Other states should emulate Lagos by punishing school-culprits

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The Lagos State government has sent the appropriate warning to schools in the state that it would no longer condone cheating in examinations by punishing 46 secondary schools over examination malpractices.

The malpractices occurred in the 2020 West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), and the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). Twenty-seven of the schools were punished for malpractices in WASSCE and the rest for infringements in BECE. The public relations officer, Office of Education Quality Assurance (OEQA), Mr Olaniran Emmanuel, said the sanctions were sequel to the recommendations of the panels set up to investigate the allegations, based on the directive of the commissioner for education, Mrs Folashade Adefisayo.

We commend the state government, even if what it did is what is expected of any responsible institution in the circumstance. It is not all the time that governments have the courage to take such action, especially in our clime where political considerations take preponderance in many matters of state.

It is noteworthy that all the affected schools are privately owned. What to deduce from this is the urge by the school owners to advertise their schools with a view to attracting more patronage. Good results in WASSCE and BECE are seen by many parents as positive indicators of where to send their children to so they could excel in these examinations. There is nothing wrong in this per se; the issue is the process, whether it is fair or foul. Unfortunately, for many parents, particularly the affluent ones, it is a matter of the end justifying the means.

As a matter of fact, there is evidence that many of these well-to-do parents begin to pervert the process right from the primary school level. In collusion with some teachers in the schools, the parents enroll their children for private lessons and are thus favoured by many of the teachers who award undeserving marks to the pupils to justify the need for such private arrangements. In some cases, such children are given double promotions and end up spending three or four years for primary education that they should spend six full academic sessions for. In the end, such children find it difficult to secure admission to secondary schools on merit. Again, the parents use their influence and the cycle continues until they graduate. They then become a burden on the society as they are unemployable despite having university degrees.

This is just an example of how some parents ruin their children’s future when they think they are doing them a favour. In turn, it is the society that bears the burden of such misapplied affection. In some instances, it is women who put pressure on teachers to avoid their husbands’ wrath for “not taking proper care of the children” should they fail in an examination. Because many of the teachers, especially in the private schools, are not trained and not well remunerated, they easily fall for the crumbs offered by the rich parents to the detriment of the society.

Indeed, a lot is wrong with our value system, the perversion of which leads to exam malpractices and other vices today. So, punishing schools for such unwholesome practices is about one of the ways of restoring the much needed credibility into the educational system. We may see the fines imposed on the schools, in some cases about N500,000, as inadequate. But the truth is that many of them will feel the impact on their finances. The good thing is that the allegations against them were investigated, and they had the opportunity of defending themselves. Those of them that got letters of advice and warning know that next time around, it would not be such slap on the wrist.

For now, the sanctions are mere corrective measures. As the director-general of the OEQA, Mrs. Abiola Seriki-Ayeni, noted, the sanctions were to serve as deterrence to prospective offenders. Recalcitrant ones among them could have their approvals withdrawn and schools de-registered. It is significant that all the indicted schools are to repeat Whole School Evaluation, WSE, and Subject Recognition Inspection, SRI, process with OEQA within the two years derecognition period as mandated by WAEC. We urge that such evaluation be extended to other schools, public or private, at short or no notice to them.

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Examination malpractice is not a Lagos State affair alone. It is rife in many other states. This is why we call on other state governments that are still treating exam malpractice with kid gloves to emulate Lagos by taking a tough stance against the practice. Children should be compelled to know that cheating in whatever form does not pay. The schools, on their part must also know that the best route to excellence is to groom their pupils well for examinations rather than seeking short cut. Moreover, only people with the requisite teacher training should be recruited as teachers in both primary and secondary schools.

That our educational system is challenged is stating the obvious. We need all hands on deck to rectify things and place education in its right place as the bedrock of development.

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