] Enahoro] Eugene The exam malpractices industry
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.
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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.