IKE ONYECHERE MFR
Primary education is free in Delta State of Nigeria and pupils are not required to pay any exam fees. Collecting exam fee from pupils is therefore an illegal act that contravenes extant regulation of Government. This illegality was perpetrated by Okotie Eboh Primary School1 in Sapele, Delta State. Mr Godwin Adegor, a poor commercial motorcyclist and his wife, a small-time seller of recharge cards who live in a one-room face-me-i-face yard, were unable to provide the exam fee for their daughter, seven-year old Success Edegor in primary three. On 14th March, 2019, the Head Mistress of the school Sent success away from school for non-payment of the exam fees. A neighbor, Miss Stephenie Idalor, recorded Success with her phone as she was going home and angrily grumbling that she would have preferred to be flogged than sent out of school. The video, posted, on Facebook, went viral and effectively launched the miracle of Success Edegor.
Poor Success and her family were transformed from anonymous poverty into instant international celebrities overnight. Their story is still trending and attracting all manners of analyses in national and international print, electronic and social media platforms. How powered delegations from Government, Non-Governmental Organizations and VIPs have been knocking on their doors with offers of gifts scholarships. I suspect that Nollywood producers are already competing for the movie rights. This story is a lesson for those who still do not believe in miracles.
But the narrative is incomplete without highlighting the role of His Excellency, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State and his Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in ushering in the enabling inspirational and moral environment for the Delta State Exam Ethics Campaign. As Leader of the Task Team, I deem it my responsibility to provide the missing link in the narrative for posterity.
Flash back to the bold and courageous October 2018 report of the West African Examination Council on the rise of examination malpractice in 2018 WAEC examinations. The Council reported massive involvement of schools, principals, teachers, exam supervisors and invigilators in aiding and abetting mass cheating that characterized the exams. WAEC sanctioned the schools by de-recognizing them as exam centers and forwarded the names of the schools and perpetrators to their State Governments. As usual, the report was greeted by a conspiracy of silence by most State Governments. To the best of my knowledge, only two states, Delta and Edo, have so far responded to the WAEC reports Delta State Exam Ethics Project with comprehensive initiatives.
But our focus here is Delta State. (For the Edo interventions, please google Examination Malpractice: Edo Suspends 28 principals over WASSCE).
Before delving into Governor Okowa’s response to the report which was launched on 21 January 2019 in Asaba before the Success incident in March 2019, it is important to note the incontrovertible fact that open extortion of illegal fees from pupils and students is regular occurrence in primary and secondary school across Nigeria.
Governor Okowa did not just respond to the WAEC report alone. He launched initiatives aimed at entrenching ethics, integrity and best practices in Delta State Education in general. He took three distinct steps. First, he declared a policy of zero tolerance for exam malpractice and academic dishonesty in all their ramifications in Delta State internal and external examinations. Second, he inaugurated an inter-ministerial committee to investigate and sanction found those found culpable in all cases of exam misconduct reported by all Exam Boards in internal and external exams. Third, he commissioned Exam Ethics Marshals International to work with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education to develop and distribute the Delta State Exam Ethics Manual and implement Exam Ethics Training for teaching and non-teaching staff with the Manual as resource literature. The Forward of the Manual was written by Chinedu Ebie, Hon. Commissioner of Basic and Secondary Education.
The 151-page Delta State Exam Ethics Manual mandated education stakeholders in Delta State to: commit to code of ethical self- regulation and discipline in their duty posts; commit to unwavering insistence on best practices in spheres of operational and leadership influence; and to being models and mentors to pupils and students (pages 66 to 70 of the Manual).
