A large scale extortion of candidates in the ongoing Basic Education Certificate Examination (a.k.a. Junior WAEC) by those charged with the supervision of the examination in Imo State, has been exposed
Following public outcry, especially by parents of students involved in the examinations, who were shocked they were being demanded between N200 to N500 each examination day for their children and wards to “settle” their supervisor, THE LEADER embarked on a fact-finding tour of parts of the state including Isiala Mbano, Onuimo, Ehime Mbano, Ideato North and Ideato South Local Government Areas and made telephone contacts with Orlu, Oru West, Ihite-Uboma and Ikeduru LGAs.
Investigations in three schools visited in Isiala Mbano – Aquinas Secondary School Osu, Umuduru Community Secondary School and Comprehensive Secondary School Mbeke, revealed that for every paper, a student paid N100, N150 or N200, depending on the school and the supervisor, who is at liberty to fix his or her price.
Situation was the same at Cor Maria Secondary School Urualla, Ideato North, Umuezealama Secondary School, Ehime Mbano, Umuna Secondary School, Onuimo LGA and Okohia Secondary School Isiala Mbano.
Students of the schools visited who spoke on condition of anonymity were unanimous in the name ascribed to the bribe. They called it “signing fee”, which implies money paid to the supervisor to induce him or her to append her signature that would authenticate the examination and also individual answer scripts.
Another common factor as expressed by the students interviewed from most of the state was that two subjects, English Language
and Mathematics said to be core subjects attracted special charges ranging from N200 to N500 each.
When THE LEADER sought to know the fate of any student that defaults payment, one of the students said “you will be either isolated from fellow students or put in a lonely place where you will be denied all attention. You will be thoroughly harassed such that you cannot concentrate to write the exams; while those who paid would be helped and pampered. Infact you can’t resist it”.
The pupils expressed regret that the amount charged was too much for them as junior students. “If it was like fifty Naira ok”, one of the children said. Another expressed fear for the future, saying, “If they forced us to pay this much in Junior WAEC only, God knows how much we will pay in Senior WAEC.”
In an interview, a retired civil servant, Mr. Austin Onwu wondered what lesson the teachers would impact on the young students by their nefarious activity as they were expected to be role models for the students. For Mrs. Caro Dike, any worker in Imo State school system who engages in such a malpractice smacks of ingratitude to the Okorocha administration which according to the trader has raised teachers to a glorious height. A Government Liaison Officer for an autonomous community in Ehime Mbano said the development portends danger for the future and likened it to “planting and watering corruption in the nursery”.
The Director Education Commission, Catholic Diocese of Okigwe, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Cajetan Ehiem described the development as a vicious circle. He said his initial findings zeroed down to the allegations that Supervisors paid bribes to be posted to the schools hence they strive to recover their expenses through exploiting the students. He attributed the malaise to greed and advised teachers to live up to their calling.
When contacted, the Director of Planning, Research and Statistics, Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB) Owerri, Sir C.O.E. Chukwu said urgent action would be taken to nab the perpetrators of the scandalous act.
Meanwhile, the State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Mrs. Adaobi Obasi said her ministry would investigate the incident thoroughly and will not delay in doing this.
The Commissioner who was visibly angry and furious over the allegation vowed to punish anybody involved in the incident no matter his or her rank in the teaching profession.
She expressed regret that after all that Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has done to improve the welfare of teachers and restore sanity in the education sub-sector, some corrupt elements are making a mess of all the efforts.