Nigeria House of Representatives has just passed a bill that will allow stricter fine against students found to be cheating during WAEC (West African Examination Council). Fine of ₦200k, an increment from the current ₦2k or they could be sent to 5 years in jail or both. Here
To reduce exam malpractices in Nigeria, we need to trace back to the source of the problem. Focus energies and resources into charging and convicting teachers from primary school teachers to university professors. It was the teachers who made it acceptable for students to cheat in the first place. They set unrealistic expectations so that the only people who could pass would be the one that bribed their way through. The expectations were never backed up with adequate studying materials, lectures and libraries in schools have all closed up.
The origin of all exam malpractices in Nigeria did not start yesterday, it has a long history span to over two decades, maybe more. It used to be the big cities issue so people from small towns and villages like myself were in the dark, we just assumed we were not as smart as ‘others.’ You would not need any academic reports to know this, anyone who has gone through any form of schooling in Nigeria in the last twenty years would have a thing or two to say about exam cheats. You may have never practiced it but you certainly knew/know someone, who knows someone that has 8 straight As and when you talk to them, they could not pass for a D.
My secondary school days were bliss. I didn’t know anything about cheating during exams. However, a year later, my eyes were “opened,” so much that I thought I was in a completely different planet and I was only 30 kilometres or so away from my old school. I enrolled at Olode Grammar School in Osun State to re-take a few of my papers. At this school, exam malpractices was so rampant, it was the way of life. Many students relied on odu or Expo so much that they could not answer what their name was without checking somewhere first. It was not a secret, everyone does it. You would even be advised to leave the school by well meaning adults. My friend and I were given such advice by a WAEC tutor – Fatai. After meeting him one afternoon trying to see if he could prep us for WAEC, he was very attentive and later told us that we were in the wrong place as everyone who came to this particular school to retake WAEC or GCSE knew they would pay in cash and “kind” and they would get all their papers. My friend and I were from an all girls Catholic school where exam cheats at the time was unheard of, so Fatai’s story sounded more like a terrible fiction to us.
When you step out of Nigeria to study especially in North America or in the UK, no one really cares about your Nigeria certificates as they knew how common exam malpractices are so you would be made to do extra tests to proof yourself, the exercise in itself is not bad as the system is fair and you have materials for studying but the constant doubts attached to any Nigeria certificate can be humiliating sometimes.
If you pick any higher institution randomly today, go to their school library and check past thesis sections, it is embarrassing to see that most of what you would come across is real life plagiarism and yet we blamed the students and not the teachers. Every teacher in our higher institutions are authors – nothing wrong with that except that their handouts were directly lifted from someone else’s books without permission – intellectual property rights is non existence.
We all know the truth, that what you did not study for, you would never understand it. Many students were raised today with the mind set that the only way to get good grades is by cheating during exams – teachers orchestrated this by receiving bribes in exchange for high grades and parents supporting their children by paying for them to cheat. We all know this but why are we punishing only the students whose lives were being affected by cheating in the first place – that is double punishment. Why not punish the teachers and exam coordinators who leaked exam questions and answers. In this age of smart phones, Nigeria students have found smarter ways of cheating, electronic devices taped underneath their desk overnight reportedly someone wight he help of exam supervisors.
I think if we genuinely want to fight exam cheats in our schools, it will have to be everyone’s fight. Strict consequences for teachers at various levels caught selling questions/answers even if it was during internal exams, extending the punishment to parents in forms of mentioning their names publicly and equally important is resuscitation of school libraries.
Charging students alone will never work.