By: Banjo Damilola
The sun was at its scorching best. It was a Saturday, a day when most people were either relaxing at home or attending functions. However, parents clustered under a shade beside the black gate of Government College Victoria Island (GoCoVi) in Lagos — their faces a mix of excitement and exhaustion as they received their children who had just concluded the National Common Entrance Examination.
As the kids filed out — into the warm embrace of mommies and daddies — one could tell from the dissimilar expressions on their tired faces that even though they might have all written the same examination, answered the same questions, their experiences were, definitely, not the same.
“They paid money so that they will teach that girl…” were the words that caught my ears from the conversation among Air Force Primary School pupils, who had formed a small circle away from the other pupils.
The pupils, four girls and three boys, could not hide their irritation.
“Uncle was telling them answers, especially Latifa. Uncle said A, C, D, D… and later they will be saying don’t cheat during exams,” one of the pupils said.
I stood seemingly aloof, but close enough to capture their conversation. As I listened to the children recall how their teachers and parents — their first role models — colluded to compromise the examination they had just concluded, it became a surreal realisation that the act is, indeed, a common experience for many primary school pupils, and not just a wild journalistic conjecture.
The Common Entrance Examination is a capacity test written by final year pupils of primary schools for admission into Junior Secondary Schools. On one hand, there is the National Common Entrance Examination also known as ‘Federal Common Entrance’ organised by the National Examination Council (NECO) to screen pupils seeking admission into Federal Government Unity Colleges.
On the other hand is the ‘State Common Entrance’ organised by the education board of the states, for entrance into state-owned junior secondary schools. In Lagos State, where this investigation was carried out, the examination is called ‘placement test’.
Lagos Island, Where Anything is Possible
I had walked into Honeyville Schools as an aunt seeking to enroll her nephew into the school. Honeyville Schools is hidden amidst a line of closely-built houses on Tokunbo Street, Lagos Island. The school itself is a stretch of parallel rooms; what is commonly described as ‘face-me-I-face-you’ in local parlance.
The pupils screamed out different recitals from the opposite rooms used as classrooms. The sound from the classrooms created a cacophony capable of inhibiting learning. I peeped into the rooms, trying to find an adult not standing in front of screaming children.
“Good morning. I am here to make enquiries about enrollment,” I said to a stocky man, with low afro hair seated behind a table in the cubic-like room that served as the administration office.
Uncle Dayo — I later discovered was the man’s appellation —offered me a chair.
“What class is the child?” he asked.
“Primary four”, I said and quickly added that my main concern was to have the boy enroll for the common entrance examination.
Dayo did not ask further questions. He called in the proprietor, Segun Olatunji, a tall, fair man who carried himself with the poise of one fully aware of his position. Olatunji is the typical ‘Lagos sharp guy’; his mannerism and seeming impatience easily gave him away.
Lagos Island is that notorious city where almost anything — licit or illicit — can be done if one knows the ‘right’ people and has the right amount of money. It is not by happenstance that the city houses the ‘world-famous’ Oluwole Market where any kind of document — including currencies — can be forged, duplicated and curated.
Olatunji is that type of ‘right person’ that gets things done within his field — education. He would later say that he has been in the business of education for over thirty years; growing from being a classroom teacher to becoming a principal and now the proprietor of a school.
He entered the small office that could barely accommodate the three of us, took a chair at a corner as Dayo retold what I had said to him.
“But why do you want him in Primary 6? Is he too old for primary school already?” Olatunji asked, staring hard at me, as if trying to probe my body for answers to whatever was on his mind.
I knew that was the right opening to pitch in my full cover story.
“The case is complicated,” I started, wearing a subtle frown on my face to depict worry.
I explained to Olatunji that the child in question was my nephew. His mother — my own sister — was dead and his father was a no-good-fellow who had abandoned him. The boy stayed with his grandmother and it so happened that my other elder sister who lived outside the country wanted our mother to come join her abroad. Our mother — the boy’s grandmother — insisted she was not leaving the country without the boy.
Hence, I had been instructed to get the boy’s travel documents; and one of the things he would need was his record of schooling at least at primary level. Unfortunately, his current school was not government approved, hence the reason to enroll him in another school.
