As the struggle against academic malpractice continues, one should understand that it does not only affect a single institution, but the entire country. So, today, I will be giving my personal experience with academic malpractice from both my alma mater and what was formerly the West African Examination Council (WAEC Liberia), now the West African Secondary Schools Certificate ( WASSCE).
While preparing for the 2016 WAEC Exam at the St. Francis High School, we (the 12th graders) were asked by the administration to pay the sum of $20 USD for “FLEXIBILITY FEES”. The term flexibility fees is a Liberian slang for the allocation and payment of money to bribe examiners or compromise exam results. According to the school administration, whatsoever amount that was being generated by the students would be used to meet the satisfaction of WAEC Examiners and exam makers, so as to give the school positive results or a 100% pass mark. The administration prevailed on me to do everything humanly possible to get my colleagues to comply with the payment of the flexibility fees because I was the student council president that year. They informed us that the paying of Flexibility Fees in order to pass the national exam has proven helpful to almost every school/student and has been the status quo since the ende of our civil crises. We were terrified by the administration saying “clever students normally fail the public test, so you guys have to take the payment of the Flexibility fees seriously in order to enable us to run after the Exam results.” Therefore, we started the payment with zeal and even the students with financial constraints had to manage because we all wanted a successful passed.
Approximately two weeks before our national exam, the treasurer of our class (responsible for collecting and keeping our payments) complained to me about the school principal’s (school owner) son. Our principal’s son was also a member of the school administrative staff but up to now, I don’t know the exact position he occupied within the institution. He was seen doing almost everything pertaining to the management of the school, although there were people responsible for those things. Our treasurer complained that he was always requesting for money from our Flexibility fees budget in the name of settling the affairs of our class. This was done without the consent of any student nor student leadership. Every time he requested for money, the treasurer did as he commanded because he was the highest-ranking official; although his father was still the Principal, he was visually handicapped, so the son was the one on the ground. In addition, the Principal’s son was the sugar daddy of the campus. He had a sexual relationship with almost all the beautiful female students in the school, most especially from the senior high. I got irritated by his illegal consumption of our Flexibility fees and decided to give everyone’s money back to them. I consulted my class about my decision and some agreed, while the rest said that I was trying to be the cause for the school failure in the national exam. Meanwhile, I went ahead to return everyone’s money and also stopped the act of “camping,” which is when WAEC takers stay in one house for a number of days to supposedly study for the exams.
This annoyed the entire administration, most especially the principal’s son, who was at the forefront of the entire issue, along with a few students. I could see serious anger on the faces of students who saw my move to stop the collection of Flexibility fees and camping as a threat to their successes in the National Exam. On the day we were summoned on campus to receive our WAEC numbers, students that were happy with my decision were around me saying “we will listen to our prezo.” Those students who felt otherwise were saying all the harmful things including, “Mandingo men like to act like they know all,” and “Pekin like this needs serious flogging.” While standing in that afternoon sun, a senior student confronted me and said, “You will face my wrath if I fail in the exam.” I then casually reminded him to “Depend on your brains, not Flexibility fees.” This aggravated him and he hit me in the chest but before things could escalate, other students came in and resolved the fight. This occurred in the presence of the administration and no one said nor did anything about it. On that day, the principal’s son clearly told us that he could create hell for us during the Examination. He ended by saying that we were on our own.
Fast forward to the day of the examination, we were sitting in the hall and one of WAEC Examiners said “The Principal’s son of the St. Francis High School just called me and said that you guys refused to pay the flexibility fees.” Without waiting for anything more than that, he apparently communicated this to his fellow examiners and thus began our hell that day. Many of my colleagues were sent out of the hall for next to nothing and our Examination papers were collected before time. Now, prior to the tension between us the administration, I had been pronounced as the valedictorian of the graduating class for that academic year (2015/2016), but after all that transpired and my refusal to cooperate with the Administration, I was informed that I was no longer the valedictorian. I did all I could to preserve my hard-earned honor, but my efforts were fruitless. Other students got afraid and backed down after the Administration threatened that we may not graduate if we dared to cause more problems for the school. The reality is, the student who was then given the valedictorian honor had an average that was lower than mine. All of these were done to get back at me for my stance on what I felt was right. I wrote the Principal of the school in order to get his attention to the illegal, immoral and unfair denial of my Valedictorian honor alongside some of the other corruptions that were ongoing within the institution, but the old man only wept and told me that because of his visual problem, his son has ruined the institution. I, therefore, called on my colleagues that we boycott the graduation but the majority didn’t adhere to that. I was left all alone to handle my fate of standing for what’s right. However, I decided to join the graduation, but I was sidelined from all the graduate programs. I was not allowed to make remarks during the graduation ceremony as Student Council President. The administration feared that if provided the opportunity to address the audience, I would have exposed naughty happenings within the school.
Students who stand against education malpractice face serious wrath from high ranking officials of the institution who are involved in these malpractices.
We are now speaking out because it is still not too late for correction, and if we do nothing about it now, it has the propensity to continuously deteriorate our education system. The betterment of the future lies in education because it is that which will improve all other sectors of our country h.
Authored by Abu Kamara
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