The importance of education in our nation cannot be over emphasized as it helps in the all-round growth and development of an individual as well as the society at large.
Growth and development trends of the Nigerian education system have not been without hitches that have become national issues.
Examination malpractice aside, poor funding of the sector, incessant strike by staff unions and inadequate facilities have been major issues that now require urgent solutions.
Results of public examinations have become suspect, with many candidates that passed through exam fraud securing admission and after a session, such candidates are unable to cope then raising questions on entry requirements and their viability. In recent times, tertiary institutions were forced to introduce post JAMB screening and the outcome has revealed the need to address the scourge.
The increase and sophistry candidates have introduced into it even through the use of hired hands and agents seem to overwhelm exam bodies such as WAEC, National Examinations Council (NECO) and Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
They have not however, given up on finding solution to the problem. For two day, WAEC brought together key stakeholders, top government officials from the five member countries, federal and state ministries of education, teachers and students to discuss and find solution to the scourge threatening the education system.
The two-day International summit on examination malpractice discussed ‘Examination Malpractice: The contemporary realities and antidotes’. It held at the Academy Inn and Multipurpose Hall, Ikeja, Lagos and attracted stakeholders from The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the host Nigeria. The event was a bold attempt by the council to share ideas about the menace and agree on a common position of how to address the cankerworm.
Experts said reported cases of irregularity/examination malpractice can be classified according to the council’s rules and regulations and manifest as bringing foreign materials into the examination hall; irregular activities inside and outside the hall; collusion; leakage; impersonation; mass cheating; insult/assault on supervisors/invigilators or other examination officials and new cases, where applicable.
Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, University of The Gambia, Prof Pierre Gomez, in his paper that drew applause, said examination malpractice is a testimony of the collapse of education and at the same time an early warning or signal of the collapse of nations stating.
He said: “So, if we have to save the image of our education and ipso facto of our nations, we must spare no effort in the fight against examination malpractice.”
Giving country by country analyses of the trend in three member countries, he explained that report on Ghana showed that in the May/June 2013-2015, at least 5,653 representing 1.38 per cent of candidates in 2013; 8,051 representing 3.35 per cent of registered candidates in 2014 and 12,754 representing 4.72 per cent in the 2015 exam engaged in some form of exam fraud. The report further claims that collusion detected in scripts was the most dominant type of malpractice over the reported period. It accounted for 67.84 per cent of the number of malpractices recorded in 2014 and 79.59 percent in 2015.
He revealed that in 2013 WAEC coordinated exams in Nigeria, at least 115,791 candidates representing 7.75 per cent of registered candidates and 48,742 candidates representing 16.4 per cent of registered candidates were involved in one or more cases of examination malpractice in the May/June 2013 and Nov/Dec 2013 exams respectively. For this reason, 27,740 candidates had their entire results cancelled and another 96,538 candidates had their subject results cancelled.
Going further, he stated that in 2015, however, there was a decline in the May/June exam and a corresponding slight increment in the Nov/Dec exams. 128,699candidates representing 8.09 per cent and 36,011 candidates representing 15.18 per cent of the registered candidates were involved in some form of examination malpractice. For this, 20,132 candidates had their entire results cancelled and another 93,183 candidates had subject results cancelled in the May/June exam and 13,191 entire results cancelled and 19,904 subject results cancelled in the Nov/Dec exams respectively.
For The Gambia, Prof Gomez, said the report from the WAEC office claimed that the reported cases of examination malpractice from the May/June 2013 to Nov/Dec 2015 were presented to The Gambia Examinations Committee (GAMEC) for appropriate decisions. It shows that the number of candidates involved in examination malpractice fluctuated in the period under review. The number rose from 191 representing 2.27 per cent in 2013 to 259 representing 2.73per cent in 2014 and then slumped to 42 representing 0.44 per cent in 2015.
His words: ‘’Member Countries could establish special courts, Examination Malpractices Courts whose jurisdiction will be the prosecution of violators of examination laws and examination rules and regulations. Where prosecution of examination violators is not only heard but seen, it will be an effective measure to curb examination malpractices to a large extent,’’ he added.
The Examination Malpractice Act 33 of 1999 Section 1 (2) provides for the punishment of cheating in the case of a person under the age of 18 years, to a fine of Nl00,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment, in the case of a principal, teacher, an invigilator, a supervisor, an examiner, or an agent or employee of the examination body concerned with the conduct of an examination, to imprisonment for a term of four years without the option of a fine; and in any other case, to imprisonment for a term of three years without the option of a fine.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Zonal Commissioner (South West) Mr. Shintema Binga, in his presentation on “Statutory provisions against examination malpractice” said despite the above provisions and punishments, examination malpractices were still on the increase. This cumulated to the approval to amend the WAEC Act 2004 which evolved with the sophistication of examination malpractices.
Binga said ICPC Act, 2000 was enacted to fight corruption, it can also form part of statutory provisions against Examination Malpractice. Section 2 of the ICPC Act defines corruption to include bribery, fraud and other related offences. Thus, examination malpractice can be said to fall under the fraud definition of corruption.
According to him, the various bodies saddled with the conduct of examinations cannot be left alone to curb the scourge, noting that it would require’’ a collaborative effort involving stakeholders in the education sector and every Nigerian citizen. If the examination bodies are to fight it alone, it will be like the case of fire outbreak coming from the river: only God will be able to stop it.”
Weapons in exam halls
The WAEC Registrar, Dr. Iyi Uwadiae, painted a worrisome dimension examination malpractice has assumed in the country and other member nations with candidates and agents desperate to perpetuate the act.
He revealed that examination fraudsters now carry guns and chemical to examination centres to either kill or maim invigilators or supervisors who attempt to stop them from cheating.
The Registrar who spoke ahead of the summit said the trend is common in the private candidate examination, Nov/Dec West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
The conclusion was a call for collaboration to tackle the menace before it kills the education system.