The scourge of examination malpractice has refused to be tamed in this country despite examination bodies’ best efforts. Instead, it is attracting greater patronage from students at all levels of the educational system. Examination malpractice is defined as any deliberate act that contradicts laid down rules designed to guide the conduct of candidates and examination officials within and around examination venues. At the formal opening last week of the 65th Annual council meeting of West African Examinations Council [WAEC] in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo berated the menace of examination malpractice, which he said is a reflection of the failure of values in the society.
In its attempt to tackle the menace, WAEC indicted 121 secondary schools in Kano State for their involvement in malpractices in last year’s examination. This was disclosed at a recent consultative meeting of WAEC with principals and proprietors of private schools in Kano. Director, Kano Educational Resource Department (KERD) Alhaji Garba Gombe said 97 schools in the state received warning letters while 24 others were derecognized by WAEC for their involvement in examination malpractices.
Similarly, the National Examinations Council (NECO) declared in September last year that 43,905 candidates who sat for its 2016 Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) were involved in various forms of examination malpractice. NECO put the number of schools involved in the ‘mass cheating’ at 194, while the number of schools derecognized for examination malpractice was put at 14. This figure showed an increase of 297 cases over the 2015 statistics. Sokoto State topped the 2016 list with 3,939 cases representing 8.97 percent.
Examination malpractice comes in different forms including leakage of examination questions prior to the time scheduled for it; impersonation; lax supervision in the examination hall; possession or use of unauthorized devices that can compromise the integrity of the examination including GSM phones, palm tops and wrist watches; exchanging information written on a question paper; possessing or concealing cheat materials; writing on clothes or any part of the body; and swapping of examination booklets in the examination hall. The situation is so bad that examination venues which are notorious in perpetrating these forms of malpractices are called ‘miracle centers’.
There have been reported cases also of schools paying examination center supervisors to look the other way while students engage in malpractices. Such paid-supervisors sometimes sit far away from examination halls so as to allow candidates cheat during the examination. Collaboration also takes place between school authorities and security agents deployed to examination centers just as invigilators are paid by candidates to aid and abet cheating during examinations.
Many factors are responsible for the increasing incidents of examination malpractice in the country. The fiat by some states’ ministries of education to principals that schools that fail to obtain specific percentage pass in the SSCE result of its students shall be sanctioned has pushed some schools to engage in malpractice. Some parents too are guilty of perpetrating the evil by hiring mercenaries to write examinations for their children or wards. The extensive emphasis laid especially by employers of labour in both public and private sectors on certificates impels students to want to pass examinations at all costs; even if it were through examination malpractices.
Various examination bodies are commended for sanctioning schools that engaged or encouraged examination malpractice. This notwithstanding, all examination bodies in the country including WAEC, NECO, NABTEB and JAMB should make concerted efforts at taking advantage of modern technology to check the menace. State ministries of education must stop putting undue pressure on schools to produce the best exam results.
To curtail the menace, parents should encourage their children to work hard to pass their examinations. Examination bodies are also advised to reject any requests from invigilators and supervisors for concessional postings. The tenure of officials of examination bodies, like schools’ examination officers, must not be allowed to extend beyond a reasonable period of time. This is to avert the risks associated with familiarity.