Civil society groups have called for an independent investigation of the malpractice rocking the ongoing 2018 May/June Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) in Nigeria.
The integrity of the examination organised by the West African Examination Council has been tainted by the exposure of real-time sale of answers to candidates by some online platforms.
Adetokunbo Mumuni, the Executive Director of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), expressed consternation at the scandal, saying it is bad for the students and Nigeria and is completely unacceptable.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Mumuni said the development violates Nigeria’s legal obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right of its citizens to quality education.
Some online platforms are openly soliciting candidates to buy answers for papers they are about writing, which are then delivered to their handsets inside or as they enter the examination halls.
Following an outcry on the social media against the illicit trade, PREMIUM TIMES’ conducted checks which revealed that at least five online platforms are providing questions and solutions in all subjects in real time to exams candidates upon the payment of N400 or N800 to the platforms through GSM recharge cards.
The online sites visited by this newspaper are Naijaclass.com, Examcrown.com, Exponet.com, examsort.com and Gurus.com. Our reporter registered in all the sites to buy answers for examinations scheduled for April 24.
At around 1:56 p.m. on April 23, the reporter sent N400 MTN recharge cards to the websites to buy answers for the Commerce subject scheduled to take place on April 24 from 2 p.m. to 4: 50 p.m.
One of the platforms, Naijaclass.com, responded with a message from a number “08101038699”, although the recharge card was sent to “09069072051” on April 24 at 06:49 a.m.
The message read: “Hello, your WAEC COMMERCE PIN will be sent to you around 12pm today immediately after the Animal Husbandary Exam, Thanks . Bimpe O. for NAIJACLASS.com”.
The same Number sent another message at 12:43p.m stating: “WAEC Commerce. GET A BROWSING PHONE. Visit www.naijaclass.com.ng. YOUR PIN is 1771. Direct link http//naijaclass.com.ng/class/view.php?id=30 “.
Upon logging on to the site and entering the pin, solutions appeared that correlated with the questions set in the examination by WAEC.
WAEC no longer allows candidates to take home question papers at the end of the examinations, except for some objective question papers.
An official of Government Secondary School, Zone 3, Abuja who pleaded not to be identified as he is not allowed to speak with the media confirmed that candidates are not allowed to leave the examination hall with their question booklets.
“WAEC officials go back to their office with the answer booklet and the students cannot go out of the hall with their questions, I am sorry I can’t help”, the official said when asked of the question paper for the Commerce examination.
Some students of the school who wrote the Commerce examination told our reporter that the theory questions are on a booklet which also serves as the answer sheet that the candidates submit at the end of the examination.
The girls who declined to give their names to PREMIUM TIMES recalled some of the questions in the examination and also gave the reporter the objective paper questions. From these, the reporter was able to compare the answers she bought from the online sites against the questions set for the examination.
Some of the questions are on “Organisational Chart, Market, Account, Production, Contract, Division of Labour, Advantages and Disadvantages (of Division of Labour), Consumers Rights Protection, Importances; Agencies Set up by Government, and Contract.”
The topics mentioned by the students appeared in the solutions sold to PREMIUM TIMES by the online platform.
WAEC officials reacts
When contacted for reaction to the development, WAEC Nigeria’s spokesperson, Demianus Ojijeogu, said the council was aware of the online platforms and their illegal trade.
He, however, said pulling the websites down is not an easy task, stating instead the need to tackle the foundation of the problem.
“The problem is not the sites, if nobody leaks the questions to them, how will they sell to people? No WAEC staff can release question paper because they don’t have access to it.
“The main problem are the supervisors and principals. The supervisors are being paid for the work they do and people also referred to them as WAEC, we are appealing to them to uphold the integrity of the exam”, he said.
“From our investigations, the schools meet with the supervisors and snap these questions to solve and this cannot be controlled. The supervisors are teachers of secondary schools who were nominated by the Ministry of Education at both federal and state levels, these supervisors are not staff of the council,“ he said.
Mr Ojijeogu insisted that the development had not affected the integrity of WAEC’s examination, “because there was no leakage at the print house where the questions were printed, there was no leakage when it moved to our branches and custodian point.
“We started seeing leakages when it was released to supervisors, although there are good ones with integrity among them.
He urged parents, teachers, government and students to help fight examination malpractices which he warned can kill the education sector of Nigeria.
He, however, said the council planned to scrutinise all the papers and take measures against centres found to be involved in cheating.
“The moment we confirm that cheating took place, the report will be taken to NEC and NEC can then ask WAEC to cancel the papers or ban the candidates for two or three years,”he said.
Civil Society reacts
Mr Mumuni of SERAP called for urgent steps on the scandal.
“Education is a public good. An environment whereby answers to WAEC questions can be bought online or the examination process can be compromised is a blatant violation of Nigeria’s international obligations under the right to education,” he said.
According to Mr Mumuni, the authorities, including the Federal Ministry of Education, “must promptly, thoroughly and independently investigate the allegations and bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible for this attack on the right to education.
“Provision of education of good quality is a core function of the State. Allowing corruption of any form to undermine this function constitutes a gross violation of the right to education,” he said.
“That is examination malpractice taken to a whole new level and it shows the connivance of officials of the examination body. But no one should be deceived to think there is anything new about this. We have seen equally brazen malpractice in the past,” Hassan Soweto, the National Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign said.
He said the group also demanded an immediate public probe of “this shocking development and appropriate punishment for those responsible.”
According to him, this development shows the urgent need for a democratic control and management of Nigeria’s examination bodies by committees composed of elected representatives of teachers, parents and unions.
“We must equally make the point that the prevalence of examination malpractice and its manifestation in different shocking forms and guises is the chicken come home to roost for the government in terms of the capitalist policies of education underfunding and commercialisation it has been pursuing for decades,” he said.
He said there are miracle centres all over the country, some set up with connivance of examination officials who he said “have set up elaborate mechanism to get their hands on exams questions, change results, buy results and even buy admissions.”
He said the public would be surprised at the depth of compromise by the top echelons of exam bodies in the fraud and malpractice, if diligent investigation was done.
“If we are to truly stop this menace of malpractice, we require a holistic approach starting with improved funding of public education, stricter regulation of private schools and appropriate sanctions, expansion of facilities of public tertiary institutions and establishment of new ones to reduce the competition, an end to miracle centres and all those centres for exam practice and racketeering, and of course public democratic control of examination bodies,” he said.
A newspaper columnist, Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú, speaking on the issue in a recent piece said “Nigeria needs a multidimensional strategy on how to set examination questions, what we examine and how we conduct examinations.
“We need a thorough look at a society that is normalising all that is antithetical to growth, peace and development. A society where cheating is viewed as normal is primed for anarchy, such society cannot make any appreciable progress,” she said.
All effort made to get reactions from the Federal Ministry of Education failed as its spokesperson and other officials did not respond to text messages and calls.