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Nigeria’s education system may be heading towards an avoidable pit if the ‘special centre’ cartel that has flourished over the years in a lax regulatory environment is not urgently broken, investigations by The Point have revealed.
Though experts have said that examination malpractices have almost become a norm in this part of the world, findings have shown that the May/June and November/December examinations of the West African Examinations Council have recorded the highest cases.
In separate interviews with our correspondent, school owners, teachers, special examination kingpins and even parents revealed the tactics employed by the cartel to beat the yearly checks put in place by WAEC.
HOW WE OPERATE
A senior staff of a popular private secondary school in the Ojodu, Berger area of Lagos, (names withheld) who acknowledged the fact that WAEC had made the special centre business more difficult in recent times, said many of those involved still relied on willing officials of the Council to succeed.
He said, “We have two types of registration: The first one is just to get the candidate registered for the examination like any other candidate and we wish him good luck. For the second and more expensive type of registration, we add more value and try to complement the person’s effort by giving our ‘assistance.’
“The first one is N13,000 (the normal registration) while the second option costs N27,000. Some cost higher than this, depending on how sure you want the success. When you’re ready, we’ll take you through the different levels and agree.”
Another staff of a model college located in Alagbole, Akute, Ogun State, who corroborated what the first source said, however, gave 90 per cent guarantee of success for special candidates who could pay higher fees.
“The amount for the special registration is N40,000. After the payment and other processes, I will get in touch with one of my friends at the WAEC office, who will know how to put the person in a very good centre, where we can carry out ‘the assistance.’ The centre will of course be very close to my territory,” he told our correspondent, who pretended to be a willing candidate, and also sent his account number.
The special registration for another academy in the Bodija area of Ibadan, Oyo State, costs N25,000, according to The Point’s findings. “The special registration is N25,000. The candidate will clear his papers. We give him answers to the questions and we will also be at the centre to ‘guide’ him,” a senior staff of the school said.
SCHOOL OWNERS NOT LEFT OUT
School owners also unwittingly revealed that the ‘outstanding’ results being displayed on a yearly basis might not be the result of their sound teaching techniques or just hard work on the part of students.
“You can rest assured that your daughter will not sit twice for her WAEC. Here, we don’t just let the students face WAEC all alone, we go all out to ensure that, beyond the lessons they take in class, we are with them in the examination hall,” a proprietor of a top-five private secondary school in the Ikorodu area of Lagos told our correspondent.
“There is so much competition these days. We need to always be on top of the game. So we go the extra mile to ensure we record good results. If we don’t, we lose out of the market,” another proprietor, who runs a middle-class private secondary school in the Kubwa area of Abuja, said.
The proprietor of a tutorial centre in the same area said, before now, private schools were not allocated centres for WAEC examinations, noting that corruption in the education sector had made it possible for “powerful school owners” to secure centres.
He said, “The big horns in this business sometimes still have private schools to conduct the examination. Things are getting tighter for them now because, in the past, putting candidates in a particular school for smooth operations was easier because the registration was not online. Now, immediately the candidate fills the form online, he automatically gets a centre.
“What they do mainly now is to organise to work with officials assigned to the centre to make their jobs easy on the day of the examination. Again, it depends on how much is paid. Luck also plays a huge role here. The money parents pay to register their wards for special centres is non-refundable, for instance. So, I tell my students to prepare themselves adequately for the exam; that they shouldn’t rely on our help during the exam. Anything could go wrong.”
‘WE WERE SWINDLED’
Our correspondents, however, found that not all those who paid for assistance in the examinations were lucky. Oluwafunmilayo Odetoye said her mother, a widow, had enrolled her for the May/June 2013 examinations at a school in Mile 12, Lagos and paid N25,000 for ‘special treatment.’ Recounting her ordeal, she said,
“They promised us heaven and earth, that I would pass my exam. After the initial N25,000 payment, they started demanding for extra money that would be for ‘expo’, threatening us that, if we did not pay, there would be no ‘expo’ for me. But my mother refused to pay since they had already assured us of passing with the initial payment.