by Tola Adenle

Teachers have the unique advantage of being students of human behavior first hand and when you’ve been or are the principal of a high school, you can claim to have been there, seen and done it all. What with pushy parents who have ideas about the goals they want for their kids without the kids needing to put the effort to achieve those lofty goals; having female students go into a room one by one prior to examinations so that they can lift their skirts to check their laps for those little tips they often find it easy to write in those delicate parts of the female anatomy (apart from log table facts and other Math pointers written on seats, rulers, math boxes, etc.) and state government officials who often appear to care little if students do well as long as their palms are constantly greased by private school owners. Then, there are those itinerant sales persons of scientific equipment, geographical items (globes, maps, etc.), mathematical instruments and, of course book publishers who must, of necessity, hawk their wares which schools need and which most private schools often purchase.

In spite of this fact that is expected routine work of principals, I was more than shocked some years ago when whom I thought was an itinerant salesman turned out to be the “author” himself, of no less a title than “Twelfth Night” trying to get in on the gravy train of recommended text for Literature-in-English for the WAEC/NECO examinations! Although it was, at the time, over forty years since I studied that same book at school, most people who went to school before education in Nigeria became a nightmare knew that the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, wrote that great comedy – even if they never sat in on any English Literature class. Here, below, is an approximation of my little chat that morning with the Author of Twelfth Night (ATN):

ATN: Good morning, Ma.
Me: Good morning; how are you?
ATN: Fine, Ma. I am here to introduce my book [He handed one to me, and took the chair in front of me before I offered him a seat! I let the indiscretion pass because I was already opening the book.]
Me: Which publishing house do you work for? [I had skimmed the busy, busy front pages without seeing the name of the publishing house that got the Rights to issue the play.]
ATN: This is the set text for 19—to 19–, ma.
Me: Of course I know that! [Then, my eyes caught the dedication: “Dedicated to --, my wife, and etc., the children]!!! You dedicate Shakespeare’s work to your family?
ATN: But I edited it. [He seemed to be surprised at my not understanding his position.]
Me: No, sir, you CANNOT edit or issue any Shakespeare title unless you get permission from the appropriate Shakespeare society or library. And I’m not buying from you not only because I already bought genuine copies to cover our need but also because I cannot subscribe to plagiarism.
[The guy was calm and seemed to take no offense at my flare-up.]
ATN: XXX has already purchased from me, ma.
Me: This is not XXX school, and if you’d excuse me, good morning and thank you.

Looking back, I believe I should have purchased a copy for myself but I was so gong-ho about right and wrong that I failed to see the importance of making that single purchase. I am sure, though, that copies of this “author” are around in Ibadan today.

Cheating has become so much a part of the culture in Nigeria that there was no way the educational institutions of the country: schools, colleges and universities AND the publishing industry would not be affected. It’s all part of the cutting corners that has become the quickest way to money-making but it had been around for quite a while, though. Back in the early Seventies before JAMB, the universities were still conducting their own entrance examinations. During one such exams to then University of Ife in a place in the East, the invigilator discovered an impersonator, then another and yet another, etc. Then, in a dare, he reported how he stopped everybody and asked those who know that they were writing the examinations for somebody other than themselves to stand up, pack their things and leave! The invigilator said that he could not believe the number of “candidates” who ran out of the hall.

I was surfing the television channels recently when I came across the news of the kids caught cheating on the POLY JAMB aided by invigilators who had collected money and set up a parallel exam center near the real center although the scores of these kids would have produced non-parallel results, so to say. I have later read in newspapers that the cheats, who were taken into custody, have since been released on bail, an event that reportedly made the parents jubilate. The case is supposedly headed for the Federal High Court system. Even though these are supposedly “first time offenders”, I say they are “first time apprehended” and must be given the full treatment that these offenses attract. These will teach them and their parents a very good lesson because most of the examination practices that go on in the country is with the active connivance of parents. They knowingly send their kids to “lessons” that are known examination leakage centers and this is why I think the Lagos State government has done the right thing by banning the so-called “coaching centers.”

Years ago when one of my kids was sitting the November GCE, something weird happened. The teacher who coached her in Math [no, he did not have a “coaching” center but helped her in my place] came in agitated in the morning. Here’s my recollection of the discussion I had with Ayo that morning:
A: Mommy, have you seen the English paper?
Me: Yeah; I think X acquitted herself well.
A: I trust; did you read the comprehension? Is there Musa mentioned there?
Me: I read it but I’m not sure of the names I saw. What’s wrong?
[He called the girl to bring the paper and lo, and behold, Musa was in a passage].
A: Ye, English ti leak! {Oh, the English paper has leaked!]
Me: How d’you know?
A: I saw a comprehension passage on the board in a “lesson” near my house on Friday. This is that passage. Ilu yi ti finish! [This country is finished!]

When I narrated the incident to a friend who’s also a teacher, she enquired where, and when I told her, she just dismissed the incident with “gbogbo parents l’o mo pe nkan ti awon omo lo nse ni X niyen! [Everybody knows that that is what X is famous for!]

Parents are in on examination malpractices; some unscrupulous school owners are in on it; the kids, naturally, are in on it and so are a few teachers and many invigilators. The invigilators caught in the POLY JAMB fiasco must be used as example to others by the Federal High Court. It would serve as a strong deterrent if they are sent to jail. If kids who have reached prosecutable ages are sent to jail, it would also send very strong messages not only to other students but also to parents who supply the money for these fraudulent misadventures.

Just around the same time of the POLY JAMB fiasco, I also happened on the news of the guy who imported a warehouse full of text books which are published and sold legitimately in Nigeria. The cost supposedly runs into hundreds of millions of naira. He had imported the books from the Far East or so and the shipment stored in a warehouse at Apapa or thereabout, included such fast-selling titles as A New General Mathematics which Kalejaiye, et al. reworked from the original Channon and Smith and for which Longman’s has publishing rights in Nigeria. Such pirated books abound in the big open markets at Lagos, Ibadan and Onitsha the way capsules, panadol, aspirin and other fast-selling drugs abound by-the-measure at

Our compatriot who brought in these books from the Orient must be brought to feel the full weight of the law which the Nigerian “author” who “wrote” Twelfth Night did not. The Inspectorate arms of states’ Ministries of Education must include in their schedules routine checks of texts being used by schools which would also aid in fighting plagiarism. It is a battle, just like examination malpractice, which the law agencies can fight.

[The Comet on Sunday, September 2003]

* I was tempted to categorize this under the new “Crime Syndicate masquerading as a nation(?) but went along with where it actually belongs: old newspaper essasy. After all, if truth be told, perhaps most of what goes under ‘politics’ would fit into the category!

* ATN today writes for a top newspaper.



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