The 58th annual conference of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) got underway yesterday with Liberia’s former Education Minister Dr. Evelyn S. Kandakai calling for ‘gender equity’ in the structure of the Council.

The ceremony was held at Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia. Speaking on the theme, The West African Examinations Council: Pan Africanism, Gender and Development, Dr. Kandakai called on authorities of WAEC not to keep women in obscurity, but to rather encourage them seek the path to classrooms.

Dr. Kandakai, who is also Executive Director of Liberia Educational Trust (LET) and National Chairperson for the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), said Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948; the 1979 Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the 1990 Convention of the Rights of the Child are very clear on the fact that "gender disparity and equality are major infringements on the rights of women and girls".

She warned that a country, region and continent that is yet to optimize the potentials of more than half of its population stands the risk of remaining underdeveloped.

Quoting some sources, Dr. Kandakai reminded her audience that the status and trend reports issued by the United Nations (UN) Commission on Education for all states show powerful positive effects of girls and women’s schooling, on child survival, family health and a nation’s economic wellbeing.

According to her, it is ironic that majority of the worlds’ out-of-school children are girls. Dr. Kandakai said the evidence is irrefutable and points to a direct correlation between successful nation building and the quality of education of the citizens in the country.

She lamented that "the girls are getting a raw deal indicating that they are faced with the double discrimination of their gender and their age."

Dr. Kandakai maintained that in many societies, the girls remain at the bottom of the social and economic ladder, but in theory, "girls have the same rights as their brothers, but in practice in many parts of the world, they cannot access these rights."

WAEC is West Africa’s foremost examining board established by law to determine the examinations required in the public interest in English-speaking West African countries. Its task is to conduct examinations and to award certificates comparable to those of equivalent examining authorities internationally.

The member countries are Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia and Sierra Leone. Representatives from all the member countries are attending the weeklong conference.

Source: Daily Observer, Liberia. March 22, 2010.