“Where does the boy live?” he asked, abruptly putting an end to my narration.
“He lives with his grandmother in Ijora,” I replied, not sure why he had asked.
“Okay. I can’t say anything now until I see the boy. Bring the boy tomorrow, because I am not sure a boy in Primary 4 now can write common entrance. When you bring the boy tomorrow,I will test him by myself to see if he would be able to pass the exams on his own,” I responded.
As I made to leave, I asked if his school was government approved, and he answered in the affirmative. I knew there was no way the school — with its chaotic environment — could have been approved by the Lagos State government but that lie was a clue that I had found my first subject. I knew there and then, that if Olatunji is offered the right amount of money, he would compromise any process.
Six Years Education in One Week… It Costs N120,000 at Honeyville
A week later, I took a boy — my supposed nephew — to Olatunji. He asked him random questions about his age, class and school and then concluded the boy would not pass the examination. Although, I had carefully selected a boy who was not very bright academically, but it was baffling how Olatunji easily concluded — without any written test — that the boy would perform woefully in the exam.
“I thought so too,” I said in agreement with his verdict on the boy’s performance. “So, what can I do? How can you help me out?” I asked feigning dejection and frustration all in one stare.
Olatunji gave a succinct breakdown on how the 10-year-old boy would be “assisted” to pass the common entrance examination. Not once did he mention any tangible academic assistance for the boy, even when I suggested special tutorial classes. Olatunji was rather dismissive.
“No amount of lessons can help him within the short time,” he had concluded.
This school proprietor unabashedly offered to prepare his school’s report for a boy, who in his own assessment is academically poor. He would later suggest to me during a phone conversation that he would get another child to write the examination for my ‘nephew’.
“Let me tell you something,” Olatunji said, a dint of arrogance in his voice, “anything you want can be done. The only thing is, once we agree what would be paid, there is no problem.”
“Let me be sincere with you,” he continued, “I will not allow the boy to go there and write. Another person will sit for him. The person I know is capable will sit for the examination.”
To be sure I understood what Olatunji had just offered, I asked if he was sure my nephew would be well documented.
“Once the form is filled, the form will be given to you and it will show the picture of the boy.”
After series of bargaining, assurance and reassurances, Olatunji finally agreed to a lump sum of N120,000. This would cover for the cost of issuing term results for the six classes, fixing someone to sit for the examination and a testimonial to certify that the boy, whom Olatunji only saw once, completed primary education.
How Google-generated Pictures Ended Up on Lagos State Common Entrance List
It is often said that religion has no connection with morality; I can easily attest to that, for if it does, I should have been sent out of Deen Master, a Muslim primary and secondary school, with stern warning never to return. Instead, I was welcomed with assurance that I have come to the right place.
“All we need are two passport photographs of the boy when he was four and his recent picture,” Dr. Owolabi, the head teacher of Deen Master told me after explaining to him that I wanted to enroll my son, who was overseas, for common entrance examination.
Oluwaseun George Robert, my purported son, was a random picture downloaded from Google but to Dr. Owolabi and her assistant, Mrs. Alimot Yussuf-Bello — a hijab wearing Muslim sister — he was my son.
I had told them Robert lived with my cousin in Canada where he was schooling. I wanted him to apply for a scholarship and part of the requirements was that he needed to have had elementary education in Nigeria. The boy would not be present for the examination, I explained to Dr. Owolabi who allayed my ‘fears’, reassuring me that I had not made a strange request.
“We have helped parents like you before,” he said with an air of pride.
Dr. Owolabi billed me N50,000 for the arrangement, which was paid in three installments only because I decided to keep the engagement alive by owing them some money.
On Saturday, July 28, 2018 when the Lagos State Common Entrance examination was written, Oluwaseun George Robert was on the list of pupils duly registered to write the exam.
13-year-old Olatunji Samuel had been contracted by his uncle, the proprietor of Honeyville, to impersonate my supposed nephew. It was part of the ‘N120,000 deal’ with the senior Olatunji; he had promised to get a ‘capable’ boy to sit in for the examination.
