The imposition of what is now known as signing fee by private and public secondary schools in Rivers State where WAEC examination is being conducted is becoming a serious source of concern to parents in the state.
Even, some officials of the state government are accusing officials of WAEC promoting and encouraging the sharp practices believed to be a metaphor for malpractices being encouraged by a combination of school proprietors, principals, invigilators, parents and even students.
Last week, the issue led to a face-off between WAEC in the state and the state secondary school board. The board expressly accused WAEC of deep seated corruption. David Briggs, the chairman of the board spoke angrily about the malaise and said there were evidences that WAEC had a hand in the deal, an allegation that WAEC tried to deny.
The fee however varies from school to school. In some schools, the students are forced to pay N1,000 per subject, while in other places, they pay as much as N2000. But there are other schools where the fee is pegged at N500.
Any student who fails to pay may be allowed to write the examination but their script would most likely not be accepted, although some of the candidates claim that the scripts may eventually be accepted.
But investigations show that the money is collected by the various schools as bribe for the invigilators who would in turn allow the candidates to do whatever they like in the examination hall.
A parent, Mr Amadi Eze in an interview with TNN said "this signing fee is just a name to cover up what they are actually doing. They are collecting bribes to carry out malpractice. Before, it was an optional case for the students to partake but now it has become compulsory.
“ I remember last year when my son was writing this WAEC, he always cried to me for money but I refused giving him, he told me they are making it mandatory for them and those who refused to pay are being put in a difficult situation. It was also said that their scripts are kept aside and sometimes thrown away. I don't know how true it is but that is what I heard then.
"As you know and everyone knows, it has become a normal thing; most parents and teachers are now in full support. In fact, some encourage it, to the extent of looking for a school that allows it, which is not supposed to be so. This has made students to be lazy, that they don't want to read anymore. This should not be encouraged at all, something must be done about it.”
A teacher, Mr James Okafor also told TNN that he resigned from his teaching job because he could not condone the support of malpractice, as it was against his belief.
"I resigned from teaching job because of the malpractice here and there; the saddest part is most schools encourage it. It's really sad because most of them identify themselves as Christians.
"Malpractice is now a normal thing and some parents are fully in support of it, not knowing it is creating a great damage to their children because they are becoming lazy and exhibiting nonchalant attitude towards their studies.
“We are complaining that Nigeria is not growing but this is one of the reasons why Nigeria is still where it is, when some of the youths who are supposed to help in building the country do not know what they are doing and get certificate through bribing and malpractice".
"Parents and teachers should stop encouraging their children into such acts and WAEC officials should device a means of catching those centres that indulge in that. I love what JAMB did, the corruption in our country is just too much which must be stopped."