Enugu school principals, exam centres sacked over cheating
Commissioner of Education Enugu State, Professor Uche Eze, speaks on government’s seriousness in revamping education. An expert in education psychology, Prof. Eze served at the Faculty of Education, Institute of Education, University of Nigeria Nsukka.
There is a rumour making the rounds that the government is clamping down on private examination centres popularly called miracle centers and some school principals. How true is this?
It’s true some of the centers were sanctioned. Before the recent Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) started, I called a stakeholders’ meeting where I told them that examination malpractice has to go if we must promote a society that can survive. We all agreed. I told them that we have a team and we are going to move around. We are going to supervise examinations and we would want to see that the candidates write examinations in a fair environment.
The child should not be disturbed and nobody should do anything that is not acceptable; something that is unethical. We want our children to write exams and demonstrate how much they have learnt so that based on their performance, I can assess myself.
During the exams, I moved around with my team and unfortunately, we discovered that some people did not heed to what we preached. In fact, we are still contemplating sanctioning more schools. I can remember the name of one school involved in malpractices and when I got the report I ordered that the principal be removed immediately and made a classroom teacher because he is not worthy of that position or bring up our children.
We have punished so many of our teachers who were supervisors of SSCE for getting involved in one form of malpractice or the other. We are doing these things to serve as deterrent. We also noticed that some private schools are involved in some of these things. In fact, by mid-July there will be an announcement of two private schools we have closed down.
We shut them down; one, for running a substandard school and also for engaging in examination malpractice. It is not acceptable. Many parents, out of ignorance send their children to such schools and what they get is what we may call ‘miseducation’ because these children are taught that they cannot achieve by themselves; that if they are not helped, they won’t be able to do anything.
And what happens? They pay money. Then the children don’t read and they don’t do anything than to continue to wait for help. And in the end, they get a certificate; the certificate may not help them because they cannot do anything with such certificate. When we allow such schools that do not encourage learning, then we are encouraging crime in our society and who knows who will be attacked because anybody could be a victim, even the proprietor of such a school.
Can you give us an idea of the number of schools or principals that have been disciplined so far? I can’t say the exact number because
what I normally do is that I give directive to the chairman of Post-Primary Schools Management Board (PPSMB) to investigate and he normally carries out the directive. Basically, I think we have removed five principals or more for one offence or the other because we agreed that the only way to restore and build a proper system is to ensure discipline. Everybody must be held accountable, starting from the commissioner. I have to play according to the rules; the chairman of the board has to play according to the rules, likewise the principals. When all of us that serve as models do the right thing, definitely the children will follow.
Tell us about your experience in managing schools and the entire education sector?
Well, as you know, the education sector is a very a large sector and coming to a sector like education, there are some challenges. When I was appointed as commissioner, we discovered this attitude which I think is general in Nigeria; attitude of teachers not doing the work as expected. We discovered that some teachers were not going to school. A lot of them go twice or thrice in a week and the consequence was that most of the time you’d see children loitering around during school hours.
This ugly situation was not acceptable to us because we believe that for any system to work there must be discipline. We discovered that things were happening that way because we didn’t have a strong monitoring framework. What I did was to hold a meeting with my supervisors and told them that things must not continue the way they have been, that everybody should go out to the field. We have to monitor attendance, teaching and learning in the classrooms.
In fact, as a policy, I told them that I would be 60 percent away in the field and 40 percent in the office. I told myself that I cannot achieve anything in this job if I stay in the office and start signing files only; that my job is actually in the field.
As I’m talking to you, I have visited the 17 local government areas of the state. I have also visited over 200 primary and secondary schools; what is true is that nobody knows where the commissioner will be the next day.
I will visit a school in Enugu North today, the next day I’m in a school in Enugu South and through that measure I’ve been able, together with the chairmen of PPSMB and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), to ensure that teachers go to school. But attendance is not enough; a teacher could be in school without teaching. And we believe that the only way to help our children is if the teachers get to school and teach. Once the students get to know that the teachers are committed; that the teachers must be in school and that the teachers must teach, they (students) will also be in school.
Professor Uche Eze