Being a psychologist as Dr. Owolabi claimed to be, one would expect him to know the effect of exposing children to such fraudulent practice, but he did not seem bothered.
Just as the Honeyville proprietor had contracted his own nephew, Fisayo Bello, a boy in Junior Secondary School of Deen Master, was also contracted by the school to write the entrance examination for my son. These boys understood what they were asked to do; they had been taught to lie about their names if asked. They seem to understand the rudiments of this trade; it is obviously not their first time or so it seemed.
The younger Olatunji, who was still in character when I spoke with him briefly after the exam gave my nephew’s name when asked his name.
“No, I mean your real name,” I said before he eventually let down his guard.
Certificates for Sale
The Mission Statement of Araromi Baptist Children School is a sad irony when mirrored against the actions of the school’s head teacher, Mrs. Adebisi Oluwaremi. The airiness with which she received the request of a certificate for a child she had never seen — let alone taught — showed a lack of “godly moral and right values”— the hallmark of the school’s mission.
She demanded N68,000 in exchange for Araromi Baptist School certificate.
“Can I pay N50,000?” I haggled like it was a piece of meat on the slab of a butcher.
“It’s a fixed price. In fact, if you want me to issue you teller for the payment, I am ready to do that,” Mrs. Oluwaremi insisted on her price.
“We have been warned not to issue certificate for a child who has not attended this school. Also, we have been warned never to issue the certificate for any child who did not graduate from this school,” she claimed.
Sadly, the child she did issue Araromi Baptist Children School certificate to, she never even saw. It was the same picture —Google-generated — I had shown at Deen Master.
I went to Araromi Baptist School for two reasons — first, I had gone to a Muslim school and needed to balance the report; second, Araromi Baptist Church is a big church in Lagos State and I was hoping to be shown the door once I tabled my request. I had wrongly thought that a school owned by a popular Christian denomination like the Baptist would be different.
Tedious Verification Process Managed by Cantankerous Civil Servants
It is rather ironic that it is easier to fraudulently obtain a First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) from the Lagos State Ministry of Education than it is to verify one. The process becomes even more tiresome with the attitude of some of the civil servants designated to manage the process.
After about six weeks of back and forth between the Lagos State Ministry of Education and the State Examination Board, I was told to make a payment of N5,000 into the Lagos State Government’s purse for the verification.
I brought back the teller, then I was directed to make photocopy of the teller.
“Go and make photocopy for us,” a tall slender staffer said with an air of arrogance.
The whole of Lagos State Examination Board’s account department does not have a photocopying machine and I had to make the copy for the department, despite paying N5,000 into the government’s purse.
When I came back with the copy, the woman who had generated the payment slip for me did not allow me a word.
“Go inside there and wait for me. I am coming, I am coming,” she said dismissing me while she continued chatting with the head of the department.
I had sat for some minutes when the staffer who had ordered me to go make the photocopy beaconed that I bring the copied bank teller. I stood across the table from him with my hand outstretched to give him the teller I had photocopied, but he did not look up. His head was bent and eyes fixed on his phone. I stood, purposely not calling his attention; I wanted him to satisfy himself.
The woman, who had been chit-chatting with her boss in the opposite office all the while her colleague kept me standing as he browsed through his phone, came and began to yell.
“I told you to sit down there. Sit down there,” she yelled repeatedly.
“Don’t yell at me. It was your colleague who asked me to bring the teller,” I told her, but it was this statement that seemed to agitate the workers.
In the twinkle of an eye, the offices had become an orgy of angry civil servants. The director vowed I would not get the verification done. He raced down to the verification department threatening fire and brimstone. Before long, the staffers at the verification department had gathered, abandoning their offices to form a solidarity caucus at the reception.
One of the staffers pulled me off the chair and dragged me out, kicking off my bag from the table. This went on in what felt like eternity. Eventually, I was told the verification was not ready and that I would be contacted when the director’s response is ready. For six weeks — interfacing with nonchalant and rude civil servants who treated me like they were doing me a favour— the Lagos State Government could not determine the authenticity of the certificate.
This was the same certificate I got without breaking a sweat. Ajenifuja Kazeem, a staff of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), offered it to me without as much as verifying the information I gave to him.
