] Ena­horo] Eu­gene The exam mal­prac­tices in­dus­try

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -

It’s that time of year again. The at­ten­tion-grab­bing ac­tiv­i­ties of Boko Haram, the on­go­ing Na­tional Con­fer­ence, and an over­heated polity, have caused the all-im­por­tant Se­nior Sec­ondary School Ex­am­i­na­tions (SSCE) to come round al­most un­no­ticed. The ex­am­i­na­tion mal­prac­tice in­dus­try has once again moved into top gear. The an­nual rit­ual whereby hun­dreds of can­di­dates who have nei­ther pre­pared for the ex­am­i­na­tions, nor made even the min­i­mum ef­fort to un­der­stand the sub­ject mat­ter, are reg­is­tered in “spe­cial cen­tres” for exam mal­prac­tice is un­der­way. For most of the exam mal­prac­tice in­dus­try’s cus­tomers - semi-lit­er­ate stu­dents who want by any means to ob­tain the elu­sive five cred­its in­clud­ing Math­e­mat­ics and English - their prob­lems started in pri­mary school. Ba­sic lit­er­acy teach­ing is fail­ing in Nigeria be­cause many pri­mary school teach­ers – amaz­ingly – still do not know how to teach chil­dren to read and write! This fail­ure has nat­u­rally spilled over into Sec­ondary Schools where cheat­ing has reached an all-time high. Most of this cheat­ing is done in col­lu­sion with teach­ers who charge a fee for this ser­vice! But this should come as no sur­prise. Po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees, judges, po­lice­men, civil ser­vants, and al­most all other pub­lic of­fi­cials take bribes. Why on earth should we ex­pect teach­ers to be dif­fer­ent? The sim­ple truth is that in Nigeria it’s no longer seen as a bad thing to cheat. In fact cheat­ing has al­most be­come a vi­tal in­gre­di­ent of suc­cess.

We cheat to win elec­tions, cheat to se­cure govern­ment ap­point­ments, cheat to ob­tain loans, and cheat to pro­cure con­tracts. Why should we ex­pect stu­dents to be dif­fer­ent? Be that as it may there is an im­por­tant distinc­tion be­tween “cheat­ing” and “ex­am­i­na­tion mal­prac­tice”. Cheat­ing is un­of­fi­cial. It’s an in­di­vid­ual’s re­sponse to the fact their prepa­ra­tions have proved fruit­less and they are try­ing by all means to pass the exam.

dr_e­na­horo@ya­hoo.com (0807 493 2395 SMS only)

Ex­am­i­na­tion Mal­prac­tice is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter al­to­gether. It’s about ob­tain­ing a re­sult with­out mak­ing any ef­fort to pre­pare for the exam. It’s an “of­fi­cial” in­dus­try which thrives on a con­spir­acy in­volv­ing of­fi­cials from state min­istries of ed­u­ca­tion, ex­am­i­na­tion boards; school pro­pri­etors, own­ers of lec­ture houses, par­ents, exam in­vig­i­la­tors, “ma­chiner­ies”, and stu­dents. The state min­istries of ed­u­ca­tion are re­spon­si­ble for de­ter­min­ing the num­ber of stu­dents a school can reg­is­ter for SSCE ex­am­i­na­tions. It stands to rea­son that if a school is granted a “quota” of 100 stu­dents, then the car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity of that school from JSS1 to SSS3 must be at least six hun­dred stu­dents. State min­istries of ed­u­ca­tion cor­ruptly give schools with only six class­rooms, each with a seat­ing ca­pac­ity for thirty stu­dents, a quota of two hun­dred stu­dents for SSCE ex­am­i­na­tions know­ing full well these ex­cess stu­dents are com­ing from some­where else. Of­fi­cials of the Ex­am­i­na­tion Boards are sup­posed to check whether a school has ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties to con­duct prac­ti­cal ex­am­i­na­tions. In­spec­tors visit schools, see one mi­cro­scope and few as­sorted bor­rowed equip­ment and de­clare the school fit to ex­am­ine hun­dreds of stu­dents.

