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Viral release accuses WAEC staff of indulging in examination malpractice, false

Claim: A press release purported to have emanated from the West African Examination Council – Sierra Leone (WAEC-SL) has gone viral on Facebook and WhatsApp. The release’s content suggests that WAEC has uncovered a syndicate involved in “grades changing” for students in exchange for “monetary favours.”

Verdict: False. Independent checks on the WAEC website and social media platforms by DUBAWA show there is no such press release. No media house has published a story out of that viral release, and WAEC has issued a formal statement denying the authenticity of that viral press release.

Full Text

A  press release has gone viral alleging that staff working at the Head Office of the West African Examination Council – Sierra Leone (WAEC–SL), on A. J. Momoh Street, Tower Hill, Freetown, are involved in an examination malpractice.

The release on the official letterhead of WAEC is dated Sept. 30, 2023, with the headline of Public Notice. The release in part suggests that the “Acting Head of Test Administration Division – TAD” has suspected that some staff are in the habit of changing grades for candidates in return for monetary/financial reward(s).

A Facebook user,“Doctor John Idriss Lahai,”  based in Australia, shared the release on his Facebook page, mocking the English grammar used in the said release.”

The letter states:

“The West African Examination Council (WAEC) wishes to inform the general public that they have suspected a suspicious malpractice ongoing at WAEC about the data inputting of grades process. . .

“The acting head of WAEC has suspected that staff as WAEC are collecting money from outside the council for changing of grades for candidates,” the release adds.

Below is a screenshot of the claim:

The purported release alleging staff of WAEC – Sierra Leone for indulging in “examination malpractice.” Image source: Anonymous social media user

The release has received massive engagement, but it is not clear whether the statement truly emanated from the examination council. DUBAWA, therefore, decided to investigate.

Verification

The West African Examination Council – Sierra Leone Chapter is charged with the sole mandate to conduct public examinations, invigilate the exams, and has absolute sovereignty to release grades of candidates who attempted the examinations.

In Sierra Leone, WAEC is responsible for conducting three (3) public/nationwide examinations, including the following: the National Primary School Examination (NPSE) – which takes the students to the ‘Junior High School’ level: JHS 1-3; the Basic Examination Certificate Examination (BECE) – this takes students into the ‘Senior High School’ levels: SHS 1-3; the last and most crucial one is the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) – responsible for enrolling students into the ‘Tertiary level, mainly in Sierra Leone.

Counterpart countries operating under the auspices of WAEC include Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. However, some partner countries have alternative national or public examination bodies. 

Against this backdrop, DUBAWA decided to run a fact-check to ascertain the authenticity of the release because the allegation doesn’t only question the integrity of both the institution and its staff but equally has the propensity to cast doubts on the credibility of the “results” the institution has published over time.  

DUBAWA first did a manual verification by checking the official website and social media handles of WAEC to see if it had commissioned such a report. There was no such report. Rather, there was a reaction from WAEC seeking to dissociate itself from the viral press release.

Also, checks by DUBAWA show that no newspaper or online platforms had published the purported WAEC release, which is another red flag.

WAEC’s reaction

The West African Examination Council, Sierra Leone Chapter, learned of the purported release claiming to be a creation of a so-called “head of TAD” for WAEC – Sierra Leone.

The Council’s Public Affairs Officer, Mr Sallieu M. Kamara, in a statement signed by him, vehemently discredited the viral release. Mr Kamara added that the said release, authored by “some miscreants”, is “untrue” and “malicious”.

His statement further indicated that the allegations against the staff of being involved in changing examination grades in return for money – is a ploy by some “miscreants” who want to tarnish the institution’s reputation.

“The Council wishes to assure the public that it will continue to maintain integrity in its examinations and warns persons involved in disseminating such fake information to desist forthwith,” the release further notes.

A press release from the Public Affairs Officer for WAEC debunked the exchange of grades for monetary reward allegations against WAEC’s staff. Image Source: WAEC – SL Public Affairs Office

DUBAWA contacted staff at WAEC – Sierra Leone for feedback

“This is a FAKE release,” — a staff at WAEC told DUBAWA via WhatsApp conversation.

The staff, who asked to remain anonymous, informed DUBAWA that the release purporting to come from the self-acclaimed “Acting Head of TAD” for WAEC – SL is untrue.

He asked the general public to ignore the fake release shared by an unknown social media user who seeks to destroy WAEC’s good works.

Below are details of the conversation with the WAEC officer.

Photo grid screenshots of chats between DUBAWA and WAEC’s Staff.
Image Source: DUBAWA/Researcher: Fayia Jnr. Moseray

Conclusion

After the thorough investigation conducted, DUBAWA concludes that the viral press release has been fabricated.

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