Apor Supreme’: Is the perennial problem of exam leaks beyond WAEC?

It was a normal Sunday afternoon in late August, except there was no ‘fufu’ to eat. Football was offering Chelsea versus Arsenal, but with no television to catch even a glimpse of the match, I resorted to looking at updates on Twitter.

Even before I could log on, notifications from my Telegram messaging app came flooding in: “Payment ongoing for French Orals confirmed”, “Financial accounting questions are not out yet”, “Those writing GKA should text me, posting questions here isn’t safe.

For security purposes, if you know you are writing, text me for it.” Attached to the messages were phone numbers, so you could reach out to purchase the “apor”.

The notifications came from three Telegram platforms – GRANDMASTERS WAEC LINK, WAEC AND GES NEW FILE and 2021 WASSCE ROOM.

Each group boldly displayed the West African Examinations Council logo as its profile photo.

For an instant, I blanked. “When did I join these platforms?” I wondered. Then I remembered last year when I signed up to research an investigative news report on the examination black market.

The effort was cut short when I contracted COVID. All my energy was channelled into getting myself out of isolation and kicking against the long-term complications of the nasty disease.

For years, reports have surfaced of WAEC “apor” – exams leaked hours or even days before papers are written. WAEC has occasionally had to cancel examinations so that candidates can rewrite them.

It happened in 2002 when Basic Education Certificate Examination papers were cancelled after widespread leaks.

It happened again in 2015 when five BECE papers were cancelled, again after widespread leaks. In the 2008 Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), WAEC had to cancel whole subjects.

Even before entering the exam hall, teachers and students in certain schools across Ghana have been known to share solutions to questions from papers up for examination. And the target questions have cropped up in the exams, just as promised.

Widespread use of social media and mobile phones by Ghana’s WASSCE candidates exacerbates the problem.

Students can browse leaked questions at leisure. Every year, when it comes to their final exams, whether BECE or WASSCE, pupils are sure they will get “apor”.

They believe it is their right as a candidate and will go to any lengths to obtain advanced knowledge of exam questions, soliciting funds to cover the costs.

There have been allegations and counter-allegations about how and why the leaks keep occurring.

How does WAEC keep track of the printing and packing of exam papers? Who distributes them across the country? And who keeps an eye on them once they reach the districts where the exams are held?

In an attempt to unravel the mysteries behind exam malpractice, an education think tank, Africa Education Watch, independently assessed the 2020 WASSCE and confirmed that the questions for last year were leaked to candidates.

In a report published on 16 June 2021, the think tank said the questions were leaked at dawn on the day each paper was to be sat and sent to various social media groups.

Africa Education Watch accused certain forums, including Telegram groups, of being sources of leaked questions.

Confidential personal information about examiners was also exposed, leading WAEC to file a complaint with the cybercrime department of the Ghana Police Service.

Not long afterwards, WAEC disputed aspects of the Africa Education Watch findings. At a press conference, it insisted that portions of the report which touched on a mathematics paper leak, exam methodology and publication of examiners’ details were fraught with inaccuracies.

WAEC said it was considering suing Africa Education Watch over the report.