At a time when Examination Malpractice is threatening by its prevalence, to become normal practice, it
is very psychologically invigoration indeed that the Old Girls’ Association of St Theresa’s Grammar
School, Ughelli, Warri Branch, should organize a seminar on the effects of this plague on purposeful
Education. Incidentally, the Government College Ughelli Old Boys’ Association, Warri Branch, has
just, in a meeting held on the 28th of April, 1996, set up a committee to, among other things, work out
modalities for an ideological counter-offensive on the tragic but popular erosion of ethical standards
in the educational system.
The coincidence of concerns is not altogether surprising because, along with the Anglican Girls’
Grammar School, Ughelli, we share the heritage of an educational system firmly predicated on
philosophical goals formulated and effectively enunciated by educationists infused with missionary
zeal. The motto of St. Theresa’s Grammar School for example is ‘Honesty and Self-Reliance’. In other
words, the educational objectives of the founders, school heads and teachers of these three premier
Ughelli schools are directly responsible for generating in us the progressive attitudes and values
which are today impelling us to critically examine the role of desperate school heads and parents in
It is pertinent to note that the said educational objectives also usually coincided with our aspiration as
students and with those of our parents, who felt proud and re-assured to have us in these quality
schools. St. Theresa’s students are probably best placed, of these three schools, to appreciate this
point, since they are privileged to have been brought up under school administrators whose whole
lives were dedicated to the service of God and mankind and to the diligent pursuit of their chosen
A DEFINITION OF MALPRACTICE
Before proceeding further, we would need to clarify our notion of examination malpractice. By
examination malpractice we refer to any activity that contravenes the regulations governing the
conduct of examinations. These regulations aim at ensuring that the goals of the examination are
attained. One of the primary goals of examination in an educational system is the grading or
classification of performance. The educational system usually prescribes for itself specific objectives,
which it expects students to attain, thereby demonstrating that education has taken place. An
examination affords the system the opportunity to inspect and evaluate the extent to which its
objectives have been fulfilled. If such evaluation has to be objective and therefore useful, regulations
have to be in place to ensure that written responses and skill displayed by students are authentic
reflections or measures of the quality or levels of their education.
What examination malpractice aims at is the defeat f this primary goal of examination through the
subversion of laid-down regulations or prescribed test conditions. In other words, examination
malpractice is an activity that aims at preventing the educational system from knowing or determining
the true quality of her products by devious manipulations. Such malpractice includes: the leakage and
exposition of examination questions before the examination, the suspension or relaxation of vigil by
invigilators, the dictation or provision of answers for students, copying from relevant materials,
impersonation, talking, spying (or ‘giraffing’) and so on.
A DEFINITION OF DESPERATION
As already implied, we are trying, in this paper, to determine the place of the desperate parent and
school head in the subversion process. A desperate person is an individual who has lost hope in
normal processes and is ready to do anything no matter how unlawful or dangerous ‘to succeed’.
Such an individual is, therefore, an exact opposite of the olden parent or school administrator hinted
at earlier, who felt re-assured of his students’ ultimate weal and was therefore, properly
The urge to cheat, borne of desperation, is thus indicative of loss of hope for the success through
normal means and a corresponding loss of restraining fear. Faithlessness is, quite rationally, brewed
by general collapse in the quality of education while unfaithfulness is nurtured by a wide-spread
condonation of the said subversive process.
As Thomas Hobbes says, the effective factor by which men are socialized is the fear of punishment.
The desperate man is one who has jettisoned such fear. He therefore relapses into a Hobbesian,
anti-social, state-of-nature self-interest and grimly subordinates the social expedient of collective
survival to the lust of personal survival.
THE TRAGIC CAPITULATION
As would be already discernible from the foregoing, the first role of the desperate parent and school
head in the said process of subversion is the tacit or even active provision of an alternative philosophy
for examination. While the received ethic presents examination as a measurement exercise aimed at
ascertaining the quality of the attributes possessed by a student, the alternative ethic projects
examination as an obstacle (an ordaini, and erdavbor, literally, a temptation, a trial) to be tackled like
an affliction, through prayers and, if you please, through duplicity. Invariably therefore, a falsification or
dressing up of the attributes to be measured becomes as commonsensical as dressing up for an
occasion or giving a town a facelift in preparation for an august visitor.
We must here concede that the etiology of the new ethic is to be found in the non-formal and
vocational educational systems of our historical past. In those systems transition from apprenticeship
to mastery was nearly one hundred percent so that the concept of wastage, drop-out or failure was
absent. Society was left to carry out the task of measuring desired attributes in specialist (not
amateurish) performance by selective patronage. The goals of such examination were clearly
utilitarian and immediate.