Kazeem was at the reception having a chit-chat with his colleagues during the peak of work hours.
“What do you want?” he asked, barely regarding my presence. I explained I wanted to make enquiry on how to get my First School Leaving Certificate.
“Go to your primary school,” he told me.
“My primary school is no longer there,” I explained to him.
“It will cost you money then,” he said, continuing with “why didn’t you get it since you left primary school?” By this time, he had suspended the conversation with the others.
“When I got my own some years ago, I paid N7,000.”
“That’s fine. I don’t mind…,” I said, making a gesture to say money is not the problem.
While all of this went on, I did not sign the visitor’s register, neither did Kazeem direct me to any office. He brought out his phone and put a call through to a colleague, who according to him, helped him secure his own FSLC when he needed it.
Kazeem gave me the phone to speak with this friend. “The certificate will cost you N15,000,” he told me, cutting straight to business. That was the last and final price as Kazeem’s go-to-man refused to lower his price.
I made an initial deposit of N8,000 which was given to Kazeem with the promise that the certificate would be ready in one week. Interestingly, I received a call from Kazeem three days later, informing me to come and pick up the certificate — same certificate that I could not verify in six weeks.
The Struggle between Right and Wrong
The Great Sharon School proprietor, who simply gave her name as Mrs. Alayaki, is a pastor, or so she claimed. I told her the same cover story I had pitched at Honeyville and she bought it, or so I thought.
She gave the boy I took an assessment test and concluded the boy would need intensive lessons if he would pass the Common Entrance examination.
“If you enroll the boy with us, I am sure we can groom him well before the examination,” she told me in March 2018, when I first met her.
The Great Sharon is a low cost school in Agege area of Lagos State. Unlike some of the low cost schools I had visited on the Island, the school environment was serene.
I knew it would be impossible to uproot my ‘undercover nephew’ from his school, to enroll him at The Great Sharon, so I told her the boy was the only help his grandmother had, hence, it would be impossible to enroll him in her school.
The boy was eventually enrolled for just the common entrance examination. This meant he was an ‘external’ pupil enrolled only for the purpose of writing the examination in the school.
“The uniform and the common entrance registration is N25,000,” Mrs. Alayaki billed me.
Two days before the state common entrance test, I called Mrs. Alayaki to negotiate for ‘assistance’ for the boy in the examination hall.
“It is not possible,” she retorted.
“I told you from the beginning that it is only God if he should write the exam and pass. It is objective. If he is able to shade the correct one, fine. And if he is unable…” she did not finish the last sentence.
“They don’t allow us stay close to the children. If it is something that is possible, I would let you know.”
Mrs. Alayaki insisted there was no way the boy could be helped to cheat during the examination, but after what seem like a long pause that turned out to have lasted only a few seconds, she asked that I call her back in the evening.
“Call me around 7 o’clock; there is something I want to tell you”.
“What did she want to tell me?” I thought to myself, feeling a tinge of disappointment in my gut. “There have to be good people who would not betray the system, for the sake of Nigeria, and the future of the nation… and I need to find at least one of them.”
7pm, Wednesday, July 25, I called back.
She did not buy the story I had told, but her religious antenna was pointing her in the wrong direction.
“I don’t know why you are so insistent about the boy writing common entrance. He is not the first person I will process things like that for, I told you.
“The embassy has nothing to do with the class a child is in. What they are interested in is the result that the boy is in school — the receipt — not the Primary Six certificate. That one is none of their business.
“So I was bothered. I said Lord what is happening? Why must this boy go with Primary Six certificates? Something must be wrong. If you want to be sincere with me; it is like you are covering up something. Something is fishy; remember I told you I am a pastor.
“If there is any restitution you need to make, go and do it. If there is anything you need to restitute from, do it. If there is anything you need to confess to whomever, do it.”
As she reeled out the advice, I was befuddled and unsure what she was trying to say.
“What restitution? Does she want me to confess that I had kidnapped the boy and wanted to smuggle him abroad? Or is she thinking that the boy had committed a grave offence in his school and I was trying to cover him up?” The questions continued to pile in my mind as I tried to understand her thought process.
