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The clampdown on examination cheats

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The recent announcement of the involvement of 113 secondary schools in examination malpractice by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) is yet another confirmation of the breakdown of moral values in Nigeria.

It is worrisome that schools that should be responsible for inculcating the values of honesty and integrity in students are neck-deep in attempts to compromise public examinations. The 113 schools, which have now had their recognition as centres for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) withdrawn, are spread all over the country.

They were sanctioned by WAEC after its Nigerian Examinations Committee (NEC) deliberated on exhibits seized from candidates involved in examination malpractice during the May/June 2012 examinations. The Council also cancelled results of 30,654 candidates over misconduct, in line with the rules guiding the conduct of the WASSCE.

Individual subject results of 83,745 candidates suffered the same fate, while 3,321 candidates were barred from sitting for WAEC examinations for two years. Ninety-seven supervisors, principals and other examination personnel who were found wanting in their handling of the examinations were also blacklisted, while 465 schools were warned for aiding and abetting examination malpractice. We commend WAEC for moving against the schools and candidates that were found to have compromised the integrity of its examinations.

The NEC of WAEC, which was chaired by the Director of Basic and Secondary Education in the Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja, did a good job. It acted wisely to check fraud in the conduct of the examination. Examination malpractice has, for many years now, compromised the integrity of many public examinations. The confirmation that 113 schools spread throughout the country were involved in this practice, with another 465 warned and put on a watch list over the same offence, shows the pervasive nature of the problem. It is a sure indication that urgent measures are required if the value of certificates issued by WAEC are not to be called to question. However, the problem of malpractice during public examinations is not limited to WASSCE.

It is a common problem with most public examinations, including the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) and the National Examinations Council (NECO). The malpractice is also not limited to students and schools alone. Some examination bodies openly aid malpractice through creation of “special centres”, which have, with time, become cesspools of examination fraud.

The desperation to obtain entry qualifications into tertiary institutions also fuels malpractice. The situation is not helped by the dearth of spaces in higher institutions in the country. The Minister of Education, Professor Ruqqayatu Rufa’i, confirmed the low carrying capacity of Nigerian tertiary institutions during the last UTME examination when she said 1.2 million of the 1,735,720 candidates who took the examination would not secure admission because all the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in Nigeria can only admit 520,000.

To solve these problems, government should devise strategies to increase admission spaces. Education authorities and teachers should prepare students adequately for examinations. They should inculcate in them respect for hard work, honesty and discipline. We support the decision of WAEC to blacklist erring schools.

This should go a long way in discouraging examination fraud. There is also the need for re-orientation of students towards honesty and seriousness with their studies. Let other examination bodies such as JAMB and NECO adopt the WAEC strategy of blacklisting erring schools, teachers and invigilators in order restore sanity in public examinations.

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