The National Executive Council of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) rose from its recent 58th bi-annual meeting with the announcement that it had cancelled a total of 111 certificates earlier issued to candidates who sat for its examinations over the years. The certificates, among which were those awarded as far back as five years ago in 2011, were withdrawn because the candidates either claimed that they were impersonated in the examinations, or were involved in one examination malpractice or the other. Many of the candidates had voluntarily returned their certificates, prompting WAEC to publish an advertisement announcing the development.
We consider this show of compunction by the repentant candidates a positive development because of what it says about morality in Nigeria. The issue of examination malpractice has been a serious problem in the country for many years now. It has contributed to the declining quality of university graduates in the country because the candidates who gained admission into higher institutions through fraudulent means invariably contribute to the eventual poor quality of graduates of these tertiary institutions.
The poor image that this foists on the nation’s graduates affects their ranking by employers and other academic institutions, especially when they want to undertake post-graduate studies either locally or abroad. It has unfortunately created the impression that our university system is churning out half-baked graduates who cannot compete in the new world where knowledge and skills are critical.
The resort to examination malpractice in our public examinations is not a recent development. Indeed, WAEC, at its 56th NEC meeting in Lagos, cancelled 252 certificates, with the oldest of them obtained in 1989. The decision followed the discovery that the candidates were involved in examination malpractice.
What the numerous instances of malpractice in public examinations should tell us, however, is the need to institute measures to ensure that dishonest candidates who have the mind to cheat do not succeed in their criminal enterprise. It is necessary to make examination malpractice a risky and unfruitful venture by making sure that those involved in it do not get away with it. We do not have to wait till several years after, when the examination fraudsters would have benefitted immensely from the crime, before cancelling their certificates.
It is necessary to step up measures to stop candidates from engaging unscrupulous persons to write their examinations for them. The nation’s examination bodies must do everything necessary to ensure that malpractice in their examinations would not pay as the fraudsters would be dealt with, either now or in the future. The body should also work harder on the enforcement of the relevant laws against examination malpractice to ensure that the offenders receive condign punishment.
We urge the Council to continuously upgrade its processes to prevent impersonation and other frauds in its examinations. The introduction of the embossment of the pictures of candidates, and their dates of birth on their certificates, some years ago, is commendable and has helped to reduce impersonation. However, the examination body must not rest on its oars. It must strive to remain several steps ahead of examination fraudsters.
We commend WAEC for its commitment to the maintenance of high education standards in spite of attempts from different quarters to compromise its standards. The Council must remain resolute and continue to have zero tolerance for malpractice.
It must ensure that the certificates it awards are of the utmost integrity and quality and that those who pass its examinations can match their counterparts in other parts of the world. As long as WAEC does this, it will continue to occupy a pride of place in West Africa.
The Council should also weigh the costs and feasibility of biometric identification of candidates in the examination halls. If it is adopted and successfully implemented, it may sound the final death knell to impersonation in WAEC examinations.