opinionBy SHM Jones
Banjul — Later this month, the West African Examinations Council will be celebration its 50th Anniversary.
As I have been associated with it for a very long time, I have taken it upon myself to provide your readers with information about the history and achievement of this unique Organisation, which caters for the examination needs of the English speaking countries of the Sub-Region.
I will be the first to admit that the article, which appears in The Gambia, for the first time, is dated; it is the case that it was written thirty years ago, shortly after I became the Council's London Representative in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, I have decided to publish it because the basic facts of the Council's history and development remain unchanged as do the aims and objectives of its 'Founding Fathers'.
I have no doubt that commemorative literature, which the Council is bound to produce to mark the Jubilee of its existence, will highlight the significant developments, which have taken place during the last three decades.
Your reader may wonder what my credentials are for writing about the Council.
They are as follows: Between 1953 and the end of 1959, as President of The Gambia Teachers' Union, I represented that body on The Gambia Local Committee now designated The Gambia National Committee. Two of my fellow members of the Committee were the Rev. Fr.
Cleary then a member of Staff of St. Augustine's Secondary School and the late Alhaji S. B Gaye JP then a prominent member of the Muslim Community.
Between 1964 and 1971 as Director of education/Chief Education Officer, I presided over the Local Committee and led the delegation from The Gambia to the Annual Meetings of the Council.
Between September 1971 and March 1981 I served as the Council's London Representative in the United Kingdom.
The West Africa Examination Council is 21 years old this year (1973) and its anniversary will be celebrated in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria, the original member countries and probably also in the Republic of the Liberia, which has been accorded the status of an associate member of the Organisation.
The work of the Council may not be widely known to readers of the educational press, except those with special interest in West Africa. However, the occasion of its coming of age celebrations provides and opportunity for a close look at the history and achievements of this unique Organisation, which provides examination coverage for English speaking West Africa.
At the opening of its first Annual Meeting, which was held in Ghana, the Gold Coast in March 1953, the Minister of Education and Social Welfare said "I consider that the most important functions of the Council firstly to assist in the development of sound education; secondly to ensure that examination standards are maintained, thirdly to give the people of West Africa a vision of the fertile land, which lies beyond examinations. This is a great task before the Council".
The origin of the West African Examination Council dates back to 1948 when representatives of the Universities of Cambridge and London discussed with the Education Department of the four West African territories of Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and The Gambia the future policy of School Examinations in West Africa with particular reference to the introduction of the General Certificate of Education in England in 1950. From these discussions emerged a suggestion that a Council be formed to conduct examinations in West Africa.
In 1950, the late Dr. G B Jeffrey of the University of London, in the report, which he submitted after visiting each of the countries concerned, strongly supported the idea. Subsequently the West African Examinations Council Ordinance was passed by each of the four Governments and the Council was established in March 1952.
Three years later, the West African School Certificate examination was conducted by the Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, in collaboration with the West African Examinations Council. In that same year, the decision was taken that the setting and marking of question papers should be transferred to West Africa.
It is gratifying to record that at the present moment, the Council has its own school Certificate/GCE Ordinary level as well as its Higher School Certificate/GCE Advanced Level examination. The certificates it award are recognized not only by London and Cambridge, the two universities which have been very closely associated with it since its inception, but also by other examining boards and universities in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In the area of Technical and Commercial examinations where the take over process has not reached the same stage it is worthy of note that successful candidates are now awarded certificates issued by the council in collaboration with either the City and Guilds of London Institute or the Royal Society of Arts, as the case may be. It is confidently expected that by 1978, sufficient progress would have been made to enable the Council to award the Certificate on its own authority.
Mr. Jones is the London Representative of the West African Examination Council, previously he was Director of the Department of Education in Bathurst, The Gambia. He is a member of the CCEA Executive Board.
It would be tedious to trace the various stages, which have led to the complete take over by the Council of nearly all of the examinations, which were hitherto set by examining bodies overseas.
Suffice it to say that the process has been both orderly and systematic.
Consequently it has not resulted in a lowering of standards.
(To be continued)