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The school is traditionally a place where, apart from intellectual training, learners especially in their puerile and juvenile stage of development are given the best of character training.In the bid to inculcating the right type of values, habits and attitudes; schools conventionally lay down rules and regulations to guide the conduct of students (or pupils as the case may be). These codes of conduct which regulate students’ behaviours are basically aimed at molding their personality with a view to making them respectable and decent members of the society. The training in school is expected to complement that of the home.
There are, as expected, those who would break bounds no matter the extent of monitoring and supervision from school authorities. Schools define ways of dealing with deviant behaviours by providing appropriate sanctions that could be applied each time a student errs. Some of the disciplinary measures adopted by school authorities to check misconduct among students include manual labor such as cutting grasses; digging ditches; washing toilets or kitchen utensils; eviction from the boarding house; and surcharges to replace vandalized property. Stiffer penalties include suspension and expulsion from the school. The nature of the offence committed by a student determines the gravity of the punishment he gets. Reward and punishment, which (if used wisely) are strong instruments of discipline and motivation in school management and control, are not new phenomena. What perhaps we find strange in the character training of students today is the modern trend among parents who go to unimaginable extent in defense of criminal activities of their children and wards.
A group of five parents have taken authorities of the New Horizons College in Minna, Niger State, to court over the expulsion of their children. The parents are asking the court to order an injunction restraining New Horizons College from preventing their children from sitting for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) in the two national examinations of WAEC and NECO. The five students, all of them girls, had earlier in March 2011 been expelled from the new Horizons College after they had confessed before the school investigation committee that they actually committed the offence for which they were expelled. The five students brought in a cell phone in to the school boarding house; an offence that contravenes rules and regulations of the New Horizons College. The five expelled students also admitted that they brought in the cell phone with a deliberate intent to use it to obtain leaked WAEC examination questions. This, in the compendium of New College rules and regulations, is tantamount to exam malpractice.
Authorities at the new Horizons College have confirmed that it is a popular tradition for students to sign an undertaking on admission in to the College that they would not break any of the school rules and regulations during their period of study. The undertaking includes a clause which specifies that expulsion from school implies preventing a student found guilty from sitting for WAEC and NECO examinations. Undertakings signed by students are made to be counter-signed by their parents and the College PTA chairman; in which case, the expulsion should not have come as a surprise, especially to the students involved. We find it amazing that the same parents who had counter-signed the undertaking of their children accepting to be sanctioned whenever they break bounds in the school would yet file a law suit against the College for acting accordingly and within laid down rules. To such parents, the means should always and in all matters justify the means! Nonetheless, the College has a history of having expelled students who were found guilty of the same offence in the past.
Examination malpractice, which in recent years has attained frightening proportion in Nigeria, appears to have been institutionalized with the palpable collaborative efforts of some parents, their children and some school administrators. It is almost a generational trend that advances annually in sophistication. It has long graduated from the olden technique of ‘giraffing’ at another candidate’s work or smuggling pieces of paper commonly called ‘microchips’ in to examination hall, to a more organized method where ambitious parents buy live question papers or hire mercenaries to sit for examinations on behalf of their children.
Technology which motive by the inventors is to facilitate learning is unfortunately being used negatively by Nigerian students to the detriment of their intellectual development. Mobile phones have become instruments of cheating in examinations or even masterminding the act before going in to the hall. In the June/July 2010 SSCE alone, 615, 010 cases of examination malpractice were recorded. While Rivers state had the highest figure, Kaduna and Enugu States came second and third respectively. In fact, this column would later do a separate piece on examination malpractice in Nigeria.
This column finds the parents of the expelled students to be very unlike Prophet Luqman (AS) whom according to Qur’an 31:12-19 taught his son not only the worship of Allah (SWT) but went further to train him on how to walk, speak and look. Some contemporary parents erroneously believe that the love of children is in over pampering them or allowing them and their whims and caprices to have their way. While I was a teacher in a Federal Unity College, a parent once faulted us for suspending his daughter who along with other four girls and five boys sneaked out of school to have recreation in a swim pool at a Five Star hotel. He told us, “After all, I give money to my daughter while at home to go to swim pool”. Some parents actually do not at all encourage their children to hard work in order to achieve success because they have, from the outset, given them the impression that “hard work kills”. How could such parents see any wrong in their children getting involved in an examination malpractice?
We find it difficult to understand the kind of training the group of parents who are in court desire for their children. It is pertinent we remind them of the hadith of the Prophet (SAW) in which he says parents, like shepherd, would be responsible and accountable before Allah (SWT) on the kind of training they gave to their children. In truth, the actions of the parents under reference have implications for the school that expelled the students as well as for the larger society. If the students involved are not punished by the College as it did to those guilty of the same offence in the past, it thus makes the school guilty of injustice. Refusal to tackle the offence appropriately would equally breed the detested misconduct in the College, and probably in sister institutions.
While we call on examination bodies in the country to put in place measures that would reduce the leakage of examination questions, we advise government to bring back the “21 years imprisonment” promulgated by the regime of former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, for those found guilty of examination malpractice. This is with a view to checking the menace and its tendencies among students. May Allah (SWT) guide us to take up our responsibilities as parents who owe our children the spiritual responsibility of giving them the best of moral training, amin.