It was meant to be an informal social conversation over one of the communication networks in Nigeria, and this outcome could not have been predictable. The simple question was “how about the WAEC examinations, are you not participating?” The answer was “No, I hate malpractice……; WAEC supervision is malpractice personified.” It was an unexpected bombshell that suddenly exploded in my face! The respondent at the other end was an old student of mine, who now teaches biology in one of the secondary schools in my state. In her current position, she would have been one of the old, trusted and dependable candidates WAEC could rely on for examination supervision. She is however, totally excluded from the process because of the prevailing culture of examination malpractice. The discussion that followed this outburst revealed mind boggling details about the level of decadence in the hierarchy of our educational set-up.
While we may quickly dismiss this as the opinion of one individual, the number of teachers that are becoming disenchanted with the situation in our secondary schools, particularly during the examinations is growing. The sad aspect of the conversation that followed is that the respondent and many others in her shoes are totally disillusioned as they do not expect a change in the situation soon, as very highly placed individuals in the ministry of education are believed to be involved. Worse still, this group is treated with suspicion by their colleagues who are entrenched in this vice and simply stay away from the scene in order to maintain their sanity. A teacher cousin of mine with the same disposition as this respondent simply took a French leave just to avoid the insanity of the examination season!
These WAEC supervisors are not regular staff of the West African Examination Council; they are selected from among the teachers in the Local Government Area involved through the Chief Inspector of Education (CIE) in-charge. There are tales of prospective supervisors being asked to pay N10, 000 by compromised CIEs in order to be included in the supervisors’ list. Your name is simply replaced if you do not pay this bribe!
These corrupt examination supervisors are therefore the chief facilitators of examination malpractice in the different centres they are deployed to. The stakes are even higher if the supervisor is deployed to one of the numerous ‘miracle centres’ that have sprung up in the states in recent times; all he or she needs to do is to play the “blind, deaf and dumb” game with the corrupt school administrators after collecting the reward upfront.
The thriving miracle centres in the country are clear indications of the failure of the inspectorate division of the state ministries of education to curb the criminal tendencies of their operators. This failure bothers on criminal negligence of duty and collusion with the criminal gangs that administer these institutions for personal gains, thus sabotaging the clearly defined policies of the state governments. Furthermore, in the absence of reliable statistics, the various state governments continue to commit scarce resources to payment of examination fees for the large number of SSCE candidates that are illegally enrolled in these government institutions that have metamorphosed into miracle centres. No wonder an exasperated Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State recently dismissed 41 Zonal Inspectors, Chief Inspectors of Education and Local Government Education officers for ineptitude and negligence of duty.
Heart-warming however was the assertion that the WAEC officials are generally not corrupt. As soon as they appear on the scene, the corrupt school administrators are said to make adjustments to their game plans to avoid detection. Unfortunately, these officials do not stay long enough in any centre before moving to the next in the course of their duty, and the ‘show’ simply resumes thereafter.
But even the stickiest problem certainly has a solution. The major national examinations bodies should jointly begin to recruit a core of incorruptible supervisors from the experienced teachers that are currently excluded from the process because of unbridled corruption in the system. Their initial role would be to provide intelligence on hot spots of examination malpractice, so that concrete actions could be taken against the perpetrators. Furthermore, they could also be empowered to gather reliable statistics on the student population of the secondary schools in every state of the country on a yearly basis, thus providing the initial data for the purpose of planning by all interested stake holders. Finally, they could form the core of a new generation of examination supervisors who would eventually replace the corrupt and unreliable officials selected by the CIEs.
Implementing these suggestions would at least bring some immediate relief to the troubled Nigerian educational system. Long term solutions should include improvements in the quality of teachers and teaching fundamentals, provision of conducive learning environment and learning aids, and placing an unaffordable premium on examination malpractice. (National Mirror)