Sometime ago, I was seated with some friends and the usual topic was our dear country Nigeria which is fighting corruption and recession all at once.
We were sharing blame, it’s the past government, it is these ones, it’s them IBB and Abacha until one of us said, “see, this corruption thing is all of us. Do you guys remember when we wrote WAEC and JAMB? That was the eye-opener for most of us. We actually saw how rubbish the country is.”
I will tell my own story.
I attended a strict secondary school, DSC Technical High School (THS). In THS, chewing the cud along school corridors or dropping litters was a huge crime. So cheating wasn’t a part of our vocabulary. If you are caught cheating, sorry, you are repeating that class. Now cheating could vary from teacher to teacher, some would drag you to the school disciplinary committee, DC, for talking during an exam, others would only take you to the DC if they catch you with a paper. Every now and then they catch a handful of people, first offence, you repeat the class, second offence, Bye Felicia, you are expelled! The mantra was that it is better to fail honourably than to be caught cheating, because THS teachers will catch you.
So, brethren, imagine my surprise when I later attended a state university where people carried textbooks into exam halls and in some cases lecturers just looked away. Anyway, back to WAEC and JAMB, the year I wrote WAEC we were all starry-eyed teenagers, 16/17 but somehow that was our indoctrination into the Nigerian society. Some of our older friends in other schools, knew people who knew people who knew where they kept the question papers. Long story short, we saw questions for exams before the exam. In THS, this didn’t stop us from studying though, we couldn’t even trust the leak, like how did full exam question paper leak? We saw questions, we glanced through them, attempted to solve the maths questions then we went back to our books. Lo and behold, some of the subjects that we saw earlier came out in the exam word for word. Most of us had this line of thinking, so why have I been studying for the past one year now? We heard of schools where the teachers assisted the students. We heard of special centres where answers were written on the board for the students.
On the Saturday we wrote JAMB, my Daddy gave me lots of money (I cannot remember how much it was) but I remember being very excited and thinking why is he giving me so much money?
I started planning to buy earrings and ice cream.
When I got to the centre, brethren, the invigilators, who were surrounded by policemen were collecting money before each of us was allowed into the exam hall. You pay, you go in, one by one.
At first, I said I won’t pay, (for what?) but when I realised I could miss the exam if I didn’t pay, I quickly paid and went into the hall. Forgive my memory I cannot remember how much it was we paid but my ice cream and new earrings plan was squashed. I was so sad.
What we paid for was to cheat, aka expo, aka Ochuko (an Urhobo word for helper) as it is called in Warri.
Well, Ochuko arrived. I was almost done when it did, but I was having issues with some of the English language questions (you know how tricky JAMB English can be). I thought, well, I paid for it so I collected it, but first, let me check if it is correct.
I was quite good with literature, so I cross-checked with my literature. SMH. It was garbage. Even as random as objective exams can be, almost everything was wrong. I just threw it away and faced my exam.
When I got into the university, in my first year I resisted the cheating thing, it just wasn’t right but if you cannot beat them?
I didn’t start carrying expo into exam halls, no, it just became normal to me. I stopped flinching. It was funny the way those little things gradually became normal to us.
You know how we do it. How we say “I just called to greet you o, I say let me send you small recharge card.” How we go into government offices, smile and “bless’’ civil servants with “something.”
The list is too long.
I was in a bus along Opebi road sometime ago. We were at a traffic light when the traffic warden and LASTMA man suddenly started making a strange kind of call, like a siren. Everyone in the bus was startled, what was going on? Then we saw it. In nanoseconds all the people hawking along the road, and within the waiting cars, vanished like meerkats at the sight of hyenas. Five seconds later, a Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, van drove by slowly, the officials inside were nodding their heads as they scanned the area.
People in the bus shook their heads. A policeman was in front with the driver. The traffic light turned green and we moved on, the incident forgotten; we are Nigerian like that
Do you want to bet that those hawkers are tipping the traffic warden and LASTMA guys?
This is the problem we have. It is not all these media trial and busting houses of judges at night. The system needs to be totally overhauled and yes, we can do it, even if it will take generations.