Since I couldn’t pin any of my thoughts down to her advice, I decided to redirect the conversation back to how she could get assistance for my nephew and again she insisted it was impossible to do.
I dropped the call, feeling I finally found the much elusive good story; an educationist who would not compromise the system for anything. I was however slightly disappointed when I received her call after the examination informing me that my nephew was ‘assisted’ in the examination hall. Quite interestingly, she did not ask for any gratification for the ‘kindly gesture’.
A Mega Delight
Delight Mega School is in a residential apartment reconstructed with plywood into classrooms, where — I have no doubt —right values are being inculcated into the tots put in the care of Mrs. Anu Mercy, the head teacher of the school.
The single storey building in cream and dark brown colours is located at Glover Street, Ebute Meta area of Lagos State.
I knew Mrs. Anu was a different stock, when she firmly refused to fabricate continuous assessment result. I had met school owners, who did not bat an eyelid before issuing results and certificates for children they had not seen, but here was I, in front of this woman who could not conceive the idea of fabricating ‘ordinary’ continuous assessment result.
Like I had done in other schools, I had a cover story for her. The boy was my son; he had been home-schooled and needed to write the entrance examination so he would have the First School Leaving Certificate.
She was fascinated by the idea of a home-schooled child.
“I did not know that is possible in Nigeria,” she told me, but that was as far as Mrs. Anu would allow herself be thrilled. “But what about his Continuous Assessment? We will need to compile his previous results; it is part of what we will use for the registration.”
“He does not have previous result. I told you he is home-schooled,” I said in response.
“Ah! That will be hard o because me I cannot lie,” she blurted out. “What I can do to help you will be to have him write the exams for previous classes and we will compile that as his CA.”
For two days, Mrs. Anu would administer examination questions from Primary 1 to Primary 6 to the boy.
Mrs. Anu maintained a jovial aura despite her strict and rather religious outward mien. Her hair was plaited into cornrows; she had no make-up on and wore a striped shirt with a long black skirt that was many inches below her knees.
A few days before the state entrance examination, I called her —the same day I called Mrs. Alayaki — head teacher of Great Sharon.
“Assistance like what?” I could imagine the skin on her forehead squeezing into a frown. She would not be persuaded as she vehemently refused to aid any form of cheating.
Mrs. Anu rejected the request. She insisted the boy would write the exams unaided. Of all the schools that I had gone; she was the only person who never agreed — at any point — to compromise.
One of the obvious realities during the Lagos State Common Entrance examination in the centres monitored by my team of undercover reporters was the apparent disorganisation in the whole process.
In Government Girls High School centre at Iyana Ipaja, where my supposed nephew, enrolled at Great Sharon School was posted, some of the pupils were seen moving from one class to the other with their question papers in hand.
An invigilator at Tulabville Private School at No. 53 Omidindun Street, Lagos Island, went in search of a ‘business centre’ to print more copies of the question papers.
However, apart from this shoddy organisation, the examination itself betrayed the usual decorum expected of any examination, unsurprisingly.
The invigilators were lax or at best perfunctory in their duties. Again, this is unsurprising; some of the invigilators had been compromised by some school owners — including parents —who paid them to ‘help’ some of the pupils
Mr. Toye Lukmon, one of the invigilators at Tulabville Private School, the centre where Honeyville pupils wrote their examination, reeled out answers to all the questions. Further investigation revealed that Mr. Lukmon is also a teacher at Yusfaith Private School, one of the mushroom primary schools at Isale Eko area of Lagos Island.
At Wesley Girls Senior Secondary School, Yaba, one of the invigilators — suspected to be a teacher in the school — freely gave answers to the pupils. The invigilator, a dark-skinned, average-height woman had struck a deal of N5,000 with an undercover reporter who was at the centre as a guardian.
The kid registered at Delight Mega School was posted to Wesley Girls Senior Secondary School. He — like the two registered in other schools — had only one assignment; to capture whatever happened in his examination hall.
The pupils at Wesley Girls Senior Secondary School centre, boys and girls under the age of 13, were seen passing ‘chips’ —a booklet with solved questions — around. This they did under the supervision of the female invigilator who struck the N5,000 deal to ‘help’ the undercover pupil.