The Manual also mandated education stakeholders to strictly comply with all extant education guidelines, rules, regulations and laws, and urged every stakeholder to be bold and courageous in blowing the whistle against non-compliance. The Delta State Exam Ethics Manual went further to identify the nature of exam malpractice and academic misconduct the Government stands against which include, but not restricted to: admission racketeering; extortion of money from students and pupils (through illegal exam fees and collection of exam fees for public exams over and above amounts stipulated by Exam Boards); handout rackets; cash and carry exam administration; leakage of exam question papers; collusion and mass cheating; impersonation; monetization of continuous assessment process; cash and carry accreditation process; forgery and falsification of certificates; plagiarism; licensing and approval malpractices; accreditation of magic centres; etc. (pages 71 to 81 of the Manual)
Governor Okowa, through his Education Commissioner, launched the first phase of Exam Ethics Training under the Delta State Teachers Professional Development Programme on 21st January 2019 not minding that every leader in Nigeria was primarily pre-occupied with the 2019 general elections. The terms of reference for the Exam Ethics Training include: transforming the attitude of Delta Education Stakeholders in favour of exam ethics and against exam malpractice; creating enabling ethical environment for success of Government’s education reform initiatives; building capacities and structures of Exam Ethics Marshals and Ambassadors for sustained exam ethics campaign, among others.
Out of the 571 teaching and non-teaching staff that participated in the first phase of the Delta Programme,261 qualified for induction and inauguration as Exam Ethics Marshals and Ambassadors. The high point of the training was their commitment to code of ethical self- regulation and discipline in their duty posts; to unwavering insistence on best practices in spheres of operational and leadership influence in admission, training, examination, certification, registration and regulation processes of education; and to being models and mentors to pupils and students.
An important component of Delta State Exam Ethics Marshals training is how to establish Exam Ethics Students Clubs in their schools as vehicles for mentoring students and pupils with a view to planting seeds of ethics and integrity in their fertile minds, catch them young to have zero tolerance for exam malpractice, and develop culture of succeeding in examinations and other endeavors based on ethics compliant principles.
After their training, induction and inauguration, Delta State Marshals were are enlisted into their senatorial zone exam ethics whatsapp platforms being administered by the Minstry and EEMI to provide avenue to sustain the campaign for regular briefs on global best practices, exchange of information, ideas, lessons and experiences relating to the exam ethics campaign. Postings on the platforms confirm that Delta State Marshals have been inspired by the Governor and are determined to defend the integrity of education in the State. Mr Peter Makpemkun (0806 035 7530 ) in his post of 24th March 2019 on Delta North Marshals Whatsapp platform said “The job of a Marshal is a clarion call to rid our institutions of educational debris . We must work accordingly so that certificates wouldn’t be merely certification. The turbulent wind of corruption cannot stop us from flying. We shall fly so high to make Delta State Government proudly showcase her zero tolerance to examination malpractice to the nation and the world. Some of us are saying it, sleeping it and doing it. The iconic spirit lives in everyone of us.”
Mr Olimmah Vincent (0806 916 8615) another alumnus of the programme greets other Marshals on the Whatsapp platform every morning with “Good Morning Revolutionaries: may this day be blessed.”
The miracle of Success Edegor, as ordained by God, would have happened irrespective of any body, any event, any project. But it is my considered opinion that Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State and his Delta State Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education by successfully launching the Delta State Exam Ethics Initiative have the enabling inspirational and moral environment. So we should expect more Success Edogor miracles in Delta State as Education Stakeholders read the Manual and more State Exam Ethics Marshals and Ambassadors go to work. For Mr Olimmah, Dr Okowa is a revolutionary par excellence that should be emulated by other leaders in Nigeria.
Purse for a moment and envision the ethical revolution that will be unleashed in Delta State if and when every (or majority of) teaching and non-teaching staff in Delta State imbibes the spirit and letters the Exam Ethics campaign and pledge. Imagine the revolutionary impact on national ethics in terms of rebuilding the collapsed moral infrastructure of Nigeria if the initiative is replicated in every institution in every state. Education will be recharged, re-booted, re-energized to deliver on its mission of raising quality leaders, professionals and citizens with character and learning to deliver transformation. Systemic corruption will be a thing of the past in Nigeria as more Success Edogors are pumped into the system. This has been the vision and mission of Exam Ethics Marshals Movement since 1996.
Like Marshal Makpemkun said “the iconic spirit lives in all of us”. Please call or sms 0803 342 5958 to join to work together to liberate the iconic revolutionary spirit in all of us. In Delta State and beyond.
Ike Onyechere, MFR,
Exam Ethics Marshals International.
March 27, 2019.