I sat in the exam hall chewing my pen and had my eyes fixed on the invigilator, waiting for the least opportunity to bring out my mobile phone where I had all the answers to the questions. The answers were sent by our colleagues from another school to help all of us make good grades. Others were also scratching their heads. This is a final exam and failing this exam means you cannot proceed to the next level of education! Those who didn’t have mobile phones in school wrote the answers on pieces of paper which we refer to as “nkitinkitin” literally “small small”. It is called so because of how it is written. A full page can be written into one paragraph on a small piece of paper.
Some of the students hide the small small in their shoes and socks, some in their armpit, some of the ladies even put it in their underwear! Some students may be unlucky to be caught engaging in examination malpractices, they are punished according to the law. Some are even banned from writing this exams again for a number of years. We are not deterred by this, this is a matter of do or die! Let’s try to think of the consequences of some of these action. No matter how small they seem, they can destroy us forever.
The results are released and we have all passed! We are happy and jubilating even though we know deep within us that it’s not by dint of our hardwork. We are reaping where we did not sow. And then we graduate and go to higher educational institutions but lack the basic knowledge required to build upon at the higher level. Who do I blame for this? Do I blame myself for not working hard enough to pass my exams? Do I blame my parents for not taking me to the best school? Do I blame my teachers for not making sure I understood everything they taught? Or do I blame the educational system for the kind of education we have?
Year after year, we heard reports that the exams have leaked and a lot of students have their papers cancelled. The organisers of the exams try as much as possible to improve their techniques but the more they try, the more we hear that there are leakages. Who is leaking the papers? What can be done to prevent this from happening in future? It’s very common to hear students asking their colleagues if they have any “apor” during exams.
In my opinion, that is if it counts anyway, I think that examinations should be more practical and provoke thinking. What I mean is that, instead of asking students to explain concepts in abstract, they can be asked to explain these same concepts from their own perspectives in relation to their life and environment. This way, students are writing about themselves and they are going to provide answers based on their own experiences and from their various points of view. Relate each question to real life situation and they will be no need for any apor or malpractices in exams.
Until we stop preparing marking schemes with one (1) correct answer to a question for our exams, students will continue to cheat during examinations. Until we allow school children to think on their own and stop forcing them to know exactly what is in the syllabus, more and more students will have their pictures displayed in the print media for examination malpractice. Gone are the days when technology was not so advanced. Today, mobile phones have made everything so easy. Information can travelled several miles within a short period of time.
I am given the questions that will be coming in the exam and told not to tell anyone, I also send them to my friend in another school and tell them not to tell anyone, on and on, the information is travelling and reaching more and more candidates. We all get so excited by that we have access to examination questions that we may betray ourselves. The exam is cancelled and we are asked to write again. Sometimes, we may even be given wrong questions, what happens when you enter the exam hall only to find out that the apo you had is not part of the exams?
What about the innocent school boy or girl in a deprived community where no one owns a mobile phone. What happens to this child who had to burn charcoal and sell to be able to buy kerosene into the lantern to be able to learn? What happens to the girl who has so many chores to finish at home that she hardly ever has any energy left to learn? For your one mistake or my carelessness, thousands of students have to suffer!
I think it is high time the people and the institutions in charge of education in our dear country Ghana revise the way we are schooled in this country if we really want to help school children and the earlier this is done, the better for all of us. Students will stop the ‘chew, pour, pass and forget’ way of learning and writing exams. Examinations should also not be used to frightened students as is the practice. We are not going to be promoted to the next level if we don’t get a certain mark. We will not be recognised if we are not able to score high grades.