In a society that is increasingly becoming a graveyard of dreams and an extinguisher of hopes, education is fronted as a reliable ladder to success. As such, this has made students do anything to attain that elusive degree, which includes engaging in academic malpractice.
Moving around institutions of higher learning, one is inevitably greeted by posters advertising essay writing services. No one stops to copy the numbers on the posters, but one thing is for sure, essay writing services are now a growing trend in universities.
According to a 2018 University of Swansea survey of students across the world, around 31 million students admitted to have at one point paid someone else to write an assignment for them.
Contract cheating, which is passing off an essay or assignment written by someone else as one’s own, is a vice that is not alien to the University of Zambia.
In an interview with the Lusaka Star, a Public Administration tutor, Jason Ngoma admitted that contract cheating is a common practice among many students at the highest learning institution in Zambia.
I can tell when a student gave someone else to write an assignment for them, as the level of analysis of a first year is different from that of a fourth year,Ngoma.
I question a lot of assignments, however it is hard to penalise students as I cannot produce enough evidence to prove that they gave someone else to write for them.
He added that it is for these reasons assignments are not a proper way of assessing students’ performance.
Furthermore, UNZA Public Relations Manager Damaseke Chibale said that the University has strict guidelines put in place to ensure that essay or assignment writing is curtailed.
The students’ assignments are meticulously evaluated, moderated and examined to ensure originality, avoid plagiarism, copy and paste style and whether a student had received external assistance,Chibale.
This can be attested to by the number of students who are excluded each academic year.
Chibale added that students from the start of their academic journey at UNZA are urged to work hard and utilise their time very well rather than resort to cheating.
However, a person that has written assignments and tests on behalf of others revealed that alot of students are mentally bruised by academic work that they are forced to seek his services in order to pass their courses.
Students in universities are so stressed that even if they study, they seem not to get what they have studied or researched, so they come to us knowing they will pass,The anonymous essay writer said.
Another essay writer said he makes a lot of money from students doing long-distance education as they are too busy to sit down and write assignments.
Long distance students pay as high as k400 per assignment, and even more if they got good grades in past assignments written for them, he said.
Emmanuel Kanchebele, a student at UNZA, said that many students in universities are not concerned about understanding concepts or topics, but are only focused on beating deadlines, hence use other people to write for them assignments.
You will be shocked to find out that many students do not even understand what is contained in the assignments they submit despite getting a B plus[grade],Kanchebele.
He further added that contract cheating has led to the nation having graduates that do not understand the courses they studied for four years.
Students paying a third-party to write assignments for them, not only makes them fail to understand their courses, but it may also taint the reputation of their universities.
Best Jere, a former student, said that he has witnessed employers question the quality of education offered at UNZA after a graduate failed to articulate issues they wrote in their work reports.
Some employers end up faulting UNZA when some graduates fail to meet the high expectations that they expect someone from UNZA to easily reachJere.
He added that a graduate that fails to show their capabilities at their work place is a danger to the future of the Zambia
Jere suggested that UNZA should come up with campaigns that show students the dangers of contract cheating.
The university should be deliberate about contract cheating by sensitizing the students on how their friends(graduates) have lost jobs cause of not knowing anything in their course,he said.
Jere further added that it is high time society stopped the over emphasis on students having very good grades, as it makes them desperate to pass.
Despite not knowing how prevalent contract cheating is in UNZA, it is a problem that needs to be quickly curtailed lest it undermines the integrity of the university.
Contract cheating is a menace that has the potential of making students believe that it does not matter how much you study, the efforts you put in or what you even study, as one can still reach academic nirvana and get employed using a degree attained through fraudulent means.