"Mrs. Cynthia! Please stop writing and stand up". This was the fourth time Mr. Douglas, our Public Finance lecturer is stopping Cynthia from writing. It was our final year examination and almost every student was desperate to pass all the examinations because failing one will attract an extra year. And an extra year means paying a fresh tuition fee and accommodation fee.
Also the pain of seeing your classmates graduate while you remain in school cannot be overemphasized. Our lectures, on the other hand are well aware of the students desperation. In other to ensure that no student engage in examination malpractice, Mr. Douglas filled the hall with more than ten supervisors and he also invited enough school securities to arrest culprits.
The first time Mrs. Cynthia was halted, Mr. Douglas searched her desk, her answer booklet and under her seat, but he found no incriminating material. The same thing happened the second and third time.
Therefore, when our lecturer interrupted her the fourth time the entire class became upset. Why must it always be Mrs. Cynthia? After all, everyone knows that she is a well behaved happily married mother of three. Students started making comments like; "Mrs. Cynthia cannot engage in malpractice", "please, let her be", "you are embarrassing her", "look somewhere else"... etc.
But this time Mr. Douglas was more radical. He asked Cynthia to walk out of her seat and come to the front of the hall. Immediately, almost everyone stopped writing and focused on the event. Our lecturer instructed one of the female security personnel to conduct a search on Cynthia. After the exploration, nothing was found. Mr. Douglas seems convinced that Cynthia was cheating. But there was no evidence to back his certainty. He looked at Mrs. Cynthia, shook his head and instructed her to go back to her sit.
Cynthia had not taken up to three to four steps before Mr. Douglas called her back. The entire students in the class stood up in anger, protesting the ill treatment of our classmate. It was glaring that the class had reached its boiling point and it would explode if nothing illegal was found on Mrs. Cynthia this time.
What we all heard was; "give me the baby". Mr. Douglas was asking Mrs. Cynthia to handover her three months old son to him. It was illegal to enter into an examination hall with a baby regardless of the infant's age. Even Evelyn, one of our course mates had to leave her two weeks old son with her mother to sit for this examination.
The examination supervisors had earlier told Mrs. Cynthia that she would not be allowed to enter the examination hall except she kept the baby with her nanny outside. I was even surprised why Mrs. Cynthia would want to take her son with her that day because she had always kept the boy with the nanny outside. But she insisted that the baby must be with her because she was monitoring his temperature due to his ill health. It took the intervention of the Dean of Student's Affairs, who issued an exception permit before Mrs. Cynthia was allowed to enter the hall with her son.
Mrs. Cynthia reluctantly handed her son to Mr. Douglas. He took the child and closely observed his clothing. Mr. Douglas asked Mrs. Cynthia to help him unbutton the baby's shirt to enable him see his inner cloth. She blatantly refused, stating that her son might contract cold. With the assistance of the female school security, Mr. Douglas unbuttoned the lad's shirt. After a quick glance at the baby's inner suit, he pulled off the shirt and raised the three months old baby up to enable everyone see him clearly.
We discovered that the boy's inner wear had series of writings on it. When I took a keen look at the writings, I discovered that they were definitions, features, disadvantages, advantages and explanations of different terms and concepts in Public Finance. Mrs. Cynthia had carefully written some of the answers to the examination questions on her three months old son's cloth and her son was putting it on. And she was busy copying some answers to the exam questions from her son's cloth.
The class became calm. We watched the security personnel as they took Mrs. Cynthia and her baby to the Dean of Student's Affairs officer for further interrogation.
Why Examination Malpractice in Nigeria
Examination malpractice is the act of disobeying the rules and regulations guiding the conduct of an assessment with the intention of manipulating its result to favour the individual. The truth is 65% of students in West Africa intentional engage in examination malpractice, 25% are forced to partake in the illicit act, while, just 10% of the student population refuse to be involved in exam malpractice. The big question now is; what are the causes of the high rate of exam malpractice in West Africa.
Corruption: There is an African proverb that says; 'if the head is rotten, the body will also decompose'. The high rate of corruption in the government of most African states has gradually crawled into the educational sector. Ministers or heads of the education sector are politically appointed based on political patronage and not by merit. This has led to mismanagement and maladministration of the sector. The examination bodies are also suffering from the cankerworm called corruption. Intending examination supervisors must bribe the head of the exam body before a school is assigned to them to superintend. In order to recuperate their investment, they will mandate the entire candidates to pay specific amount of money before their papers will be sign and collected. This payment also covers the cost of permission to use any external source to answer the examination questions. After such payments students can use their textbooks, notebooks, and the internet. They can even bring in mercenaries to solve or answer the examination questions. The few that refuse to comply will be confined to a special examination hall generally called "hell". As the name imply, candidates in this hall will be tormented, intimidated and their time slashed.
Unserious Students: Majority of students in some countries are careless about their studies. They prefer to waste their precious time at the front of television sets, watching their favorite programmes. Others are glued to their handsets and other electronic devices maximizing the temporal fun of various social media groups or playing games. Game and Football match viewing centers are truly reaping the benefits of the slow death of our reading culture. The book section of libraries are usually empty, while the political and sports newspaper section attracts the highest population of the library users. And the students seem not to be worried about their examinations because they can always bribe the supervisors.
Inadequate human and material resources: Some schools in Nigeria do not have a single English language and Mathematics subject teachers. And these two subjects are compulsory. Some secondary schools, mostly in the rural area have less than six teachers. How will the students write external examination when they were taught nothing? The only remedy is to engage in examination malpractice to get the required qualification.
