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Why examination malpractice thrives

By Babatunde Ayedoju

The menace of examination malpractice is one monster that has continued to trouble Nigeria’s educational sector. Year in, year out, the major examination bodies in Nigeria, such as West African Examinations Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO), and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), continue to give worrisome statistics about examination malpractices in the country.

From copying fellow candidates to bringing in cheat notes or books and even hiring mercenaries, candidates continue to defy examiners to get grades that they do not merit. Though examination bodies, over time, have adopted measures like withholding results of candidates suspected to have cheated and sometimes closing Computer Based Test (CBT) centres, the trend has continued unabated.

WAEC’s Head of National Office (Nigeria), Patrick Areghan, last year, reported that 365,564 results were seized due to examination malpractices. Similarly, 102, 058 were withheld in 2018, 180, 205 in 2019 and 215, 149 in 2020.

Similarly, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of NECO, Dantali Wushishi, in 2021 reported that 20, 003 candidates, representing 1.63 per cent were caught cheating. That was in contrast with the 33, 470 cases, representing 2.63 per cent, that were recorded in 2020.

Even JAMB is not spared, as statistics show that 79, 123 results were withheld in 2017, 111, 981 in 2018 and 34, 120 in 2019. Still fresh in the memory is the story of 19 year old Ejikeme Mmesoma from Anambra State who inflated her UTME score from 249 to 362, making herself the best candidate in the examination. The Anambra State Government was on the verge of honouring her for what appeared to be an outstanding feat when the cat was let out of the bag.

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Though she initially summoned courage to deny that she manipulated her result, Miss Ejikeme later owned up as evidence provided by the examination body indicted her beyond any reasonable doubt, leaving her with no other choice than to tender an apology publicly for her misbehaviour. That was after JAMB had slammed a three-year ban on her.

History has it that examination malpractice in Nigeria dates back to 1914 during the Senior Cambridge Local Examination when some exam questions were allegedly leaked to students beforehand. At that time, examinations like the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), NECO and UTME were yet to come into existence, because WAEC was established in 1952, NECO in 1999 and JAMB in 1978.

Unfortunately, after over a hundred years, the monster has defied all measures taken by appropriate examination bodies to deal with it. What could be the secret behind the this sad trend that has made it difficult for stakeholders to overcome?

Early this month, during a courtesy visit to the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Lekan Balogun, the new South West Zonal Coordinator of NECO, Deborah Fukop, blamed the continual trend of examination malpractice on supervisors whom she accused of compromising the process.

Responding to a call made by the traditional ruler that the exam body should look into the matter of examination malpractice, she said, “We are conscious of our revered father’s observation and we are not folding arms because of the importance and strategic position we find ourselves. We cannot afford to fail the country, but our Royal Father would agree with me that we only conduct examinations while our supervisors, who are teachers are responsible for the execution.

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“There are enough mechanisms in place to check malpractices before, during and after the examinations, but, if and when those saddled with the responsibility at any of the stages compromise the system, we become helpless. Nevertheless, we are up and doing as we give sanctions to schools and individuals found culpable as remarked by Your Imperial Majesty,” she said.

Ondo State’s Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Victor Amoko, blamed examination malpractices on parents, teachers and students. He identified them as stakeholders who need to work as a team to fight against the ugly trend. He observed that some schools do not have sufficient teachers and even some of the teachers available are not doing their job as expected. He also said that some students refuse to go to school and read their books as expected, just as some parents are not able to provide for the needs of their children.

He said, “If one side is fighting against examination malpractice and the other side does not play its role, the trend will continue. Some parents will even pay for their children to be enrolled in miracle centres because they have been made to believe that there is another means by which their children can pass their exams. It is only when all of us join hands together to fight against examination malpractice that it can stop.”

Odun Ofere, a teacher, blamed examination malpractice on several factors, one of which is lack of preparation by students. He noted that a lot of students fail to prepare early for their examinations, thus having to resort to cutting corners to pass, while some are pushed into it by low self-esteem which occurs when they see their mates winning prizes for academic performance.

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He equally observed that some schools aid examination malpractice in order to attract patronage through the very high scores that their students might end up with. Another set of people whom he found culpable are parents who want emergency success for their children, thereby desperately doing everything possible to make sure that their children score very high marks in their examinations.

Ofere, among other things, recommended that school administrators should take a very firm stand against examination malpractice, such as expulsion of students who are caught cheating. He also said that the influence of parents on the administrative process of the school should be minimised.

“Schools should not mount too much pressure on teachers that all their students must pass every subject because such undue pressure makes some teachers to directly or indirectly aid examination malpractice among their students. Some even go as far as adding to the marks of their students, which is still a form of examination malpractice,” he added.

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