Education minister pans WAEC’s ‘deliberate’ sanction

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By Alagie Manneh

The minister for basic and secondary education, Claudiana Cole, has said the threats by WAEC to kick The Gambia out of the regional examination set-up was “a deliberate ” act to cow The Gambia into paying up its dues.

Criticising the decision, she said: “We all know that when we need something to happen, and it doesn’t seem to be happening, we put sanctions… and I think this was a deliberate attempt on the side of WAEC.”

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She made the comments during an interface Thursday with the National Assembly’s select committee on education. The committee was probing the issue of arrears The Gambia owed to WAEC, after the examination body warned of sanctions if the country fails to pay up at least 50 per cent of its US$11 million dues.

Minister Cole said the outstanding balance is “so huge for a small developing country…it would be difficult to pay all the amount in full,” she admitted.

She said a 20 percent payment has been agreed with WAEC.

“My PS, who has been sitting in the meetings, has been reporting to me that they were asking for 50 percent of the payment. He has been trying to negotiate with them that we cannot pay 50 percent. I understand they arrived at 20 percent, that they would accept 20 percent,” she said.

She said the country may even struggle to pay up the agreed 20 percent, considering its meagre resources. “That was why yesterday, we met the finance minister, considering the fact that this issue has been going round, and everybody has been talking about it, and it’s even being blown out of proportion.”

She told the deputies that her ministry cannot be held responsible for the problem.

“It’s not our fault. Some people do not even know how this amount came about. They don’t even understand that it is an amount that has been accruing from 2004 when none of us were in the positions that we are in today. When people don’t understand, when they don’t know, they can say anything. But we have a job to do and we are trying to do that. There’s no way we can sit and be careless for this country not to sit to the exams. No way. That cannot be possible.

Asked what would happen if WAEC asked for more payments, Finance Minister Mambury Njie who also appeared before the committee, said: “If the 20 percent fails, we are going to negotiate. We want to resolve it. It’s in our interest that WAEC survives.”