Disaster as Nigeria’s Exam Malpractice Goes Digital

by Adekunle Akinyemi

This is not just an alarm.  It is real and it deserves immediate attention, if we fully understand the importance of good education for the Nigerian children.  While it may be alright to play with a few sectors in our economy, to my mind education and health are of paramount importance and should not be toyed with.  Unfortunately, these two sectors are suffering in the hands of our politicians today as I write. The Nigerian government hospital workers at all levels had been on strike for one month and the government is in no hurry to get them back to work.   The sick people continue to die as government Hospitals are closed because of the ongoing strike of the health workers.  The regular killings of the herdsmen, Boko Haram and the Armed Bandits around the country are no more newsworthy!  There is calamity all over the place.  Whatever the case, to politicians, the 2019 Election remains untouchable, even if all voters are killed, dead bodies and cows will do the voting!  What a pathetic state of this nation of ours!

For all I know, Nigeria education is almost dead.  Some of the causes of the unfortunate bad state of our education include corruption, indiscipline, dishonesty, cheating, and fraud in our examination conducts and education in general.  A few weeks ago, I read about the Ife OAU sex harassment saga as well as similar stories in other Universities.  I also came across a write up where a former Vice Chancellor from one University in the Eastern part of Nigeria brought to our attention, the new vocabularies in academia, “Internet Professors” and “China Professors”!  Whatever these means are not in the best interest of Nigeria Education.  It only confirms the truth that our education is in disarray.  An investigation of these China and Internet Professors may ultimately reveal that such professors may have been active in one form of educational malpractice or another during their career.

Gone are the days when cheating in examinations was limited to the giraffe methods.  At these times in history, miscreants, especially those who were very tall and with long necks, were able to stretch their necks to spy on their classmates’ answer scripts during examinations.  We have also heard and seen students smuggle answer sheets or cheat sheets into examination halls. In very extreme cases people had been reported to buy exam question papers.  Stories have been told about examination mercenaries who were hired to impersonate as examinees, especially the GCE.  All these were ‘amateurish’ compared to the new level of examinations malpractice as of now.

Today, students, parents, and teachers have taken the game a step further.  Parents have become the real mercenaries who do not need to be paid except with Husband paying wife or vice versa for taking exams for their child(ren).  What a mess!  Parents have contributed immensely toward the destruction of our educational system in Nigeria.   Apart from paying for mercenaries, parents have gone to the extent of buying questions for their children.  Some even assist their children in smuggling answer papers into exam halls during examinations.  Many parents are very shameless when it comes to helicopter parenting of children.  They pamper and over-pamper their kids and eventually destroy the worth of these children who are not allowed to learn, grow and make mistakes. The net effect of all these misdemeanors is that our education gets destroyed and learners are not allowed to study hard to excel in their studies, on their efforts.

On a different level, many of these parents are ready to spend whatever amount it costs, to obtain particular result for their children, especially to get into higher Institutions of their choice.  First is the WAEC Results.  Second is the NECO Results.  Third is the JAMB Results.  Forth is the University qualifying Exams.  To many parents, these are too many examinations for their dear children and they are prepared to spend whatever is demanded to get their children to cross all these hurdles by buying their way through for them!  They also go to the level of paying to change grades, getting (fake) results from the exams bodies and paying heavily to ensure that their children secure admissions to institutions and courses of their choice.

On the part of Private Secondary Schools, Proprietors and teachers are willing to do whatever it takes to get the best results for their schools, including the fraudulent means.  This is the new trend since education has been commercialised and the money bags had been able to start elite schools and admit children from the Diaspora.  The more academically sound a school is reported to be, as per GCE, WAEC and NECO results, the better the chances of attracting more Dollars and Pond Sterling from Diasporean parents.  Many Private Schools are reported to openly cheat for their students.  They bribe the Invigilators and perform all kinds of atrocities as they help their students to fraudulently perform well.  Shinning results means future high enrolment figure for the schools.    What a highway to future disaster for the children!

Public exams venues have taken a queue from the Private Schools and designated special rooms for all sorts malpractice.  Candidates are made to pay special fees to win seats in such rooms where examination questions are answered for them.  Some students are in some cases allowed to bring in answer scripts into the halls with the payment of prescribed fees.  We have heard of cases where the syndicating fraudsters stationed themselves in strategic locations to watch out for Police Officers and Supervisors coming for periodic inspections at examination venues.  In many centers, exam questions were reported to be smuggled out for ‘quick responders’ to work out the solutions and quickly return to these special candidates to write out and submit to the invigilators.  Exam Hall syndicates are destroying our education and must be eradicated from our educational system.