“This woman came to teach me, but battery had ran out of my camera so I could not capture her,” the undercover pupil told the team as we all watched Nigeria’s future generation in full act of examination malpractice.
The woman was introduced to the reporter by the school security guard — a, tall, dark man with full lips. The reporter was unable to get her name; perhaps out of suspicion, she refused to have direct contact with the reporter. After the exam, when the reporter asked to greet her for the ‘favour’, the gateman informed that she said there was “no need”.
Examination Malpractice is an Organised Crime
This investigation revealed among many other things, that this malfeasance is an organised crime as it involves the collaboration of not just the teachers, but the school owners and government employees appointed to protect the integrity of the whole education process.
Mr. Ike Onyenchere, the Chairman of Exams Ethics Marshal Board International, corroborated this as he revealed the sordid details of various examination frauds his organisation had unearthed during the course of their supervisory roles.
“Malpractice is no longer the indiscretion of pupils or students. It has become a money-making thing. It has become a syndicated affair, whereby the pupils and the students are mere instruments for making money.
“There is also the situation where schools organise malpractice for their students. We have found that the unique proposition of many schools today is that ‘if you come to my school, I will give you 100 per cent pass. You cannot fail. Whether it is common entrance or WAEC or NECO, you will get 100 per cent’.” And in order to maintain this high education reputation, Mr. Onyenchere said many schools engage in all sort of “scams”.
“As such,” he continued, “you now see the total involvement of people who should defend the education — the teachers, the head teachers, principal, proprietors and so on. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of schools parents look out for; where the children will be allowed to cheat. They look for situation where the proprietors, teachers and so on will form themselves into a syndicate of criminals, and parents pay money for this.
“You also find the connivance of people who are supposed to be supervisory and regulatory authorities; the government, the ministry authorities, the regulatory agencies, the inspectors… these are the very people who form part of the racket. We have found situations where commissioners of educations who own private schools promote education fraud.”
Onyenchere explained that education malpractices cut across every stage of assessment, including: the admission process; training; examination; certification; registration and regulation.
“It is not just restricted to sitting down in the hall and having examinations,” he explained.
What the Law Says
The Examination Malpractice Act (1999) considers a person to have cheated, if such person “by any fraudulent trick or device or in abuse of his office or with intent to unjustly enrich himself or any other person procures any question paper produced or intended for use at any examination of persons, whether or not the question paper concerned is proved to be false, not genuine or not related to the examination in question; or
“By any false pretence or with intent to cheat or secure any unfair advantage for himself or any other person, procures from or induces any other person to deliver to himself or another person any question paper intended for use at any examination; or
“By any false pretence or with intent to cheat or unjustly enrich himself or any other person buys, sells, procures or otherwise deals with any question paper intended for use or represented as a genuine question paper in respect of any particular examination; or
“Fraudulently or with intent to cheat or secure any unfair advantage for himself or any other person or in abuse of his office, procures, sells, buys or otherwise deals with any question paper intended for the examination of persons at any examination, commits an offence.”
Thus, Section 1(2) holds that if such offender is “a principal, a teacher an invigilator, a supervisor, an examiner…”, he is liable on conviction to four years imprisonment without the option of a fine.
Similarly, the law recommends five years jail term without an option of fine for teachers or school owners guilty of forgery.
In addition, Section 322 (1) (d) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State regards examination malpractice as a felony and punishable with ten years imprisonment.
‘Mercenary Kids’ Could Go to Jail
According to Section 3 of the Examination Malpractice Law, the children contracted by head teachers of Deen Masters School and Honeyville Private School, if prosecuted, could each earn three years in jail.
“A person who writes or attempts to write a paper in the name of some other person whether that name is the name of a person living or dead, commits an offence,” the Act states in Section 3 (1) (b).
Subsection (2) (a) adds that “in the case of a person under the age of 18 years, to a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
However, children charged with offences under the act must be tried under the provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act.
A person is considered a child under the Nigerian law if such person is 18 years or below. Section 2 of the Children and Young Persons Act describes a child to be a person under the age of 14 and ‘young persons’ between 14 and 17 are subject to special procedures.