The aca­demic fraud in the sys­tem be­comes clear when we con­sider that a credit in bi­ol­ogy is re­quired to en­ter univer­sity, yet by their own ad­mis­sion, less than 50% of univer­sity stu­dents ever used a mi­cro­scope while in sec­ondary school! School Pro­pri­etors who pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties for the in­dus­try are an in­te­gral part of the con­spir­acy. Gen­er­ally speak­ing SSCE exam reg­is­tra­tion costs less than five thou­sand naira, but pro­pri­etors of spe­cial cen­tres charge be­tween twenty and thirty thou­sand to sit the ex­am­i­na­tions. Lec­ture houses pro­vide the cus­tomers. Un­der the failed 6-3-3-4 ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem there is no more sixth form. In­stead of fac­ing a postSSCE lower sixth year when they can read widely, cor­rect anom­alies in their re­sults, broaden their hori­zons and gen­er­ally grow up a bit, stu­dents who did not pass at the first at­tempt and who do not want to suf­fer the em­bar­rass­ment of go­ing back to sec­ondary school when their mates have left, end up in the hands of “lec­ture houses”. These lec­ture houses teach noth­ing and reg­is­ter can­di­dates only one month be­fore ex­am­i­na­tions.

Many low in­come par­ents are not con­cerned about the gen­uine­ness of their child’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions or the con­tent of their in­tel­lect be­cause it’s com­mon knowl­edge that lack of gen­uine qual­i­fi­ca­tions is not a hand­i­cap to progress in Nigeria. Par­ents make the funds avail­able to en­sure their un-cere­bral chil­dren with no ap­ti­tude for aca­demics, make it into univer­sity. Ex­am­i­na­tion in­vig­i­la­tors are paid to look the other way while copy­ing an­swers is go­ing on. On a good day (for ex­am­ple when ei­ther Maths or English is be­ing writ­ten) an in­vig­i­la­tor can de­mand, and ex­pect to be paid, in ex­cess of fifty thou­sand. “Ma­chiner­ies” are teach­ers or univer­sity stu­dents on standby to pro­vide the an­swers as soon as the in­vig­i­la­tor ar­rives with the ques­tion paper. The fi­nal link of the exam mal­prac­tice chain is the stu­dents’ them­selves.

It is they who have to use their hand­writ­ing to copy the cor­rect an­swers to their an­swer sheets. In sev­eral cases even this isn’t pos­si­ble, and they will be as­sisted to write be­cause they are barely lit­er­ate! As a re­sult of this thriv­ing exam mal­prac­tice in­dus­try many Nige­rian stu­dents en­ter­ing Univer­sity are ill pre­pared. Govern­ment-ap­proved pri­vate schools op­er­at­ing in un­com­pleted build­ings with no light, no run­ning wa­ter, no qual­i­fied teach­ers, and no sci­ence lab­o­ra­to­ries, are geared to­wards pro­vid­ing the re­quired ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults rather than gen­uine ed­u­ca­tion.

State gov­ern­ments typ­i­cally ask pro­pri­etors of such schools to pay higher taxes thereby en­cour­ag­ing them to trag­i­cally fur­ther lower stan­dards and gather money from fraud­u­lent prac­tices. The whole busi­ness is a na­tional dis­grace. Less than 1% of school leavers pass through the walls of a univer­sity and the real na­tional need for the ma­jor­ity of them to re­ceive proper func­tional vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion with mar­ketable em­ploy­ment skills has been lost in the dis­as­trous 6334 sys­tem. This fail­ure is re­flected in stu­dents who are not aca­dem­i­cally en­dowed, and who should pro­vide the tech­ni­cal man­power to drive an in­dus­trial econ­omy, strug­gling to en­ter univer­sity by all means. It’s time to put an end to this an­nual in­tel­lec­tual cha­rade.

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