As another season of the Universal Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) begins across country today, I wish to re-issue an article published earlier in this column due to its relevance and to call attention to a horrible development we still refuse to address before it is too late.
Are you shocked?
I am shocked over what is happening now in our schools. I discovered to my alarm, that in most universities and polytechnics as well as in some schools there are no timetables for lectures. Even where there are nominal schedules for lectures, lecturers do not obey them.
The teachers just beckons the representative of a class or places a telephone call to him to rally his or her class mates to a location convenient to him and those who are around would have his lecture.
The result is that in some schools, examination season would come and some lecturers had not covered even half of the scheduled course for the semester. And these are courses parents and guardians (the clients of the schools) paid for with hard-earned money.
I wonder how a student who passed through such a system would be taught how to keep scheduled times of appointment; meet deadlines; plan his life or simply honour a gentleman’s agreement with a client.
However, there is a more worrisome development in examinations – a core business of the schools. It is such that I am forced to wonder whether what I understand school examination to mean is what it still represents.
Once, in every known while, examinations come up in the academic system and serious students who are in school for studies are separated from the loafers and unserious dunces. To a large extent, results from examinations help students to know where they stand in school as well as help parents and guardians to know whether they are getting real value for the monies they spend on their children and wards.
But, more importantly examinations are generally accepted as intellectual standards of assessment through which society appraise young ones, sieve and process them to select the ones fit for several administrative or leadership positions.
Surely, examinations are not often through tests of level of knowledge. Even specialists in education and teaching are not sure that it empirically helps them to discover how a student is better than the other. But as Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), they help in structuring society and standardise the academic system.
The periodic tests also help to mold the character of young ones and frame their mental orientation towards commitment to individual tasks because examinations are individual tasks. The periodics teach them to seat out in quiet time; to focus and to take personal responsibilities. These most parents and homes cannot teach the youngsters. So, school examinations are not only vital for the academic system, they are crucial for betterment of society.
Existence of benchmarks for that modes of assessment helps establish general rules of social engagement in society. Such rules have become universal in modern times. Hence the way the schools in Nigeria operate their test would not be very dissimilar to the manner it is done in say, United Kingdom.
I read a WhatsApp post by a friend, a professor in an elite Nigerian university and felt like withdrawing to one corner and weeping my heart out. But I knew crying and moaning all day would not solve it. Only sitting on the matter would.
His issue was a new or not so new trend in the education system that has become so bad that it not only threatens but would ultimately consume the sector if not tackled decisively now.
He got a WhatsApp message from a friend of his which exposed a multi-pronged scheme through which students engage in examination malpractices and smartly beat the system. Being a passionate teacher, this rattled him. Sadly, he discovered that the oddious operation now appears so commonplace that even most of his fellow teachers and examiners know about it. But they appear helpless about it.
I prefer to serve his message largely as it came. He began thusly: “Please if you sincerely care about education in this country, pay attention to this post that I received today 30-5-18, and which I have personally verified. Please patiently read it and take any corrective action within your reach.
I have just visited examsort.com (one of the many sites actively facilitating examination malpractices) and I feel that we have a national emergency in our hands. I have found examsort.com, for example, alarmingly audacious! Please visit that site today and act in any way you can!”
For clearer grasp of his issues may I serve a long excerpts from the lenghty message he referred to: “How many of us knew this?
“Yesterday I was telling my younger brother of how I heard of a certain science teacher in my locality who went online to get values for physics practical experiments last year instead of doing the experiments with his students and they all failed when the results came out…
“And my brother remarked…
“He didn’t get his values from the right site na.”
“He further enlightened me as he had done before, on several sites on the internet where by sending recharge cards of N400, students have access to questions and answers of the exams they are writing, real-time. With a subscription of N800 the answers are sent directly to your phone, with N400 you have to go online to get your answers.
“These sites always have all exam papers, probably a day or two before the exams. And they have the solutions too. And they are several of them: Naijaclass.com, Examcrown.com, Exponet.com, examsort.com, Gurus.com, etc. doing adverts, competing for patronage like legitimate businesses.
