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20.05.2005 Feature Article

Letter From The President: Combating Academic Dishonesty

Letter From The President: Combating Academic Dishonesty
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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I hope that you were not surprised when you heard about the examinations leakage at the University of Science and Technology. When I heard about the grade fixing and examination leakages at Legon (involving the son of the vice Chancellor and senior faculty) I knew that it wouldn't be long when a similar scandal would be unearthed at KNUST. But I didn't imagine that the KNUST scandal would hit so soon. Come to think of it, KNUST's own examination scandal came to public attention just a few days after the university authorities had expelled some students for using fake result slips to gain admission.

I know that most of you are crying over the erosion of the credibility of our universities and the possibility that the degrees they award might not be recognized “abroad”. I can assure you that our universities are still very respected. I don't know why but we should all be thankful that our university degrees are not been flushed down a water closet. Amidst the scandal, we can build stronger and even more credible universities. What has happened, has already happened. Let the animals keep what they've eaten and let's protect what we have. Having one university scandal after another might be a blessing in disguise. We just need to seize the opportunity and make sure that the right things are done.

That's why I commend the Council of the University of Ghana for forcing the vice Chancellor to stand down. I don't agree with those who argue that, like Kofi Annan, the vice Chancellor must not be punished for the iniquities of his son. The vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana is not being punished for the iniquities of his son. He's being punished for presiding over a rotten system. His son's involvement is the mere 'icing on the cake'. I am very sad that he didn't step aside willingly but preferred to be pushed aside. I think he should have honourably stepped aside, nobly conceding that he had failed in one of his main responsibilities – protecting the image of the university. I have a lot of respect for Prof. Assenso-Okyere and I am saddened that he's being forced to vacate his position. His son let him down but he also let himself down. There is a lot he could have done to check the examination malpractises – he's as guilty for his acts of omission as his son is guilty for his acts of commission. So he should go away. We will get a more competent person to come and help check examination malpractises at the nation's premier university.

In the same vein, I entreat the vice Chancellor of KNUST to jump aside quietly or he'll also be pushed. I know that his son was not involved in the examination malpractises at KNUST. But he must go.

Getting rid of vice Chancellors who preside over examination malpractises is the first step towards fighting the canker of academic dishonesty. The next vice chancellor at the University of Ghana will be wary about getting fired over an examination scandal (with or without his son's involvement). So he will push and shove to make sure that the canker is reduced to the barest minimum. If the vice Chancellors at Legon and KNUST had paid as much attention to fighting academic dishonesty as they did to delivering useless speeches and long, boring lectures, we would have been spared all this embarrassment. Having dismissed the vice chancellors, we have to take another look at the universities' admission policies. Too many students are being admitted with fictitious grades. When they enter the universities with these high grades and they need to maintain the façade that they are good students, they will go to every length to steal examination papers and pay bribes to dishonest lecturers to give them undeserved marks. I've told the universities to stop accepting result slips directly from the students. They should just ask the students to apply to WAEC for the examinations council to forward their result slips to the universities. All the universities abroad – I mean the wise and serious ones – do not take result slips directly submitted by students. By so doing, students cannot supply fake result slips. We also need to take another look at admission policies because I think the universities are literally biting more than they can chew. Why are so many students being admitted even though the universities have not seen any expansion since they were established? Lecture halls are bursting at their seams because too many students are being admitted. Sometimes students have to strain their ears to hear lecturers who scream themselves hoarse just be heard by students. When students do not get the right tuition, they are left with little choice than to engage in academic dishonesty. No one is forcing the universities to admit more students than they can admit. Perhaps, they should concentrate more on distance learning programmes to take care of the large number of students seeking admission into the universities. The students cannot be totally absolved of blame, however. They spend too much time engaging in life's frivolities. The men are chasing women and the women are enjoying being chased. They spend more time “chilling” than burning the midnight oil. They sometimes forget that there are examinations to be written. They lose focus – they lose the essence of why their parents had sent them to school. One of the things that annoy me most is when I see students demonstrating over things they should not bother themselves with – like demanding a reduction in academic user fees. More than 95 percent of university students in Sikaman don't pay for their fees – their parents or guardians do. So I get amused when those who are not paying the fees take to the streets in protest while those who actually pay remain calm. Please, students of Sikaman, sit your bottoms down and learn. Grow up! Otherwise you embarrass yourselves, your parents, your universities and our nation by engaging in academic dishonesty.

Finally, the university authorities (and students) should stop pointing accusing fingers at Nigerians – as is currently happening at KNUST. No one should water down the severity of the scandal at KNUST by blaming it on Nigerians and deliberately inciting xenophobic sentiments. Instead of going after 'foreigners' the university authorities should go after faculty members who sell their questions to students and those who award undeserved marks in return for favours – in cash or in kind. As we force Asenso-Okyere to step aside and ask Andam to do the same without any coercion, their underlings – lecturers, teaching assistants, gardeners – who were directly involved in the examination scandals must also be punished. If we do not act to salvage the little that is left of the reputation of our educational institutions, the whole world will look down on us – a nation of dishonest academics. Basic school pupils cheat, secondary school students do the same and it's even worse in the universities. God help us.

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.