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July 15, 2004
Academic Dash

More count your blessings stuff, from Africa. Nigeria, to be exact.

The hydra-headed problem of examination malpracticeis presently growing at an alarming rate and posing a serious threat to the nation's entire educational system, according to investigation by our reporter who penetrated the world of the racketeers.

And Our Reporter (no name given) ploughs into the story with gusto. Assuming, this is, that he didn't cheat himself, and invent the whole story.

At the end of the examination, a yellow coated invigilator who collected our reporter's answer script wondered why he could not shade all the answers into the script despite the fact that prepared answers were passed to him.

Said he: "All these questions were solved for you and yet you couldn't finish copying and shading them in your answer sheet." Our reporter had complained to the invigilator who had just collected his answer script that he had not finished shading the answers which were suppled to him by the pot-bellied man.
The pot-bellied man had directed that our reporter should pass over a copy of any prepared answers given to him to a girl who sat on his right at a cramped desk. Our reporter struck the right chord with the girl when he identified himself as a candidate from the Ogba-based tutorial centre -- where she too had registered as a special candidate for the examination. The hall was rowdy.

Other candidates who hadn't finished shading their answers into answer sheets for objective questions had withdrawn to seats at the back of the hall, to evade the invigilator who was collecting answer sheets. Just before the Chief Invigilator at the centre had said "pens up" several candidates had freely moved about the hall and consulted with one another. At the beginning of the examination, the candidates were restrained in their behaviour and hid the prepared answers that had been passed on to them from outside. But later they threw caution to the wind.

The girl who sat behind our reporter had collected prepared answers for various subjects which were given to him by the pot-bellied man. These included prepared answers for English Language, Economics and Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK).

And so on. Here's how the piece ends:

Lamenting the situation, Onyechere said that teachers who have been identified for their involvement in examination malpractice are left to go scot free.

"Some of these teachers who have been identified as facilitators of examination malpractice are still teaching even though they have been reported to examination bodies," he said.

The examination ethics campaigner observed that some schools that have been identified and de-recognised because they are centres of examination malpractice are still used as examination centres. He stated that the entire Nigerian society is under threat so long as the present trend which throws up those lacking in merit to possess academic and professional qualifications they do not deserve.

" Those who engage in examination malpractice to pass school certificate and UME examination pose great danger to the nation today," he said.

He maintained that such persons are likely to continue cheating all their lives and therefore end up as incompetent people in their chosen fields adding that examination malpractice is the root of corruption in Nigeria today.

"Imagine what awaits us when people like this become our medical doctors, engineers, pharmacists and professionals in other fields?" he asked.

It's long been my understanding of matters in Nigeria that this process is already there to be observed.

What seems to be happening here is a huge mismatch between two utterly incompatible cultures, one dead set on solid and long-term individual professional achievement, based on a vast, icily incorruptible apparatus of individual measurement, and the other dedicated to immediate pleasure and immediate profit and team spirit among all those cooperating to melt the ice. The examiners and the examined happily connect in contented little conspiracies, more or less open, and only a puritanical fool goes against the flow.

My eldest brother worked in Nigerian for a while, about twenty years ago. He told me that everything there, everything, was for sale. "Dash", this was called. You provided dash, and you could have whatever you wanted. That would certainly have included exam results. Everyone involved got a slice of the action, and a role in whatever charade was required.

So, things in Nigeria are as they always were, only more so.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:54 PM
Category: Africa
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