Sections 26 (1), 27 and 28 of the same Act provide that if children under the age of 7 commit an offence, they are to be brought before the Juvenile Court.
Breeding a Lawless Generation
Exposing children to examination malpractice portends greater consequences for society. A Professor of Sociology, Olufunmilayo Bammeke, who x-rayed the effects of such examination fraud among children, said the consequences transcend the education sector.
“It affects the society economically. You cannot have any form of development because you cannot build on anything. It affects all sectors. Imagine a trained medical doctor, who had gone through medical school using malpractice; he becomes a danger to the society,” Professor Bammeke said.
She opined that examination malpractice builds doubt in the system and frustrates the diligent ones who abide by the rules.
“It questions the principle of meritocracy; that is the ideal on which education is supposed to be built,” she said.
Similarly, a Professor of Psychology, Babatunde Makanju, said examination malpractice “undermines the total moral fabric of a child”.
He argued that the psychology of the child is determined by the standards of the society and once the standard is faulty, the child grows to become lawless.
According to Makanju, “The society is meant to inculcate in a child that certain things are not meant to be done. That is what will determine whatever they do in future. The child knows that he probably came first, but the child also knows that he or she got that by cheating and that the cheating was condoned.”
When presented with the findings of the investigation, the Executive Chairman of Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mr. Sopeyin Ganiyu Oluremi, was surprised that impersonation is possible during the state organized Common Entrance Examination.
He said the state now has the pictures of candidates on their answer booklets in the bid to forestall cases of impersonation during the examination. The undercover children who sat in for the examination at different centers also confirmed that there are pictures on the booklets. Unfortunately, despite this precaution, school owners induce government invigilators who aid and abet the act.
Mr. Oluremi, however, refrained from commenting on other findings presented to him. Instead, he requested for a proper interview when more evidence would be presented to him.
However, all attempts to secure another date to show the chairman the collage of pictures and videos captured during the course of investigation was unsuccessful. Subsequent calls and text messages to his telephone number also got no response.
Also, Mr. Seyi Akitoye, the board’s Public Affairs Officer, who promised to notify me on a suitable date for the interview, never did..
Similarly, the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Anthony Anwukah, when contacted said he could not comment on the findings as he was out of the country at the time.
Professor Bammeke believes that children need be carried along in advocacy against examination malpractice. She said this is necessary so that children can serve as a checkmate for parents who are likely to encourage such.
Another way to curtail examination fraud, the professor of sociology said, is for the media to continuously report, stating that “The media can organise studies without declaring what they are doing. Observe an exam setting, record an examination setting and come up with findings and publicise it. The media has a role to play. The media must not compromise”.
She also urged the government to put in place policies that would check corruption within the education system.
She said: “There is a malpractice law. But it is not just the law; the law must be applied. We hear reports of examination malpractice, but we rarely hear of people who were imprisoned for malpractice. The law must be applied and we must make examples of people.
“It is sad that the way people feel shame now is disappearing. People flaunt negative behaviors and they get applauded because they do not question the means through which they have achieved their success. However, there will be change if we involve local communities and begin to shame people and stigmatise them.”
Similarly, Professor Makanju put the onus of ensuring the integrity of the education system on the “grown-ups” who are expected to know better.
“We have to intentionally realise that we have done a lot of damage in the past to those immediately around us and to the larger society, because we fail to uphold the straight and narrow path and inculcate it in our children
He added that for corruption in the education sector to be mitigated; the government must pay attention to education at all levels.
“There must be severe punishment for those who engage in malpractice. Anything that impinges on the moral upbringing of the younger generation, in such a way that the society pays a heavier burden in the future, should not be condoned at all,” Makanju said.
Furthermore, Mr. Onyenchere warned that for any changes to be effective in the education sector, the government must not politicise appointments into the sector. He argued that the education sector is the foundation for all other sectors, hence the need to recruit the best hands to formulate policies and protect the integrity of the sector.
According to Onyenchere, “We need to clean the education sector for us to get a proper result, before we are able to make progress in the general fight against corruption”.
***This story is supported by Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Tiger Eye Foundation.
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