Mixed reactions have greeted the proposed N200,000 penalty for any examination cheat in the West African Examination Council.
A bill seeking to provide stiffer penalties against examination malpractice passed second reading at the House of Representatives last Thursday.
It sought to amend the existing West African Examination Council Act, 2004, to provide penalties of up to N200,000 against offenders.
From the current fine of N2,000, the amendment sought to increase it to N200,000.
Leading the debate on the bill, the House Majority Leader, Mulikat Akande-Adeola, said there was the need to amend Sections 20/21 of the Principal Act to incorporate the new fine.
Educationists who spoke to our correspondent differ in their reactions to the proposed penalty.
Some of them said those who aid such offenders should get stiffer penalties, while some argued that the government should address the factors that produce cheat in the first place.
Prof. Duro Ajeyalemi of the University of Lagos, said though N200,000 fine was an improvement over the former fine of N2,000, he suggested that stiffer penalties should be meted out to those who aided and abetted the examination cheats.
He suggested that whoever was caught cheating should also be prosecuted.
He said, “Definitely, it is a step towards ending cheating during examination. It is commendable. But what about those who aid cheating?
“A parent, principal or proprietor of a school linked to examination malpractice should also be prosecuted, and if found guilty made to pay fine that runs into millions of naira and should be sent to jail.
“This, I believe will serve as a deterrent to others who may want to do the same thing.”
Another educationist, Mr. Remi Omosowon, agreed with Ajeyalemi that examination malpractice was condemnable, and no punishment would be too harsh for an offender.
He, however, noted that there were some factors which contribute to it.
Corruption, he pointed out, was number one, and failure of the teachers and the schools to impart the pupils with the right knowledge that would adequately prepare them to sit for any examination, without recourse to cheating.
He said, “A lot of schools parade their pupils’ grades on the pages of newspaper. It is good, if those pupils did not cheat, and were not aided by anyone to score those grades. Again, what about the money that should be used to provide infrastructure in schools that has been embezzled?
“Furthermore, the question must also be asked: were the pupils well taught before the examination? Did the school introduce entrepreneurial studies to the pupils, to let them know that they could also make it by developing their skills? These are the questions that must be answered before making such law.”
A lawyer/educationist, Mrs. Jennifer Okoli, said the N200,000 would be like a pat on the wrist, considering the gravity of the offence.
She said it could only serve as a deterrent to those from poor background, and thus suggested that a jail term would have far more reaching effect on curbing examination malpractice.
She said, “There’s a stigma attached to being an ex-convict, so I believe the penalty for examination cheats should not be monetised, jail terms would be better. It would go a long way in curtailing examination malpractice.”
Another educationist, Dr. Demola Azeez, while also condemning examination malpractice stated that apart from penalty of N200,000, offenders’ pictures and names should be published in newspapers.
This, he said, would deter others from cheating. According to him, nobody wants his/her names in the public domain for the wrong reason.
Azeez, who commended the lawmakers’ initiative, advised them to employ the same enthusiasm, in enacting laws that would proffer stiffer penalties for corruption.
He said, “I commend the lawmakers for their enthusiasm in seeing that the bill becomes law, the House should also use the same vigour to come up with stiffer penalties for those who steal public funds.”