When the Senior School Certificate Examination started, Ifeoma went in with other students to write the first paper. As she was not prepared she managed to attempt only four questions out of seven on the question paper. She wrote her other papers without being sure of the answers. On the fourth day of exam , she resolved to help herself with whatever means she found available in order to pass. The teachers and invigilators had ushered in the students to their seats in the large expensive exam hall. The environment was very serene that the external examiner commended the principal and members of staff for a job well done in training such a well behaved group of students. He had noticed that all the students simply concentrated on their scripts without cheating or indulging in any form of exam malpractice. Ifeoma’s seat was close to the window, as she sat to write Economics. The questions were not strange to her. She had never been so confused like she was in the hall. She never really liked the subject and did not follow very well during classes. She did not make any effort to study it. She resorted to cramming. In the examination hall, she gazed at the question paper as though the answers to them were embedded in them. When she seemed to have exhausted her knowledge in providing answers to some questions, she turned to her friends for help. Judith, who sat close to her, did not pay attention. She simply looked at the other side when Ifeoma threw a folded piece of paper at her to make her look in her direction. Still unperturbed, she tried other means to help herself but to no avail.
Ifeoma was confused about what to do. One hour had already passed, yet she had not written anything meaningful. She just answered objective part of the questions and left the theory part. After about fifteen minutes, the hall was a bit rowdy. Some students had already started submitting their answer scripts while most pages in her answer sheet will still blank. Ifeoma tried everything possible to put down something, but nothing appeared to be coming to her mind. Just then she had an opportunity to peep into her neighbour’s work, attracting the curious squinting eyes of the invigilator. He walked forward and saw the anxiety in her eyes. He asked, “Hey you, there, what is the problem, why are you peeping into your neighbour’s script? Didn’t you read for the exam?” She lied to him that she had read for the exam, but that she was currently experiencing exam tension. The invigilator stared at her for a while and left without cautioning her, an indication that she was free to continue cheating in the hall. Ifeoma began to interact with some students and all she had memorized the previous night came unexpectedly to her mind. She seized the opportunity and wrote as much as she could before her paper was collected from her. She walked up to the invigilator and greeted him, making him pick interest in her. The next paper would be Mathematics, her dreaded subject. According to the exam timetable, it would be the first paper she would write the coming week. She did not want to take chances, so she made up her mind to do anything she could to succeed. All she believed was that she was going to pass the exam, by hook or crook.

During the weekend, she learned a few simple Mathematical techniques and formulas. She couldn’t practise tougher exercises and did not bother approaching her intelligent classmates to help her out. When Monday morning came, the students were arranged in their seats in accordance with their registration numbers. The examination was delayed by some minutes because the female external invigilator read the rules and regulations of the exam to the students and warned them to concentrate on their scripts and avoid trying to get help from one another. She made them understand that she was not going to tolerate any form of exam malpractice in the hall. She took time to enunciate the severe penalties that would befall anyone who would be caught cheating. The person’s result would be seized and he or she would be charged to court for criminal offence. All students had known the point she was trying to make and took precaution in the hall. They didn’t want the dreaded word, ‘cheated’ to appear on their answer sheet as those involved would be made scapegoats.
When the examination kicked off, Ifeoma scanned through the questions and realized that she could only provide few answers to the questions. In that state of anxiety, she remained calm and avoided the invigilator’s roving gaze as much as she could. After about one hour, some students had finished answering the Objective questions and submitted their scripts to the invigilators. They were just marking time, waiting for the invigilator to give them the go ahead order to continue with the Theory questions. The woman noticed that and promptly gave them the permission. However, she advised them to cross check their answers very well before proceeding to the second part.
Ifeoma noticed that a boy sitting close to her was brilliant. She begged him to put down the objective answers for her on a clean sheet of paper. The boy did and skillfully passed it over to her, without the notice of their invigilators. Ifeoma hurriedly transferred the letters onto her answer sheet as fast as she could, after which she destroyed the paper and submitted her script. Relieved that the first part of the exam had been surmounted, she relaxed and waited patiently for the boy to tackle some questions in the second part. Being in that relaxed mood, the invigilator’s attention was drawn towards her. The huge and heavily built woman came to where she was sitting to inspect her work.
“Young woman, are you through with providing answers to the questions in section A?” she asked, as she observed her from her big rimmed spectacles.
“Yes Ma,” Ifeoma, nervously replied and bent her head towards her script, an act to deceive the woman into believing that she had been serious in the exam.
“What are you then waiting for? Continue with the second part and start solving. You don’t have all the time in the world at your disposal,” the woman advised and walked away. When the invigilator’s gaze returned to Ifeoma again, she noticed that the girl was then very nervous. The boy, sitting beside her had already finished answering the questions and was about to give the paper where he had copiously written the answers to some questions for Ifeoma. He became scared when he noticed that the invigilator’s gaze was fixed on their direction and waited, ignoring Ifeoma’s pestering. But when he finally summoned courage and passed the folded sheet of paper to her, the invigilator caught them red-handed. She saw the white paper and raised alarm and immediately disciplined them.
The rest of the examinations were very disappointing to Ifeoma. She barely read for them. While other students were hopeful, Ifeoma was filled with anxiety. She had known she performed badly in the exam, and the thought of disappointing her parents haunted her. ‘If only I had known, I would have been more serious with my studies,’ she lamented.
Four months after the exam, the results were published. What she saw, when she printed out the result online brought tears to her eyes. She covered her face in shame and ran off to a secluded area where she looked at the results more carefully. The only subject she passed with credit was Economics. She failed the rest of the subjects. Her results just had one C, and 7Fs as grade points. When she got home and reluctantly showed the results to her parent, they were very mad at her poor academic performance. Her Mathematics was not released. Her accomplice in the exam, Charles, passed all his papers, except Mathematics, which was also seized. He greatly regretted offering help to Ifeoma in the exam hall. The day he saw her at school, he scornfully looked and did not utter a single word to her.
Ifeoma’s parents did not expect such a woeful failure from their daughter, whom they had spent huge sums of money to train. They knew that their daughter had some academic challenges. Little did they know that she was not as intelligent as they had once believed. Her father did not spare her at all. He scolded her and threatened to give her away to any willing man for marriage if she continued to fail her exams. Her younger sister, Anurika who had sat for the Junior School Certificate Examination about the same tome, had P’s and F’s as grades in her result. However, she was promoted to the next class, since she luckily passed both Mathematics and the English Language.


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