Many candidates have been known to write their cheating materials on different surfaces including their ties and knees, palms, skin covering, clothes, and even on currency notes etc.  Many of these materials are often tucked away in women Bras, Hijabs and other odd areas of candidates’ bodies!   There is almost no end to what cannot be used to cheat and where such cannot be hidden to be successfully smuggled into the halls.  Examinations bodies need to do more in curbing these anomalies to make their results and certificates credible.

As if the foregoing, are not bad enough, the level of fraud, dishonesty and pranks in examinations has gone global and digital!  Today there are websites selling exam questions and or answers of impending (Upcoming) examinations!  This has become an open secret and it is not only shameful but disappointing.  Technologies which were designed to make life easier and smoother are now being used to destroy our educational system.  What a paradox! Many questions or answers are sold for N400.00 each or Q & A for N700.00.  How many students will be left in schools, if there are cheaper ways to take and pass public examinations in Nigeria?   This is a great calamity to our much-cherished educational system.  When I saw the web advertisement during the last WAEC (April, 2018), I thought it was a mere joke.  On further enquiries I was told that that this disaster had become the order of the day in Nigeria.  We have now digitized our examination malpractice in Nigeria.   The social media is doing its own part as the Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Youtube, Text messaging, email, etc. etc.  have all become ready tools in the hands of dishonest candidates.   Many unscrupulous people have perfected the art of illegally aiding candidates during exam sessions.  What a paradox?  The social media which was designed to be a good servant has been turned into a bad master to our educational system!

There is no doubt that the various examinations bodies have a compendium of Examination Malpractices in their custody or record. One can only hope that a comprehensive book is compiled and published for the benefit of Educators and Nigerians in general.  The scope and complexity of the problem must be made public and made clear to all Nigerians   It will be nice for the exam bodies to bring a halt to the trend of examination malpractice in Nigeria.  These cannot be allowed to continue as we try to save our nation’s educational system from total collapse.  It will also be good if culprits are identified and openly shamed and disgraced, to serve as deterrents to others. Proprietors, Schools, Parents, Teachers, Students and other perpetrators need to be called to order before they become disgraced and jailed as scape goats.

Where do we go from here?  What are our governments doing at all levels?  What are the Examination Bodies doing about these kids bringing them to this level of dishonour?   What are parents doing about this miseducation of their children and helicopter parenting.?  Is it making parents happy that their children can illegally score high marks to qualify for Institutions and courses of their choice in Nigerian Universities?  What are the Nigerian communities doing?  Are we all more preoccupied with the 2019 Elections while we watch our educational system collapsing?   Can educators rise to protest this anomaly to save us all from the imminent educational disaster?  There must be possible solutions for curbing the abuse of the social media misuse in education.  Education Researchers now have to get to work and find solutions to the problems.  This cannot continue and it must be stopped.  On my part, I suggest that CELL PHONES MUST BE DISABLED IN ALL EXAM HALLS henceforth.  It is as simple as that.  This technology is currently available and can be installed in exam environments to demobilize phone in exam locations.

This situation is saddening and disgusting to say the least.  It does not seem that anybody is moved by this impending ruin of our educational system.  What is top on our minds of Nigerians now is the 2019 elections.   Must our education collapse before our very own eyes?  I think that our politicians are more interested in the continuing jumbo salaries and benefits, loots and corruption rather than saving our educational system.  Our Health workers in Teaching Hospitals and General Hospitals remain on strike for over one month and no one is taking any notice of this, except the sick and unhealthy Nigerians.  There is fire on the mountain and everyone must run and take care of him/herself.  I can now reasonably conclude that IN NIGERIA, POLITICS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE HEALTH OF THE PEOPLE AND THE GOOD EDUCATION OF OUR CHILDREN.  This is understandably so because the children of politicians and looters go abroad for better education while their parents get medical attention abroad when required.  What an undeserved privilege at the expense of the masses!  This is bad enough.

Some suggestions to ameliorate and save Nigeria Education from total   collapse:

Imposition of severe punishments on education offenders at all levels.

Installation of ‘Cellphone Disablers’ in Public Exams venues.

Intensive national public campaigns against exam malpractice.

Strategic campaign schedules on exam malpractice during the year.

Examination bodies to change exam and Question drafting strategies.

Need for sophisticated technologies in exams administration.

Need for increased awareness on the ills and impacts of exams malpractice.

As things are, if nothing is done very urgently to arrest the situation of our backsliding educational system, no nation will be ready to relate with us educationally because our products will not be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with others, in the era of globalization.    Nigerians please wake up from your slumber, our education is dying slowly.  It may be too late and too costly to start repairing damages.  A word is enough for the wise.

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