The leaks are not new
August 26, 2004
LET us call her Sharon.
Sharon is 17 and wrote her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations this year.
She recalls the hectic days before the exams: study groups, extra lessons after school, late nights burning the books, and of course the hours liming at the bus park waiting for a contact to drop off some leaked CSEC papers.
Most of the time she spent waiting for papers - time during which she could have been studying - was wasted. Her search for leaked papers turned out in the end not fruitless but pointless. Fifteen minutes before she was scheduled to go into the exam room to sit for the CSEC Office Procedures exam, the OP Paper I which she and her friends had pooled money together for arrived. She recalls that out of the four pages that she saw, two pages were fake. The other two however were real.
It should be noted that Office Procedures is not even listed among the four subject areas, which the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) is investigating to determine whether there has been any leakage prior to the sitting of the 2004 CSEC Exams. The four are Integrated Science, Principles of Business, Social Studies and Mathematics.
The leaking of CXC/CSEC exam papers here in Guyana is not anything new.
Five years ago, two young persons were arrested for possession of the Math paper and subsequently put on bail.
The reason that many may not recall this incident may simply be because that around the same time, the country was caught in the throes of a violent public service strike.
For the people closely involved however, this should seem like deja vu: then as now, the rumours of widespread leakage persisted; then as now, CXC sent investigators; then as now, Chief Education Officer Mr Ed Caesar was sent on what might be referred to as a diplomatic errand on behalf of the Ministry of Education.
While the impression given today is that we are playing this by ear, the fact that this is the second time in five years that Mr Caesar has to travel to Barbados to iron things out with the Caribbean Examinations Council should come as some cause for concern.
Concern to whom? To the Government of Guyana, to the council itself, and to the society at large.
The Government of Guyana first of all, simply because of the fact it is not the Chief Education Officer of Trinidad or St Lucia or Jamaica who will be travelling to Barbados; it is Guyana's. Forget the fact that re-sitting any single subject is a costly and time-consuming affair; forget the fact that this is not the best press that Guyana can be receiving right now: the implications that these leaks have for the national economy vis a vis employment as well as tertiary education and training can be devastating at most and disruptive at the very least.
CXC should be concerned because, as guardians of one the region's most vital institutions, there is the possibility that the leakage might very well have come from their end of the pipeline. It cannot conceivably hurt the institution for it to carry out a thorough review of its systems in light of the current crisis; and if such a review has been done or is under way, to acknowledge it and to put the findings, on completion, into the public domain.
No one is asking for any unjustified mea culpas from either the CXC or the Ministry of Education. All that the people of Guyana require is that a thorough investigation be carried out to ascertain where the papers have been compromised and that sanctions be imposed where necessary.
Which brings us to the third party concerned in this brouhaha - the parents and the CSEC candidates collectively. No one can sell anything if there is no one buying it. The compromising of CSEC papers is a criminal act, which can potentially cost the State, taxpayers, millions of dollars in money that can be spent elsewhere.
Any investigation into the leaks has to focus as strongly on the parents and students as it must on both the Council and the Ministry of Education.