By invoking he ghost of that pristine past, the desperate parent and school head are passing a vote of
no confidence on the elitist and meritocratic Western educational system with its finicky penchant for
discrimination between fine qualities and nuances. It is an ideological capitulation that implies a
spiritual desire for mass transition from grade to grade.
Sadly though, it is the propensity for discrimination especially between precocity and mediocrity by
Western education that is today the foundation of the hi-tech of the more progressive societies of the
present world. Nothing has been more insidious to the true development of our society that this
capitulation to the stultification and domestication of Western education.
SPECIFICATION OF ROLES
Finally we must tread the more familiar terrain of cataloguing and assigning responsibility for tragedy
to specific persons. Most societies derive tremendous psychological satisfaction from the age-long
ritual of scape-goatism, despite the equally age-long lesson that genuine progress is only possible
through the humbling collective appreciation of the broad philosophical issues behind the powers of
Information in this section of the paper is derived from the following twelve respondents: two parents,
two school teachers, two male ex-students and two female ex-students. The ideas and suggestions
here presented are tentative points for further investigation.
Parents are in this discourse synonymous with ‘head of society’, for we all proceed from the social
institution of the family. In these roles parents stand indicted for abdicating their cardinal responsibility
of ensuring the morality of their young ones. They corrupt their children by providing them with bribe
money for supervisors, school authorities or custodians of examination materials, who in return allow
cheating. Many of the parents have the ambitions that their children would study particular courses in
the university. They therefore go out of their way to secure good performance on the relevant subjects.
Often, the sheer desperation to have their children in the universities as their peers is the only
motivation for aiding and abetting malpractice. Another reason why they play the roles of financiers of
examination malpractice is that many of them live well-below the poverty line and cater for large
families. They therefore see education as a costly investment that must yield profit.
Apart from providing the funds for the children to use to court malpractice, they often usually procure
the services of examination helpers or writers for their children directly. They could also directly buy
questions or results for their children. Parents also often fail to give sufficient attention to the
educational growth of their children. Malpractice occurs when parent and child discover too late that
they are ill-equipped for the examinations.
Finally, parents, as the community, especially in rural areas, often intimidate upright supervisors and
school heads. One of my respondents has had his house set on fire and his house help slaughtered
by a community hostile to his inflexibility in the matter of allowing malpractice.
School heads are seen to condone examination malpractice when they wink at cheating by their
invigilators and students. They even do not punish students who cheat in internal examinations.
Entrusted, as they are, with the responsibility of guarding educational values and standards in a
constituency under violent assault, they represent significant defectors away from the world of books.
Often their condonation arises from the fear of community reprisals or even negative reports on their
school. Most public school heads fall into this category.
Other school heads go beyond merely keeping their peace. They co-ordinate the collection of the
illegal levies and hand the bribes to the supervisor. Even when they do not take active part in the
collection, they demand a cut. Others recruit intelligent ex-students to help provide answers for
distribution to candidates. A combination of anxiety for good results and greed lead many a school
head to quite intentionally work hand-in-hand with corrupt supervisors and invigilators.
Finally, the school head, by failing to ensure good-quality education in areas of supervision or
teaching, the provision of adequate staffing, equipment and space, encourages the ill-prepared
students to cheat. Flooding of the schools with hardened and hard-to-control external candidates and
over-crowding of the laboratories all encourage examination malpractice.
As suggested in the preface, schools administered by dedicated person are apt to properly see
malpractice as beneath their dignity. If a person with a missionary zeal headed every school, the
invasion of the citadels of learning by mercenaries and unprincipled hordes would long have been
checked. One of the old schools in Warri where there was recently such a head change offers this
example. Corrupt school heads should either be demoted or re-deployed to the Ministry. Only persons
with impeccable characters should be appointed as school heads. We need more Sister Noras and
Sister Liouses in the system.
In addition, there are several notoriously corrupt supervisors and invigilators who demonstrate again
and again that they see examinations as opportunities to enrich themselves. Such persons ought not
to be nominated for a job that requires uprightness. People who either by their nature or by their
calling are dedicated to the service of truth should be sought for and used. The hope of every decaying
system is those who have salt in themselves.
Finally, conscious effort must be made by the educational system to project elitism and meritocracy
through a selective reward system. Failure must remain failure while success should be adequately
remunerated. What the system needs is not more teachers. The schools are already dead-heavy with
them. One of our respondents talked of a ratio of five pupils to one teacher in her school. The African
man by nature is a Father Christmas. Give him the chance and he would award National Certificates
in Education and even Degrees as a mark of how grand-fatherly he is. Unfortunately, what we need
today are better trained, better paid and more efficient teachers to replace the present reign of semi-
literacy and mediocrity. What we need today is a keener sense of discrimination.
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The Role of Desperate Parents and School Heads
in Examination Malpractice