Academic excellence will be a mirage when the learning environment is not conducive. Students will learn nothing when the roofs of their classrooms are leaking and there are no even desks to sit on and study. Students are seen sitting on the floor learning under trees. Many schools have no library, while libraries in other schools are either obsolete or lack relevant reading materials.
Weak Government Policy Implementation: The government agencies responsible for the supervision of schools are all drained. They fail to enforce government policies via constant supervision of schools. This has led to reduction in the quality of human and material resources. In their quest to make more profit, most private schools employ cheap unqualified teachers, which leads to production of unbaked students.
Government officials who are responsible for the supervision of schools abandon their functions for their personal business. Therefore, most private schools are registered without proper investigation. The result is that majority of registered schools in Nigeria are examination malpractice centers.
Others: Some other reasons for examination malpractice in Nigeria are poverty, fear of failure, peer pressure, lack of studying skills, sex abuse, cultism, and drug abuse.
What Are the Means of Examination Malpractice?
Examination malpractice can be accomplished through different ways but I will broadly divide them into three, based on the different actors in the process of accomplishment. They are: Examiners, School and Student malpractice.
Examiner Malpractice: This malpractice is solely coordinated by some corrupt staff of members of the examination bodies or institutions. These individuals collect money from school owners, exam racketeers and students with the aim of leaking the examination questions before time. The buyers of these secret will in turn sell the questions to other schools or students and in no time the examination question will flood the streets of the town.
Another means of examiner malpractice is when examination supervisors sent to different schools connive with the school management or students to engage in this illegal act. The school or students will give the examiner a certain amount of money and they are free to use any external material they can lay hands on. As long as they can afford the prize they can use textbooks, the internet, call mercenaries or even go home with the examination question and submit when they are through.
School Malpractice: This type involves the management and staff of schools. Each student will pay specific amount of money for the entire or specific subjects. The school will hire the subject teacher or a mercenary who will solve or answer the examination question and the answers will be written on the board (or photocopied and distributed to the students to copy) for students to copy. The students are also free to use any incriminating materials that can assist them in passing the examination.
Individual Malpractice: This is the sole responsibility of individual students. The school and the examiners are not aware of this type. Offenders are mostly students that cannot afford the high cost of bribing the school or examiners. They are also found in schools that do not tolerate examination malpractice. Students also embrace this when incorrupt examiners are sent to their schools.
Given that it is not open, the student must do everything possible to ensure he is not caught. Some students usually copy perceived exam answers on tiny pieces of papers and hid them in their pants, shoes, mouth, hair, bra, pockets, etc. Others write the answers on their clothing, body, exam hall walls, ceiling, floor, desk, etc. While others use their electronic devices to store perceived answers.
Solution to Examination Malpractice in Nigeria
The truth is,if the issue of malpractice in schools is not fixed, our school system will not be able to compete favorably with schools in the world. Currently, Nigerian students are fleeing from schools that are upright to the once that condole examination malpractice. The schools with the highest population are mostly exam malpractice kingpins. These are my few suggestions.
Skilled Manpower: The government should not appoint key stakeholders in the academic sector based on political patronage. Best hands should be employed to man the education sector. Ministers and heads of education agencies should be experienced academicians and track record administrators. Also, only qualified teachers should be employed. We know the schools need teachers, but incompetent teachers will compound the problem. And constant training of teachers should be the order of the day to integrate them with the latest global teaching standard.
Poverty Reduction: Most teachers and examiners are very poor. Most of them are engaged in malpractice because they are not well remunerated and cannot provide their basic needs of life. Hence, they embrace examination malpractice as an additional source of income. With the high level of unemployment in the country, people engage in this act to put food on their tables. If the welfare of teachers and examiners improves, most of them will shun malpractice. Also government, organizations and individuals should create more employment opportunities for citizens.
Punishment of offenders: Nobody or only few guilty examination malpractice practitioners have been punished. We have a law that prohibits examination malpractice and those found guilty will bag as much as five-year jail term or N200, 000 fine or both. We know that there are strong cartels that run this multi-million Naira business. Therefore, the government should bring offenders to book by ensuring they face the wroth of the law if found guilty.
Provision of infrastructures: Government, business organizations and well meaning individuals should step-up effort to change the current infrastructural decay in our schools. Most school needs just little maintenance work to become conducive. New well equipped classrooms should be erected. Libraries should be updated.
Active Government Supervision: Government, examination bodies and other Educational Agencies should scrutinize intending school owners before issuing the operational license. Some school owners are into business because they want to engage in malpractice. Therefore, the government should constantly supervise all schools to fish-out the "bad eggs" and such schools should be sanctioned accordingly.
Motivation of Students: Students have already been brainwashed that examination malpractice is the only way to academic success. Therefore, our students need to be re-oriented. They need to know that there are principles of academic success that will lead them to the top of their educational pursuit. The services of skilled practitioners and motivational speakers should be employed to motivate students to embrace hard work and reject examination malpractice. Academic success seminar should be organized and reading should be made interesting.
The Mass Media: We need the assistance of all the channels of mass communication to educate and enlighten the public on the effects of examination malpractice. Parents should be discouraged from financing their children's examination malpractice levy or fees. Also, reading and comprehension techniques should be publicized to enable students acquire skills that empowers them to read and understand.