ways of addressing this menace with the collaboration of all stakeholders, particularly the examiners, candidates, teachers, and parents.
As regards The Gambia, I reassure you of the Government’s fullest cooperation in this endeavour through enforcement of the laws and regulations on examination malpractice, as expressed in the WAEC Act of 1990.
I pray that your deliberations and the decisions taken in the days ahead have a profoundly positive and lasting impact on the operations of Council and the efficiency of our regional education systems.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is now my singular privilege and honour to declare the Seventy-First (71st) Annual Meeting of the West African Examinations Council officially open.
I thank you all for your attention.