This year’s Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) took off across the country Monday, with 57 prisoners, including 26 inmates of the Senior Correctional Centre of the Ghana Prisons Service meant for juvenile offenders of up to 21 years old, among the candidates.
Eight other candidates from the Kumasi Central Prison, nine from the Nsawam Medium Security Prison and four from the Sunyani Central Prison are also taking the examination.
The all-males candidates from the Senior Correctional Centre are between 13 and 21 years old and are serving a maximum of three-year terms for different offences.
The Senior Juvenile Correctional Centre, formerly known as the Borstal Home, only admits male offenders below 21 years.
The inmates are sitting the examination with other candidates from regular schools in the Ayawaso District in Accra at the Bethany Methodist Junior High School, which is serving as an examination centre for BECE candidates.
The Daily Graphic yesterday observed that prison officers escorted the inmates to the centre and waited on them as they wrote the first paper, Religious and Moral Education, while a bus with the inscription “Prisons” waited to take them back to the correctional centre after the day’s papers.
The officers in charge of the Senior Correctional Centre, Deputy Director of Prisons, Millicent Owusu, said the inmates had been prepared adequately for the examination with support from the Education Unit of the Ayawaso District.
She said some volunteers and the teachers at the centre spent time discussing past questions with the candidates and prepared the inmates psychologically ahead of the examination.
“We have told them that no matter where you are you will be able to excel, and from here you can move on to the next level.
Inmates who sat the BECE in the past were successful and had admission to various senior high schools (SHS), and we have had many who have gone ahead to the tertiary level and are doing very well.
Sometimes we invite such people to come and motivate them to know that all is not lost because they are in custody,” she said.
Ms Owusu said: “Last year, we registered a similar number and they did well in the exam.
They are currently in some SHSs in Accra.
“Every year, our students do very well.
Since the inception of the centre, our students have scored 100 per cent with distinction in the BECE.
It is all because of what goes into the preparation,” she said.
Ms Owusu said the government had absorbed the registration fees of the inmates, while the Ghana Prisons Service took over all other costs of writing the subjects.
Although government is doing its best, I need materials to facilitate teaching and learning.
Until recently, we had students writing the BECE without having a computer to know this is the mouse and that is the keyboard,” she said.
A science teacher, Bennett Quist-Ayiku, who has been at the centre for the past five years, appealed to individuals, corporate entities, churches and other organisations to support the centre with relevant logistics to enhance teaching and learning.
After writing the first paper, one of the inmates who has served a year and 10 months out of his three-year prison term said he was happy to sit the BECE and looked forward to furthering his education.
The young man, who was convicted of defilement, said: “I should have written my BECE in 2021, but because of my case and conviction I could not.
I will advise all young people to be obedient and respect their parents and all adults because l am here as a result of my disobedience.
I am now serving three years in prison.
Another inmate who was preparing to write his second examination paper for the day said he was convicted of stealing a bag containing a laptop and a tablet with a friend.
He said it was his wish to become a mechanical engineer, and advised young people “to be good children so they do not end up like me, but I know there’s still hope, and I will make it”.
He also urged families and corporate bodies to pay regular visits to show love to children in the centre, saying “we have a bright future”.
Another inmate said he ended up at the centre as a result of theft, and had since learnt that education was his only hope to a brighter future, hence his decision to take the examination.
He expressed the hope that he would gain admission to a senior high school.
The Greater Accra Regional Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Prisons Service, Assistant Superintendent of Prisons, Loretta Valentina Amoah, appealed for a bus to convey inmates at the senior high school level across the city to school on a daily basis.
The centre was established in 1947 as a Borstal Home under the Social Welfare Department, and in 1958 the Ghana Prisons Service took over and changed the name to Senior Correctional Centre.
In 2008, a reformers junior high school was established to educate inmates and to provide free lessons for prisoners who are willing to study and improve themselves.
The first batch of 21 candidates from the centre sat their examination in 2009.
Apart from formal education, there are inmates who are also trained at the centre’s vocational school to be equipped with various skills.
At the Bankoe Centre B in the Ho Municipality in the Volta Region, for instance, one pregnant girl was among the registered 295 candidates, reports Alberto Mario Noretti.
The Municipal Director of Education, Dr Esther Adzo Yeboah-Adzimah, said one candidate at another centre in Ho, who was suffering from cerebral palsy, would be given an additional 50 minutes to finish every paper.
Invigilators were cautioned not to use mobile phones in the examination halls.
A total of 3,571 candidates from 101 schools have registered for the exam in the Ho Municipality alone.
The candidates include 1,468 boys and 1,503 girls from public schools, and 281 boys and 319 girls from private schools.
At the Ho-Kpodzi Centre D, most of the 428 candidates turned up as early as 6:45 a.m.
Beyond the prison inmates, the exam recorded absentees and sick candidates at some centres, with a number of pregnant girls and cerebral palsy patients also writing.
Emmanuel Bonney & Diana Mensah report that the three centres at the Accra Girls’ Senior High School recorded one absentee each.
The examination, which began with Religious and Moral Education as the first subject, had uniformed police and National Investigations Bureau (NIB) officers in attendance as one of the prominent features of the exercise.
At the Accra Academy Centre, three candidates, all boys, who fell ill, received attention before writing the paper.
The Ayawaso North Municipal Director of Education, Philip Aidoo, who was at the Accra Girls’ SHS to observe events, told the Daily Graphic that there was no challenge whatsoever.
“So far, so good, and we are going to ensure that it continues like this up to Friday when they will finish the examination,” he said.
He said this year’s total candidature of 650 in the municipality represented an increase by 104 candidates over last year’s figure of 546.
At the Accra Academy centre, the supervisor, Michael Odoom, said by 8:20 a.m. majority of the candidates had arrived.
He indicated that there was no absentee at the centre, and that candidates wrote their first paper without any hitches.
Some of the candidates said they were optimistic of excelling.
“At first, I was nervous and scared, but after this paper, I am calm and hopeful that the subsequent papers will be as easy as the first one,” a student of Ramseyer Presby School, Stephanie Abena Fosuwaa, told the Daily Graphic.
Francisca Eshun reports from Cape Coast that the Central Region’s 68,049 candidates for the exam include 52,949 from public schools and 15,100 from private schools, made up of 34,113 boys and 33,936 girls.
The number also includes 55 with special needs and four inmates of the Ankaful Prisons.
The examination centres in Cape Coast include Adisadel College, Mfantsipim School, Ghana National College, St Augustine’s College, University Practice Senior High School, Holy Child School and Wesley Girls’ High School.
The Cape Coast Metropolitan Director of Education, Phyllis Krobea-Asante, who toured some of the examination centres, indicated that 3,988 candidates, made up of 2,067 females and 921 males from 102 schools, were sitting the BECE in the metropolis.
A total of 602,457 junior high school final-year students are sitting this year’s BECE.
The examination is being held simultaneously for both school and private candidates.