When Mr. President launched the Bring Back the Books campaign last year, with all fanfare, it was mostly welcomed and celebrated by those in the literary community. Literary heavy weights such as Professor Emeritus, Wole Soyinka and Odia Ofeinum were on hand to lend Mr. President support. The majority of Nigerians were not excited by it. Why would they not? Could it be that they were busy with how to bring food to their table or they could be angry the the government’s failure to provide adequate and regular power supply? It is simply not the reason rather, they do not want the books to come back! But why? Simply put, they have been entangled by the destructive web of examination malpractice.In Nigeria, exam malpractice, an agency of corruption is now seen as normal. Here we like short cuts, the easy ways out.
Before you read on, i want you to know that whatsoever opinion you get from this piece is not based on hear say but first hand experience and interaction with stakeholders on the field as a teacher for eight years now.
It’s so sad that exam malpractice has been strongly entrenched into our culture. School children are exposed to this hazardous practice as early as in the national or state entrance exams into secondary schools by the school authorities, teachers and parents/guardians. Both private and Government owned schools assist their students during the Junior WAEC/NECO examination.
With this done. these kids get into senior secondary school with a completely lost interest in reading. The teachers would have also lost the moral right to compel the students to read their books or get their assignments done. I had written a book suggesting these exams be cancelled because of the above reason besides the fact that it is no longer of significance. I self published a book ” Reducing Examination Malpractice” in Nigeria as my CDS project during my NYSC and the forward was written by Ike Onyechere, Chairman Exam Ethic Nigeria. The book which i produced with my allowee was only bought by less than a handful of teachers in the rural area were i served. The Local Government Chairman refused to buy a copy and rejected my request to present it officially to him in his office. I then traveled to the state capital were i met the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education who collected a copy and didn’t bother to give a dime for it. He then referred me to the Commissioner when i asked for his help in getting the book listed in the recommended books for the state owned schools to enable the principals accept to sell it to their students. I met the commissioner who after taking my books and not also giving a dime, not caring i was a corps member who have traveled long hours to meet him and needed money even for transportation, kept me inside his office for long hours, then turned to me when he noticed i could be exhausted and hungry and said ” Corper, it is not what you think. You would have to come back another day.” And that day never came as effort to access his office the next time never worked. Why have i narrated all this? It was clear to me at that point that bringing the issue of exam malpractice into the front burner in Nigeria is a taboo and you would be seen as trying to “pour sand into another man’s garri”.
Examination in Nigeria is now big business that provides money the wrong way to millions of people; University students who stand as mercenaries, teachers, schools and the examination conducting bodies. I will briefly but not bore you in analyzing how these are involved.
During the exams,university students get paid by parents to go and write the exams for their kids. They remain outside the exam halls and pay some agreed money to the supervisor who give them extra scripts to them to work out the solutions outside. The teachers do the same as the mercenaries from outside only some times it is done on behalf of the school authority which will be responsible for paying the teachers.
Many of the private schools and government owned, in the cities and rural areas are unofficially referred to as special centers. They accept for registration lots of students who are from other schools and collect so much money from them to enable them cheat.
The biggest culprit here are the exam bodies, Forget their threats on media, They are just being pretentious. They collect bribe from interested teachers who apply to supervise these school certificate exams. If you pay a higher fee you are sent to a lucrative exam center, that is a center with a large number of registered students. Some of these supervisors pay as much as 20 thousand Naira to get a place. What for?
During the exams students must pay 500 naira for all subjects except Mathematics and English Language that cost between 800 naira and 1000 naira depending on the bargaining power of the school. The Supervisor give a small percentage of the accumulated cash to the school and off it goes. If you find your way to most of these centers you will find exam Supervisors in sharp arguments with members of staff over collected money. Any student who fails to pay had kissed his expected result good bye and if the school is strict, the supervisor threatens to write a bad report on the school with a possible cancellation of results. So even the very few schools that don’t get involved in malpractices have had to part away with some cash to the supervisors.
The exam bodies also send persons we usually refer to as syndicates, to monitor the supervisors for a few minutes and go. These men and women come in , put fear into the supervisors and candidates, threaten to arrest any defaulter. All these are what Warri People call ‘initial gragra’. After a few seconds they invite the supervisor to the corner and collect their share and off they go. Things come back to normal.
The marking of the examination papers is one of the most traumatic aspect that the Nigerian government will have to pay attention if it thinks seriously about bringing back the books. Some of the results brought by the exam bodies are not a reflection of what the candidates have put down. Some examiners give the scripts to a third party to mark; their kids or students, who just award scores without understanding the nitty gritty of exam marking. Sometimes it seems to me that the exam bodies are happy when people fail so they could get more people registering year- in-year -out. Thus getting more cash into their accounts. On a serious note this area should be investigated. Many intelligent students have had to live in depression with their future destroyed.
With all i have said,do you think students have been encouraged to read their books? No. They don’t have any reason to read with the knowledge that they can still pass their exams, any how. Sadly they have dropped all books including story books, novels, newspapers and have found solace in movies and music. All time is now spent on following soaps and season movies that take them only to a world of fantasy and make – believe.
All hope is not lost. If the current Inspector General of Police, my MAN OF THE YEAR can stop the police officers from collecting tolls on our roads and closing down all check points, with Nigeria still intact, nothing is impossible in the educational sector. I want to believe Nyesom Wike, the Junior Minister for Education can do it. To begin let him announce on air and send a strong signal to all exam bodies and school to henceforth stop the collection of money from candidates as submission fee or whatsoever and follow with action, If he is confused here, he should visit IG Abubakar for advice.
LET’S JOIN HANDS AND ENERGY TO BRING BACK THE BOOKS, ELSE NIGERIA IS HEADING FOR A CRASH.
NOTE: Pls if this commentary offends you PARDON me.