By Tabora Bojang
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education has disclosed to lawmakers that pupils and students in The Gambia risk missing both the West Africa Senior Secondary Secondary Schools Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and the Gambia Basic Education Certificate Examination (GABECE) this year due to arrears owed to the West African Examination Council (WAEC).
Speaking during an interface with the National Assembly joint committee on education and public finance on the recent teachers strike, Louis Moses Mendy lamented that his ministry faces acute financial constraints which among others led to the recent teachers strike as well as the possibility of missing out on examinations conducted by WAEC.
He said the country owes the council between US$11 and US$12 million, 50 per cent of which must be paid as stipulated by the new WAEC administration or the country risks missing WAEC exams.
According to PS Mendy, his ministry had a meeting with the new WAEC chairman in January where they were briefed about some new actions to be taken by the council at its annual meeting next month.
“One of the decisions is that we must pay our arrears as a country. Initially they put it at 50% and our WAEC arrears are over U$11 to US$12 million, 50 % of that is over D350 million,” PS Mendy revealed.
He explained that these arrears were owed to WAEC for the conduct of examinations for Gambian students writing grade 9 and 12 examinations including printing of exam papers and DHL sending fees among others.
“We have shared this with the Office of the Secretary General and Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs after our January meeting [with WAEC] for them to be in the know. We want your intervention, otherwise, we stand the risk of not sitting both the WASSCE and GABECE exams this year,” he added.
PS Mendy further disclosed that MoBSE also owes D14 million to Gambia Teachers Union for payment of ‘reconciles’ and other debts in millions of dalasis to GSM companies.
“In fact, Gamtel and QCell have both disconnected us” he added.
PS Mendy lamented that he is bringing these revelations to the attention of lawmakers for them to understand the financial difficulties at his ministry.
“Every day we knock on the doors of [Ministry of] Finance based on our cash plan and if we could be getting what we submit, it will go a long way to help us honour some of these payments and then these problems would not have occurred. When we were opening schools we had a budget of D18 million for facemasks just to be told that the government cannot finance those things. It was a nightmare to pay for those things. Our names were on the social media because those we contracted were constantly coming to the ministry saying everything.”