“On these sites are the testimonies of Nigerian students. “Thank you XXX for making me pass.” “God bless you for saving me.” “You people are the best, I have so so distinctions.” I just saw the testimony of a student on Exam Crown who got 7 A1 and a B3 from using their service.
“I went to one such sites yesterday at the risk of getting a heart attack. I always knew they existed but had deliberately avoided them. And lo, in front of me were solutions to the physics exam students were sweating in the hall on yesterday.
The solutions online were posted on the 19th, a day before the exam. Students typically have access to the solutions a few minutes to the commencement of the exams, of course to make maximum ‘sales’ as PINs could be shared if the answers were released earlier. Several of these students still need the cooperation of invigilators and their schools to use their phones in the exam halls to access the answers, while others take advantage of large examination centres to do their thing surreptitiously. Visit one of these sites and see how so damn easy it is to pass. It breaks my heart as a teacher.
“My bro says those sites basically insult NECO. Their own questions are online two days before the exams, sometimes they do bonanza and give people answers for free for NECO exams. When WAEC sends teachers specimen lists ten days before the exams these guys have them online weeks before the exams.
“See what education in our country has been reduced to. Why will our students read when they can pass with N400 naira recharge cards? Why will they not laugh at the teachers that try to make them study hard? When a budget of 4000 naira will get them through ten subjects. Why do we train students for six years in secondary school and not let them write their exams because we are doing “business”? Why does everything about this society has to be about making money?
“So we have students getting 8 distinctions now and 300 in UTME yet having no substance in their heads. These ones will gain admissions into university, blocking the chances of the good students who legitimately got their 5 credits and 220 in UTME. So many of our good students won’t gain admission. My John James couldn’t gain admission with a score of 260+ in UTME last year. Godstime is a great student but he’d be lucky to gain admission with his 280+ this year.
“Why are we so messed up as a country? Why does insanity thrive so openly? Who are these Nigerians who are destroying this system for pecuniary gains? Aren’t they the same Nigerians who complain daily of the state of this country? Aren’t they the youth who should be the future of this country? The same young people who cry daily of how our father’s generation failed us? Have we all gotten to the point where we’ve decided that Nigeria is irredeemable and the only course of action is burning its rubble to ashes?
“The rot in education is particularly sad, because it has ripple effects, spreading across all sectors. Imagine students using these sites to get 8 distinctions and 330 so they can go study medicine and surgery to become doctors. Imagine them wanting to become engineers, scientists, lawyers, etc. They’d most likely have to oil their way through school and come out deficient in whatever fields they find themselves in…even with great results.
“Are our exam bodies unaware of these sites? Are we saying nothing can be done? Can the phone numbers these recharge cards are sent to not be tracked? Can the sites not be shut down?
“After receiving this sad post, I went online to verify the claim.
“I just checked the sites. exponent.com is unable to connect, gurus.com website is up for sale, while examcrown.com, examsort.com and naijaclass.com are doing brisk business. It is incredible.”
Now I am beginning to understand why a young lady who arrived my office some weeks ago with a very brilliant first degree grade in a combined honours in linguistics, comprising English Language, along with a WASCE in which she had ‘A’s in English and Literature and credited all nine subjects could not write a simple three-paragraph application letter. I was so shocked that I found myself soliloquising. If the lady actually, earned those results, I wondered, be it just that O’level result, she should be at least able to write a brief application letter.
Thesad part of this to all of us in our society – teacher, student, parent, guardian or not – is that this land now wants a job where this certificate is relevant.
The writer of the WhatsApp message tried to profer solution. “Aside praying,” he offered,“I suggest we all post this to people in our contact list and get the social network awash with the topic so that it becomes one of the trending topics. In that way, relevant authorities, like WAEC, NECO, JAMB will no longer be able to pretend those sites do not exist and they will be compelled to address the matter.”
What more do I add, if not to concur because crying or praying will not solve this? And if we do not check it we are all doomed.
First published Thursday, June 28, 2018