I have some teenage friends I interact with on various issues, especially this whole question of youthful exuberance. Last week we got into discussion on the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE), which is being written all over the country. What I heard got me alarmed and opened my eyes too. Just take a panoramic view of this year’s WASCE candidates. Can you see anyone of them that appears angry or wears a facial expression that indicates pain for not doing well during the examination. My findings show that at least 98 per cent of students are happy. All those I have come across are happy and they rejoice when the leave the examination hall. With the examination coming to an end, they all seem to be in high spirit expecting the best of the results even though serious preparations were not made, especially with the long compulsory COVID-19 holiday.
Has anybody bothered to ask why there is so much happiness after each paper? Has anyone seen who is crying or physically angry that he or she did not do well in such a paper and began to think of how a subject would deprive him or her of university admission next year. Writing WASCE used to be one of the most dreadful steps an adolescent takes in life.
Now, the exam looks so easy, simple and cheap. All examination fever, fear and tension have disappeared. What you see now are happy students that are making merry at the moment, cheerful because meals are already prepared for them. It feels good to get home and eat the fattest and the best dishes with little stipend or not. That is the case of the present generation in almost over a decade now as it is alleged that ‘expo’ also known as logistics, dubs, chips, runs and symbols have dominated the precious state, mind and space of these young ones. My young friends confided in me that 95 per cent of students write examinations in the comfort of expo while only 5% write as fully prepared students.
Now, all sledgehammers must not fall on the students’ head because they are at the receiving end, No. They have their fair portion of blame as unserious individuals but I was told that it has become a vicious circle where many are involved. The same allegation trails websites where examination question papers leak. Instead of students to read, they sleep and wake up from such sites. When the accurate question papers are released online, they get hold of it, then go home, solve it comfortably only to walk into examination hall to transfer and copy-paste it into their exam scripts. Why? Who are behind all these? How can a country move forward with this level of criminality? When a greater number of students are sincerely hoping to pass their external examinations with cheating, what will the future be? Students are not the ones who created such websites and feed them with correct question papers that would leak hours to the appropriate examination. Instead, their offence is not reading, preparing, exchanging ideas, leaning on the stronger students to teach and revise together the for the next paper. Rather, they are glued to their Android phones waiting for the next ready meal while mingling around, playing and laughing with friends.
The hands of some school proprietors, administrators and stakeholders are not clean in this matter. Not all schools are sinking in this rot, but a good number of them are stained. Those school heads who ask students to pay for expo, you are not doing them good. A student I encountered in a commercial vehicle told me that his principal asked him to pay expo money, he refused, got home and reported to his father who matched to school the next morning to reprimand the principal. Principal’s answer was ‘even the best brains fail WAEC, so do not think your son is a professor.’ This payment is exclusively outside the school fees and other necessary fees. Compulsory subjects like English and Mathematics attract a fee of N5,000- N10,000.00 per student while all science subjects cost between N3,000 – N4,000.00. Arts, commercial and trade subjects cost N1,000-N2,000 per subject. Students whose parents might refuse, their classmates who are more buoyant (winning in Bet Naija) would help them and pay and life continues. Should we all agree that gone are the days when students sweated it out within the two weeks confined for external examinations like WAEC, GCE, NECO, BECE and JAMB? Should we take it that what these young people told me should be the order of the day? I weep for my people. Whatever has happened to healthy examination competitions? Whatever has happened to vigorous dynamic academic comparisons? Wthat threw away secondary school quiz, mock examinations, revisions, burning of midnight oil? Please restore them to replace expo.
Mind all, it is not only the graduating class that does this mess, it starts from the schools, only if the stakeholders, authorities and administrators will look inwards and find a lasting solution to it; The world would be a better and happier place to be.
To think that on examination days, allegations point to schools that are expo merchants who would allocate teachers to various positions, some would mount the gate to alert those inside when external examiners appear suddenly, some would solve the answers on the blackboard while the students copy and write as if they are in a normal classroom. Some would solve the questions and distribute to students who cannot catch up with the far blackboard. Does this not make your skin break out in goose pimples? I heard of a teacher who would openly ask students, while holding a sealed brown envelope containing the WASCE question paper in his hand: “‘If you paid, sit at my right hand side, if you did not pay, move towards my left.” I was shocked to hear that a teacher could possibly and brazenly do such a thing. A teacher who is supposed to be a trainer and instructor of students! Less than 30-minutes into the examination, there was tumult over the separation with those who didn’t pay demanding that supervisors should allow them be and threatening to disrupt the peace of the examination. The school principal asked them to sit as they wanted instead of destroying the name to the school. With that peace reigned and all were happy. All these are to attract new students in the present to the school. Such schools do not go for competitions but they are known as schools that pass WASCE
What about students who walk into examination halls with textbooks, notebooks and copied materials while authorities, supervisors and teachers look the other way? Oh! It takes me to the days of Dr. Mrs. Oluyinka Esan and Dr. Nosa Owens Ibie. These were two lecturers we encountered in the early 90’s during our days in Mass Communication Department, University of Lagos. Both stood like pillars of integrity. Dr. Esan would warn us ahead in the Theater Arts hall: “If you look at the question paper and say to yourself, this examination na waa, you are looking for trouble.” All who knew the stuff she was made of, would rather respect themselves and avoid her trouble. Esan would singlehandedly supervise over three hundred students in a hall with pin-drop silence until the last student submitted his or her answer script. One would have heard of Owens-Ibie’s antecedents and simple respect him or herself. If any them caught a student cheating during examination, the culprit must repeat that year, there were no two ways about it. That was the standard then, and I ask, are there still teachers like Oluyinka Esan and Owens-Ibie in the educational system from the top-down?
While we blame authorities and students, what about some parents and guardians who boldly pay for all these exam crimes. Yes, some parents might be hoodwinked into such payments but one can also be smart, sense something fishy and stop it.
I read recently in the Sun Newspaper about, Pastor Wale Adefarasin, who said that when he was writing WASCE, his father called and warned that if he ever cheated in the examination, he would disown him. Are there still parents like Justice Adefarasin today? With all the information, it looks as if it is becoming an accepted norm where senior secondary school students have one thread running through their minds. ‘CHEAT in the exam!’