Nigerian undergraduates and copycat projects

Recently, the former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, ruffled feathers in the academic circle when he stated that over 60 per cent of project reports of Nigerian undergraduates are plagiarised. Prof. Okebukola made the startling revelation at the first Kwara State University of Education Lecture in Ilorin, and described plagiarism as a form of academic corruption. He noted that about 15 per cent of the intellectual theft was at the Master’s level, while the PhD accounted for about eight per cent.

He said, “It is academic corruption when lecturers don’t show up in classes as required or teach only 10 subjects out of 20 in a semester, and when students negotiate with lecturers for marks.” The don was also of the opinion that solving problems in the education sector might be challenging but not impossible. “Government must place high premium on education by providing adequate financial resources for the sector. Our institutions of learning must also look for innovative ways to raise funds.

The teaching profession must be considered as one of the most important jobs and accorded due regard,” he advocated. He argued that Nigerian universities were grossly under-resourced in human and physical requirements and called for adequate funding of public educational institutions in the country. Prof. Okebukola’s alarm on intellectual theft by our graduates could not have come at a better time. This practice has been perpetuated by university graduates but no one has come to raise concern about it. The disclosure of the erudite giant shows that of the over 60 per cent involved in the copycat exercise, about 37 per cent are undergraduates.

In this internet age, there is virtually no information under the sun that you cannot access. Currently, there are countless sites on the internet that deal with all manner of project templates which are available for a fee. All that needs to be done is to get to the site, type the project topic and a synopsis will be thrown up for the enquirer.

And upon payment of the required fees, the information would be accessible for downloading. The ready-made projects, in most cases, are then repackaged and presented as the work of the undergraduates. The lazy ones simply enter their names and other relevant information. Every other content is reproduced word for word regardless of the quality of the projects. Some are laden with bad grammar, typographical errors, and outright misinformation. It is unfortunate that the culture of mental laziness has taken root in our university system.

At the other end of the theft are the project supervisors who themselves are either too mentally lazy to do justice to such robbery or have been compromised by their students. The groundswell of this brazen plagiarism is half-baked products across the board… from the undergraduate to Master’s and PhD levels. Small wonder, most of our graduates are hardly able to defend their certificates.

This failure is an aggregate of the poor quality of education passed down to the students in the course of their studies. It is public knowledge that some Nigerian graduates with even the best grades cannot write simple letters of application. Then, there are those known to face serious handicaps when filling their forms at the camp on reporting for their National Youth Service Corps programme. Others become unemployable because they fail simple aptitude tests.

This sorry state of affairs is common in most public tertiary institutions. However, the private universities are not immune to this terrible practice. Owing to the fact that they are run as commercial enterprises, majority of the private institutions of higher learning have perfected their own strategy to hoodwink the unsuspecting patrons with claims of excellence by dispensing first class degrees to their students with ease.

We call on authorities of tertiary institutions in the country to emulate their counterparts in other climes by placing high premium on delivery of qualitative education that would enable Nigerian graduates to compete favourably with their fellow graduates anywhere in the world. Plagiarising students cannot give what they don’t have. Well-grounded students especially at the undergraduate level would not go about copying other people’s works except for the purpose of buttressing their arguments and acknowledging them in the process… not to speak of those at the Master’s and PhD levels. Plagiarism is an ill-wind that would blow our academia no good.

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