What values are we teaching our SHS students?

WASSCE SHS Tour Senior high school students at assembly ground

Mon, 10 Aug 2020 Source: Eric Otchere

The 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) has been eventful and bloody as well. In a swift turn of events, students of certain Senior High Schools sort to assert their right to cheat and when prevented, they vented their anger on the invigilators.

Below are four observations I have made from the nationwide scattered events that have widely been condemned.

#1. Systemic Cheating

Clearly we see in these incidents that the school authorities were the mastermind of the cheating. It seems to me that it never got to this crescendo. The head teacher and teachers of the schools had taken center stage to ensure that their students cheat to pass.

This act of systemic cheating is a danger to society. It simply means that authorities will not put in the hard work to teach students to pass on their own merit but steal to pass. Then the major question that arises is: on what values does the school raise the students? If cheating, then we are in trouble. A system that encourages cheating to pass is built on shaky grounds.

#2. Students Are Encouraged to Cheat

The next thing we observe in these unfortunate events is the students' own hunger and thirst to cheat and pass. When a person loves what the system does to encourage him or her to cheat, they become the product of the system and then grow to bite society in a negative way. For students to mass up and beat invigilators and WAEC officials is truly a disgrace. They displayed a love for cheating.

Our society cannot encourage people who are bent on stealing to climb the ladder of life. It is so ingrained in them that they saw the officials as roadblocks to their unfit behaviour. This must be nipped in the bud or it will grow and assault society. These are people, if not checked, will use cheating at every level to go up in life. The appropriate punishment must be meted out to them. An unpunished behaviour will be repeated.

#3. Examinations Encourage Cheating

The third thing we can identify is that all of this episode must have been occasioned by the unfriendly examination system that is set out to fail people rather than help them to develop. We must admit that we have had reasons to complain about the exams system that scares people and mostly fails them because they did not pass one or two subjects. You see, if a student and a school/parent believe that if they pass an examination it means they will pass in life, they will move anything to accomplish exams success including cheating. Look around. Many people's dreams have been truncated because they failed exams.

My thought is that we must revisit this whole examination system. I have heard that Ashesi University students are not invigilated yet still they don't cheat. For many other institutions, they want to cheat in the presence of an invigilator. I am confident it is not that Ashesi students are angels but because they have been oriented to understand that examination is not a monster. As far as people are made to believe that they will fail in life, they will try and cheat to pass. Can we adopt some of these values into our primary, Senior high and tertiary institutions? It must start somewhere so that we perfect as we go. Things will only change if we start to change now.

#4. Society Encourages Cheating

Probably the last thing we can take from these incidents is that society in a way also encourages cheating to pass. Are we saying that parents are not aware of this cheating system? Have parents instilled the values of students learning hard to pass on their own merits instead of stealing to pass which will be in their memory forever? I think a cheating system is partly encouraged by society. They rationalize it and make it seem impossible to study, write and pass.

If society encourages this, then we are in deep trouble. It will take a lot to change this. Societal values must gradually tilt towards hard work, perseverance and personal success. We cannot have few students toil day and night to study and others live anyhow and then show up to cheat in order to pass. That will be an unfair system that must be uprooted at its root.

We are in this together as a nation. Whether the schools, students, exams or society is to blame, we must all start living what we want to see society become. People will condemn this but do worse than this in other areas of life. We must model in action what we condemn in others.

Columnist: Eric Otchere
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