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History of West Africa Examinations Council

“To take care of developments in the member countries, a process to revise the Convention was initiated at the turn of the century, and the Revised Convention was signed in June 2003.”

In 1948, the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate and the University of London School Examinations Matriculation Council discussed with the West African Departments of Education the future policy of school examinations as would be best suited to the needs of West Africa. Following this discussion, the late Dr. G. B. Jeffery, F.R.S., Director of the University of London’s Institute of Education, was invited in October 1949 by the British Secretary of State for the Colonies to visit West Africa to study and advise on a “proposal that there should be instituted a WEST AFRICAN SCHOOL EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL”.

After a three-month visit to West Africa, touring The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana (then called The Gold Coast) and Nigeria from December 1949 to March 1950, Dr. Jeffery submitted a report (since then known as the Jeffery Report) strongly supporting the proposal for a WEST AFRICAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL and making detailed recommendations on the composition and duties of the Council.

The report, published in March 1950, was adopted without reservation by the four West African Governments and an ordinance establishing The West African Examinations Council as a corporate body was drafted by the West African Inter-Territorial Secretariat in consultation with the Governments. The ordinance was first passed by the Legislative Assembly of the Gold Coast in December 1951 as The West African Examinations Council Ordinance No. 40 of 1951 and was later made effective by similar enactments by the Governments of Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

The Ordinances charged the Council with determining the examinations required in the public interest in West Africa and empowered it to conduct such examinations and to award certificates, provided that the certificates did not represent a lower standard of attainment than equivalent certificates of examining authorities in the United Kingdom. A temporary office with a small staff headed by the late Mr. Kenneth Humphreys, the first Registrar to the Council, was set up at the offices of the West African Inter-Territorial Secretariat in Accra.

Early in 1953, the Accra Office moved to a building near the former Department of Education on Rowe Road which the Gold Coast Government made available, and a site for more permanent offices was secured at Achimota. Later in the year, the new office buildings at Achimota were occupied. In Lagos, in the same year, the Government of Nigeria also made available a large block of offices at the Technical Institute, Yaba, which became the seat of the Deputy Registrar. In Sierra Leone and The Gambia, the Council, in the meantime, worked through the Departments of Education.

An office was opened in Freetown in 1958, the year in which the Council’s London Office was also opened. The national office of the Council in The Gambia was opened in Banjul (then Bathurst) in January 1973.

The first meeting of the Council took place in Accra from the 24th to 27th March, 1953. It was attended by three nominees of the Secretary of State, namely the Chairman of the Council, Mr. A. N. Galsworthy; the Chief Secretary of the West African Inter-Territorial Secretariat, Dr. G. B. Jeffery (representing the University of London); and Mr. J. L. Brereton, Secretary of the Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (representing the University of Cambridge). There were, in addition, 13 members nominated by the Governments of The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria, and ten (10) observers.

The Council received from the Registrar a brief report of work done since his arrival and proceeded to establish five committees, namely, the Administrative and Finance Committee (initially called the Executive Committee), the School Examinations Committee, the Public Service Examinations Committee, the Professional, Technical and Commercial Examinations Committee; and the Local Committees (replaced in 1956 by National Committees).

Since then, the names of the Committees have changed and new ones have been created. The Committees now include the Administrative and Finance Committee, the Appointments Committee, and the Examinations Committee at both the international and national levels.

In each country, there is a National Committee to which all Local Committees report. Liberia became the fifth member country when she was admitted into full membership of the Council at the 22nd Annual Meeting held in Lagos in March 1974. Two years later, in April 1976, an office of the Council was established in Liberia and in January 1977 the Council moved into its permanent office in Monrovia.

In March 1982, a new legal framework for the operations of the Council was adopted. After over five years of preparatory work, the Convention establishing The West African Examinations Council was signed at an impressive ceremony coinciding with the Council’s 30th Anniversary celebrations and the Annual Council Meeting in Monrovia.

The Convention, subsequently ratified by the member countries, came into force on August 24, 1984, with the depositing of the instruments of ratification of all member countries with the Government of Ghana. The Convention provides uniform legal backing to the operations of the Council in all the member countries and gives the
Council legal personality as an international body. To take care of developments in the member countries, a process to revise the Convention was initiated at the turn of the century, and the Revised Convention was signed in June 2003.

In March 2002, the Council celebrated its 50th Anniversary in Abuja, Nigeria, with the theme, “WAEC: 50 Years of Excellence”. The highlight of the celebrations was the launching of the book on the history of the Council: “The West African Examinations Council (1952 – 2002): Half a Century of Commitment to Excellence and Regional Cooperation”.

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