Amake Dorothy reports that examination centres, usually referred to as special or miracle centres, on account of their sure success in any examination are, in reality, enmeshed in examination malpractices while concerned authorities seem to look the other way.
Many stakeholders in the education sector contend that the standard of education is falling, but seem helpless in tackling the problems that lead to the problem.
In all the states across Nigeria, exam centres popularly referred as miracle centres flourish like successful businesses. Students and parents who wants their children and wards to acquire the requisite qualification for admission into higher schools patronise these centres during the Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE) conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) or the National Examinations Council (NECO).
The damages caused by these miracle centres cannot be overemphasised. The benefits are also mouth-watering for parents who see it as a kind of freedom from expensive registration fees paid for their children and wards who repeatedly failed to make English Language and Mathematics, especially, in their previous attempts.
Usually, parents take their wards to these centres to avoid mockery by neighbours and family members for their children’s failures in academic achievement. In Nigeria, one of the requirements for admission into higher schools or job placement is that a candidate makes at least five credits at highest two sittings, which must include English Language and Mathematics.
Where are the centres?
Special examination centres can therefore be deduced as any activity that exists within education that gives preferences to some selected individuals or group of people to pass their examination. However, these centres have used many methods to assist their students during examinations in order for them to pass at ease, like getting examination question paper before examination date and time, impersonation, replacing the answer script written in the examination hall with that written at home, texting answers to objective questions through cell-phone to client’s cell-phone when question must have been solved, bribing the supervisor or invigilator to cooperate with the students in the examination hall and removing security personnel from arresting the students in the examination hall, are all in the name of making money.
These centres are scattered all over the country. To many parents, students, these centres provide a better alternative to the conventional examination centres because they possess the magic wand for passing examinations with at least five credits at one sitting.
Some call them tutorial centres, while others call them Agency for Mass Education or special centres; yet for others who had experienced the wonders of these learning centres, they simply prefer to call them miracle centres.
Why miracle centres?
Their motive, according to the proprietors of the centres, is to help advance learning even though in contrast, they are big-time business centres. Efforts by stakeholders in the education sector to arrest this trend has proved futile. Even investigations have revealed that some school owners, including officials of the various examination bodies, aid and abet examination malpractice in them.
Curtailing Miracle centres
To eliminate the menace of miracle centres, Enugu state government said, in 2016, that it would take strident measures against the transfer of final-year students from their old schools to new schools.
The government said it would do this through the abolition of admission of Senior Secondary School III (SSS3) students in any school in the state.
Most students in the country take transfers to miracle centres at SSS III just to get favourable SSCE results in exams conducted by the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations and the National Examinations Council.
Chairman of Enugu state Post-Primary School Management Board (PPSMB), Mr Nestor Ezeme, told NAN in Enugu that the ban was already effective from the 2016/2017 academic season. Ezeme said that the move was part of Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s efforts to improve education in the state to instil academic hardwork on students in order for them to do better in terminal exams.
“Henceforth, from the new 2016/2017 academic season, all SSS III students must write their WASSC examination in their respective schools.
“And any SSS III student who leaves the school to write the examination elsewhere will not be accepted by any school in the state.
“Let me warn that any school principal found admitting SSS3 students will be sanctioned by the state government.
“The government want to ensure complete elimination of miracle or special examination centres in the state,’’ he said.
For Nigeria to control the menace, all state governments must follow in the footstep of Enugu state and stop the annual migration of final-year students to the fraudulent schools in the villages and city suburbs.
Failure on government’s part
Many stakeholders contend that if the government claims there are miracle centres, that means they are exposing their weaknesses in managing the education sector. Many people don’t subscribe to the idea that miracle centres exist, rather the problem is still at the doorstep of government, because they are still paying lip-service to the education sector.
Also, many believe that people look for the easy way out because of the breakdown in moral rectitude and the lack of sound education foundation.
Falling education standard
The Nigerian system of education has been facing several problems contending against it, which helps in lowering standard at all levels. Apart from the activities of the miracle centres, several other factors militate against the falling standard of education, for instance, inadequate instructional materials, inadequate building or structure, unqualified teachers, among others. Due to the stubbornness of these problems a number of measures have been put in place to check them. For example, the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in 2011, introduced thumb-printing to check the increasing rate of malpractice in schools.
In a world governed by science and technology, education is the most powerful instrument for achieving development and empowering the citizens to contribute meaningfully to nation building and to compete for survival.
Who to blame?
Teachers are partly to blame for not giving these children adequate education. The argument is that if teachers take their time to equip the children with what they need to know in preparation for external examination, they will have no reasons to go out to any special centre. Parents also have a fair share of the blame because they push for their children’s success at any cost, forgetting that their children can still make it if they are well groomed.
It takes a well groomed parent or teacher to pass worthwhile education to their children.
The standard of education has been badly affected as a result of the miracle examination centres that former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo (2005) said, “Students in Nigeria perceive education as a means of getting meal ticket (certificate) and getting job. We would be forced to believe that most of the ‘special centres’ are owned and operated by most teachers or they have a link to such centres”.
Effects on education
As a result of this trend, morality and honesty are being sacrificed at the expense of passing examinations and obtaining certificates. This is more so that in the country, emphasis is not on one’s performance but on paper qualification in public job placement. Stories abound where many holders of certificates cannot practically defend them through their performances.
The special centres are jeopardising the children’s future instead of helping them, because they will tread that short cut to their doom’ and unfortunately, their doom is a national disaster at long last.
The children whose parents buy the idea of taking them to special centres no longer waste their time to read, because they believe they can cheat in the examination and come out in flying colours.
The role of the government is to equip these schools; support teachers to attend conferences to update their knowledge regularly, noting that it would help teachers come out with their best.
Moreover, special examination centres have affected the standard of education in Nigeria as it becomes possible for a candidate to obtain certificate when he cannot read or write. It is the same set of non-performing graduates that will manage the industries and government’s establishments.
The government’s inability to find a solution to this harmful practice is a sign that the educational standard of the country is truly dying and sooner than later, schools will not be able to conduct examinations anymore.
The body responsible for the registration of these special centres have a vital role to play in diminishing them because they keep registering such centres and accredit them for every exam, like if their role has been officially recognised.