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WAEC: How not to eradicate examination malpractices

By Wole Oyebade
13 October 2022   |   2:41 am
The West African Examination Council (WAEC) recently wrapped up this year’s May/June West Africa Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) with the release of candidates’ results.

[FILES] An exam inspector is seen walking across the hall as Students of Secondary School are seen taking the an exam. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

The West African Examination Council (WAEC) recently wrapped up this year’s May/June West Africa Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) with the release of candidates’ results.

Students that participated fairly got results and those suspected of malpractices had theirs withheld. It is regrettable that the 2022 examination was again roiled with widespread malpractices that had WAEC supervisors neck-deep in the rot.

Most worrisome is the cavalier manner in which the Council aims to palm off the serious problem of examination malpractices. Tellingly, it will only embolden saboteurs in its fold and a disincentive to what is left of quality education in this country.
Just days after the regional examination body released this year’s results and those of a large contingent, numbering 365,564 candidates withheld; complaints have been making the rounds by aggrieved States and parents.

In reaction to the outcry, Head of the National Office, Patrick Areghan, pushed back on allegations of “deliberate withholding” of candidates’ results, describing the claims as “wicked, malicious, misleading and a calculated attempt to drag the name of Council into the mud or disrepute.” It is utter ignorance, Areghan said. By the tone of the reply, Areghan apparently has an axe to grind with some stakeholders. But the issue of malpractices is far deeper and it borders on the enemies within WAEC itself.
Barely had the examination started in June that WAEC disclosed the arrest of 10 Supervisors in Lagos, Kano, Bayelsa and the Kaduna States. While one commends the eagle-eye of the Council to check malfeasance in its enclave, further disclosure by Areghan is distressing.

His words: “Our major problem lies with the supervisors as only a few of them are reliable and it is unfortunate these are the supervisors that were nominated by the various states’ ministry of education and we employed them. But for a mere pot of porridge they sell their conscience and allow candidates to come into the examination hall with phones to snap question papers and post them on designated platforms,” Areghan said.

It is agreeable that some of the supervisors are actually worse than they had been painted and WAEC should have zero tolerance for criminal acts and accomplices. However, the recurrent blanket approach to treating the symptom and not the cause is questionable. What Meghan did not mention is that some of the sleazy infractions are actually committed at the Zonal Centres and before they get to examination centres.

Unfortunately, such cases readily bring schools, innocent candidates and the Council head-to-head. The challenge thereafter is the laidback disposition of WAEC to separate the wheat from the chaff through a fair investigation. Indeed, those that feel hard done by the turn of events should have a right to complain without being called “wicked, malicious, misleading or ignorant”.
During the last examination, for instance, there were cases that were reported against candidates at Panti Police Station in Lagos. Not all of them could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

In one such case, evidence tendered by the WAEC complainant showed that the crime (of exposing question papers to an online platform) was committed even before the supervisor and examination booklets reached the school and candidates took the examinations. But mid-way into the subject, the candidate (a minor) was whisked away like a common criminal, detained for days in Panti prison custody meant for adults until the same accuser agreed with the police that the case was lacking in merit.

For such injustice done to a minor, the school duly filed a petition for a thorough investigation to be carried out on the matter – at least to bring the culprits to book and clear the candidate of wrongdoings cum criminal records.

Unfortunately, WAEC could not be bothered; rather, it went on to release results suggesting that the victim sat but failed all subjects – including the ones written before and after the arrest, and those missed in between due to incarceration!
Perhaps one is inclined to treat the foregoing as an isolated case, but a lot more, if not worse, are going on unsung. No one should begrudge WAEC for taking criminals to the sword. But the wrongly accused should not go down in a fitful rage whereas the real criminals walk freely. It is clear that while the fates of some candidates alleged of malpractices were decided without fair hearing, others are still pending ad infinitum. By what criteria is that double standard? Of what assurance is it that the pending case of 365,564 candidates will not go the way of those that summarily ‘failed’ all subjects? Notwithstanding what has become of our society, innocent children deserve their dues and victims of gross injustice should be assuaged of their trauma.    
It suffices to reckon that malpractice is an endemic societal malaise that the education sector, regrettably, suffers at higher temperature. There are syndicates nationwide that do nothing else than rustle answers for a large army of crooked students. And all of them should have a place in hell! Authorities at the Joint Administration Matriculation Board (JAMB) recently recanted exploits of their Headquarters at Ibafo, on the outskirts of Lagos.

JAMB, as well as 70-year-old WAEC, knows the whereabouts of these syndicates and their modus operandi, but not how to burst the criminal bubble! If our examination bodies are so powerless to stop insider threats and their cartel, why blindly hunt for scapegoats without mechanisms to prove cases beyond doubt at the police stations? Or even ensure redress where a charge has been cleared as erroneous? If the majority of WAEC supervisors are so unreliable and the Council cannot examine its own examiners, why unleash the gang of State-sponsored criminals on innocent children and their schools?

Indeed, it is scandalous that more than one in every five that sat for this year’s WASSCE is now accused of examination malpractices. It puts neither the country, its education system nor the examination Council in a good light. It is a shame on all backward states that have turned students’ WAEC performances into political gains, not forgetting school authorities that would bribe their ways to earn good grades for their candidates. They have their collaborators in some Zonal Coordinators that deploy hatchet supervisors in exchange for kickbacks. The rot stinks to high heavens and WAEC should be most worried.
A more determined Council would need to be more circumspect and innovative to clear the mess. It is not a time to grandstand or play tin-god in cases of genuine complainants about compromises and appeals for redress. This crisis requires more creative solutions and engagement with the stakeholders. WAEC has the statutory responsibility of conducting credible examinations and not giving excuses for impediments or basis for witch-hunts.

Similar examinations are seamlessly done in other parts of the world, aided by technology and JAMB has recently keyed into one to reduce the latitude for compromises. WAEC should not be an exception to problem-solving dynamics, to improve the credibility of its examinations. Ire o!