The consequences of malpractice on our educational standard and progression as a country cannot be underestimated. However, this is a topic no one is talking about; even those who attempt to demystify the causes, forms, and consequences of malpractice in Nigeria have failed to explore some aspects of it. I shall communicate some varieties of ways Nigerian undergraduates engage in malpractice while demystifying the impediments of this act on Nigeria’s progression.
Examination malpractice can be defined in multiple ways. The definition that seems encompassing is the one by the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC which defines examination malpractice as ‘any irregular behaviour or act exhibited by candidates or anybody charged with the responsibility of conducting an examination in or outside the examination hall, before, during or after such examination with the aim of taking undue advantage.’ Some of the forms of examination malpractice which is against the provision of Section 33 of 1999 Nigeria’s Constitution as amended include cheating at examinations; stealing; personation; disturbances at examinations; obstruction of supervisor; forgery of results slip; conspiracy, among others.
Cheating is the commonest form of examination malpractice. It takes varieties of means. It includes stretching out of the neck unusually, copying someone else’s script or device (usually on consent), Jottings on the palms, laps, or any other hidden parts of the body, bringing in ‘expos’, ‘egun’, ‘orijo’ into the examination hall, etc. which is the apex and most risky. These acts often take the form of disturbances in the examination hall on the part of the copied as well as other students who are not comfortable seeing such a shameful and obnoxious act from their mates but fear to disclose it for reasons of social security.
Impersonation, assuming the identity of another, is now rampant in universities. This is not often successful without the help of an invigilator(s) who is ‘settled’ by the mercenary or impersonator who is also paid to carry out the ‘miracle job.’ What an unimaginable reality!
Also, supervisors are obstructed (usually by threats from students—cultists) to carry out their functions. This is a common act at the secondary school level where supervisors are often ‘settled’ by the school management to breach their duty, or delayed from entering the examination hall on the claims of identity. This occurs during national examinations like the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination, WASSCE, and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME.
Another international form of examination malpractice neglected is the ‘project work’ or final-year research carried out at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In the university, (at the undergraduate level), the project work is a course that is carried out outside the examination hall. Usually, the highest unit is a course (unlike other courses) that requires students to carry out research which will be evaluated and remarked on by the course supervisor(s). Surprisingly, many people do not recognize projects as part of the examination in spite of their relevance to the results. The project work is often done by mercenaries who would then explain the work to such students for defense (where there is any). Assist in terms of projects is not conceived as malpractice; project assistants even publicize their employability on social media platforms, including but not limited to Facebook. Most of the students who fall in this category find it difficult to defend their projects which amounts to getting low grades. Thanks to the diligent lecturers who would always perceive the inadequacies.
For the definition of examination malpractice as defined above includes the exhibition of irregular behavior by ‘anybody charged with the responsibility of conducting an examination in or outside the examination hall,’ lecturers who divulge examination questions to their ‘favourites’ for one reason or the other are also not buried. As s matter of fact, the lecturers’ are the main advocates of the bad act: they give unworthy marks to poor students who pass on the basis of ‘he who knows the way, is the brilliant one.’ Hence this act of malpractice posed a number of threats to the nation’s progression.
A major effect of malpractice on national augmentation is its enabling of bad leadership and governance. Obviously, a leader whose achievements had come through lies and falsification would never be just with his citizens. He embezzles public funds and encourages inimical acts because he had always been used to it. This goes by enabling a corrupt bureaucracy where law enforcement agencies find it tiresome to enforce the law. One asks how many cases of malpractice have ever been filed. Or are there no cases of malpractice truly? And even though the 1999 Constitution ‘reintroduce the parts of Decree 20 of 1984 which advocated for twenty-one years imprisonment for convicted culprits of examination malpractice without an option of fine,’ the ratio of the malpractice cases ever tried is nothing to the reality of examination malpractice in Nigeria; it is everywhere—primary, secondary and tertiary.
Another effect of examination malpractice on Nigeria’s progression like elsewhere, is the degradation of our so-called ‘certificate.’ The certificate now is such that when it crosses the border it becomes irrelevant. Even in Nigeria at present, no company nor organization in Nigeria finds reliability in the 2.1 (upper second-class honours) and first-class honours degree a Nigerian undergraduate acquires until their potential corroborate their results. No nation survives without an iota of honesty!
The incompetency experienced in various sectors—health, economy, politics, education—is consequential of the inadequacies in our educational system, for, education is the bedrock of development. Scores of lives are lost in the hands of incompetent doctors who are certified through examination malpractice; economic bureaucrats are mere certificate holders; many teachers cannot attempt their students’ exams and pass them, yet they are certified degree and master’s holders.
Pitifully, many lecturers engage in malpractice because the economy of the country is not friendly—low salaries to cater to their needs, but students also do not appreciate the horrendous effects of examination malpractice on national progression, and law enforcement officers have not realized their contributions to the country’s denigration through their corrupt practices in carrying out their functions. Until these factors are looked into, the ‘Giant of Africa’ would have died before her death.
Abdulkabir Muhammed writes from Lagos State University