Education remains the bedrock, par excellence, in influencing national development and remains critical in the 21st century knowledge economy. It is on this basis that, every year, huge chunk of Nigeria’s resources is invested in its education sector.
It is believed that if people are properly educated, it would translate to national development. For instance, the knowledge of the educated person would be channeled into productive activities to spur infrastructural development, national productivity and economic growth.
With this in mind, students are evaluated through examinations to prove that they have learnt well. Unfortunately, some examinees resort to malpractice. This attitude has implications for the educational system and national productivity.
One of such implications is that examination malpractice results in the production of unemployable graduates. When this is the case, we end up with quack doctors who cannot perform to support their assumed qualifications. Over the years, we have seen teachers who cannot competently handle the subjects they were trained to teach.
Classes of examination malpractice
The West African Examination Council (WAEC) in 1992 classified examination malpractice as bringing in of foreign or unauthorised material into the examination hall; irregular activities inside or outside the examination hall; collusion; impersonation; assault/insult on supervisors or invigilators; mass cheating and special cases.
Just as an evolving system, other forms of examination malpractice have emerged, such as falsification of examination result by examinees or even examiners; storage of questions and answers in mobile phones; and creation of examination centres outside the coverage of Internet detections.
The others are the access of questions through the Internet on the eve of an examination; conniving with employees of examination bodies to access live questions; giving or receiving assistance of varied kinds from parents and other allied groups; and causing confusion and distractions to enable prepared answers come into the examination hall.
There have been reported cases of teachers or lecturers soliciting and wooing colleagues for the award of unmerited grades to their favourite students, or even parents acting at the same capacity. There are also cases where examinees have foreknowledge of the questions before the actual examination time (leakage); verbal exchange of ideas and giraffing due to proximity of test-mates and overcrowdedness; bribing invigilators and supervisors to turn ‘blind eyes’ to malpractice or giving examination contractors and impersonators the questions to take away to prepare answers outside the examination hall. There is also the case of awarding inflated marks to students by teachers/lecturers.
Let’s face it: causes of examination malpractices
Meanwhile, several reasons have been advanced as the factors of examination malpractice.
The society blames the menace on moral decadence: the standard of moral virtues among the youths is falling. Religionists blame it on declining value system: there is loss in the dignity of labour; rather achievement is judged in terms of material wealth.
The labour unions have also given us excuses; blaming examination malpractice on economic factors, in the sense that low income or poor remuneration of teachers in Nigeria has made some of them vulnerable to undignified forms of making money.
Ask the students, they will tell you that the fear of ‘Diploma Disease’ is the beginning of this evil. Undue emphasis on certificate has made everyone to aspire for it, hence encouraging examination malpractice.
There is also the psychological factor. Students lack confidence in their capabilities, thus they indulge in malpractice to avoid being stigmatised as failures.
If you point at poor teaching and the learning environment, you will not be wrong. Most of the schools in Nigeria lack adequate infrastructure for proper learning to take place. Since students are ill-equipped, they resort to examination malpractice to pass. Also, proper examination and interviews are no longer used as criteria for gaining admission into schools. Worse still is the issue of mass promotion.
Parental pressure and expectations on children: aome parents are willing to resort to various corrupt tactics to enhance their children’s success in public examinations.
We believe this is still a reflection of today’s Nigeria. Yes, it discredits the entire educational system. Sometimes, the country focuses on misplaced priority and rewarding mediocrity.
The irony today is that while the best graduating student is presented with a dictionary or N10,000 mock-cheque, the winner of a TV reality show (without real impact on people’s lives) drives home in an expensive car and millions of money to spend. This can discourage hardworking students.
Hard working students are demoralised and disillusioned as they see dull students make better grades from their lecturers.
So, a week ago, news about the Polytechnic Ibadan (Poly Ibadan) setting ablaze smartphones, which were seized from some students in the examination hall, buzzed around.
The news spurred varying reactions. Although we could not ascertain the number of years it took the school authorities to gather the huge number of smartphones from the examination halls, it shows that students are resorting to dangerous self-help because schools, students and the society have continued to be certificate-conscious rather than focus on practical knowledge.
While speaking to journalists, the Deputy Rector Polytechnic Ibadan, Mr Bayo Oyeleke, said that the act was done in a bid to ensure that future examinations in the school would be seen as sacred.
Truly, like we established above, examination malpractice is more than just a vice; it is a crime and should be frowned upon.
However, dumping smartphones, or any type of phone, into a hold to burn them is rather medieval, barbaric and a disrespect to the environment, especially now that the world is battling climate change.
As much as we are not against the school authority ‘disposing the phones’, but the manner they went about it shows little understanding of technology and the huge impact such action will have in that environment.
The advancement of the new cell phone technology from 3G to 4G and beyond creates a slight dilemma. Any avid mobile phone user wants the latest and greatest services that are available and the only way to keep up is to buy a new phone.
We have seen cases where phones are traded in for a few bucks for the new model. In some cases, they are thrown in the trash, which is environmentally dangerous.
There are several metals and chemicals in cell phones that are very hazardous to health.
Mobile phones and accessories, according to studies, contain a variety of toxic materials including lead, nickel, mercury, manganese, lithium, zinc, arsenic, antimony, beryllium and copper. So, burning them implies releasing those toxic materials to the environment. This should be discouraged.
The options for getting rid of an old phone are minimal but sensible:
There are many options for donating devices – probably to charity organisations. A quick search for such should have given the school options. But we understand the hassle of unlocking such phones to delete sensitive information and the legal angle to it. So, this may not be the best option.
Reselling mobile devices has become quite popular and will provide the school with some extra cash as well. The students would have to re-buy the phones and the funds raised would be utilised in deploying technology in Poly Ibadan examination halls. Hello!
Many cell phone manufacturers, service providers or other non-profit groups often have programmes to refurbish mobile devices or recycle their components, including peripheral devices like chargers and casins. Recycling keeps the heavy metals and toxins out of our landfills. It is a wise choice the school should have adopted.
Yes, disposing of a cell phone in the manner it was done is never recommended. If it needed to have done it properly, the school should have contacted the Oyo State Ministry of Environment or the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) for advice on how to properly go about it without constituting danger to the health of the people.
The hard truth is that burning of phones will not curb examination malpractice.
Examination malpractice is not restricted to phones. There are a thousand other ways through which the criminal act can be carried out. If the school’s aim was, truly, to curb examination malpractice, burning of the phones was a bad, futile, move.
The average person seeks ways to overcome challenges by seeking solutions and options. For the student who believes that the only way to pass is through examination malpractice, burning his phone might be another way of saying, ‘Discover a foolproof way to cheat’.
Also, no matter how small or insignificant it might appear to be, burning of the phones, which were said to be worth millions in naira, was an avoidable defect in the nation’s economy. Every little action, taken or not taken, has an effect on the economy and this truth should be taken into consideration when decisions are made.
There are many other ways to discipline any one who is caught in the act. Burning his or her phone is an infringement of rights and could someday snowball into violence.
It was not the best of moves. And to see that this great institution has the ‘Centre for Information & Data Management’ makes the matter even ridiculous.
The school authorities might have to revisit the laws and avoid using extreme and unconventional measures to pass across messages to students. One way to do it right would be to allow the law to take its course. Examination malpractice is a crime, and allowing the law enforcement authorities take charge would do better to instil right thinking in the students than interrupting their life.
In this digital age, a phone is many things to its owner. Seizing and burning it might just be against human rights.
Due to the inherent danger to people’s health and the environment, we discourage other schools from towing the path of burning phones as leeway to end examination malpractice.