PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – With barely days to this year’s West African Examinations Council exams, ninth and twelfth-grade students of the New Life Christian Academy have been hit with surprising news that they would not be candidates for the exams.
The students had gathered early on Saturday on their campus to receive their exam identification numbers, as they were instructed by Williams Barjebo, the proprietor of the school.
“To our utmost surprise, we waited and didn’t see Rev. Barjebo or any sign that we would receive our numbers,” Arthur Gaye, one of the senior students said.
Gaye said he and other students were shocked on Tuesday when they received a message from Barjebo through George Sirleaf, a former teacher of the school, that they were not registered to sit the exams, despite having paid their fees to the school in January.
“We got angry because of the news that we would not sit the WAEC exams, and some students removed the flagpole,” he said.
Barjebo and members of his family have not been seen since Saturday, nor has any member of the family provided any explanation to any administrator, teacher or student, Gaye said.
He disclosed 15 of the 18 students in the 12th grade paid an amount of L$3,750 (US$34.10) each, while Montserrado Senator George Weah also paid US$772 to the school to cover the remaining fees of members of the class. 35 students in the ninth grade class also paid L$2750 (US$25) each as their exams fees.
The actual fees charged by WAEC for the regular exams are L$3,100 (US$28.18) for senior students and 2,350 (US$21.36) each for those in ninth grade. The discrepancy between the fees charged by WAEC and those collected by the school is because the school had promised to conduct mock examinations.
The principal of the school, Edwin Lincoln, confirmed that no student was registered for the exams, according to WAEC.
Lincoln said all financial matters are directly administered by the school’s proprietor and his wife, who also serves as the registrar.
He said WAEC fees were paid only to Barjebo, both in cash and through the school’s account.
“Rev. Barjebo is the only signatory to the school’s account and I have no knowledge of how withdrawals are made,” Lincoln said.
He said he had always been assured that everything was on course whenever he engaged the proprietor on the issue of the students’ WAEC registration.
No resolution has been reached so far.
Jeremiah Kpahn, a member of the ninth grade class, is calling on the school’s authorities to immediately refund their money, adding that this was the second time such situation had occurred at the institution.
“Last year again, students here did not sit the WAEC exams, because the proprietor said someone ran away with the money,” Kpahn said. “I feel so downhearted by the attitude of our proprietor.”
Precious Chedegar, another ninth grade student who also paid her WAEC fees to the proprietor and his wife, said sitting home while knowing that other students are taking this crucial exam will be a challenge for her.
When contacted via mobile phone, Barjebo told The Bush Chicken that he was in Grand Gedeh, implementing a project.
Although he did not address all of the concerns, he admitted that he did receive the students’ WAEC fees. However, he said he had handed the money to an aide, whom he identified as Emmanuel Laymah. Barjebo said Laymah had duped him.
Barjebo refuted claims that he had run away and said he was working to refund the ninth graders’ money. For the senior students, he said the school would work to register them for the private exams, to be taken between June and August.
He, however, chose to reserve all other comments on the matter.
Ninth grade students across the country are scheduled to take the exams on Thursday, May 18 and Friday May 19. However, WAEC has announced a postponement in the junior high exams to Monday, May 19 and 20, 2017. Senior students are scheduled to commence their five-day exams on May 21.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah