How I learned to be honest in education

Honesty and integrity make up a value system that needs to be cultivated and upheld, as early as during school days.

Years ago I asked myself, “How did I start making my own rules?” These rules were everything my dear parents would have frowned upon. I am going to tell you about one of those experiences that helped me make better decisions in my now adult life.

I went to a public secondary school in Nigeria after doing well in primary school, and in the common entrance exams. As a junior at secondary school, I got to meet kids from different upbringings and I often felt out of place, realising that I was not that streetwise after all.

My peers would laugh at me for not knowing how to get out of trouble just by telling a “white lie”. So I started learning new ways of taking care of myself outside my parents’ rules. Fearing being ostracised by my peers if I refused to “cooperate”, I began cheating during exams.

By my finals I was dependent on this system of “knowledge-sharing” in the exam hall. I would answer all the questions I could, but I also knew I could get other answers from colleagues. It felt right at the time, and not even the teachers were that hard on cheating students.

This blog post is part of a series
drawing on articles from the
Global Corruption Report: Education.

I was writing my chemistry paper on this fateful day and I had forgotten an equation. I whispered to one of my friends to help out, I was so certain she would know the answer. I had my pen poised ready to write, but alas! She turned, smiled at me and turned back to continue her work. I was shocked! I could not fathom why she did that. I finished up and submitted.

She came to me after the exam, gave me a very big hug and said, “My dear, I don’t cheat in exams anymore”. And it suddenly dawned on me that the act we had perfected over the years was actually cheating. We knew it was wrong, but it had become part of a system that we simply saw as a means to an end.

This was a life-changing event in the course of my life. Initially, I was hurt and upset, but I later realised that if my friend could submit her booklet without knowing all the answers, that shows how much sacrifice we should be willing to make to do things right.

From that moment I decided to always be prepared and responsible for every action and decision, to always do my very best and never compromise my standards, just like my parents taught me from the very beginning.

Though not always favourable in the short term, this approach has been the right one to follow.

I went through university not cheating in my exams or tests, and never cutting corners. I made some enemies along the way, but it was never about them.

Today, I work in an organisation that stands for integrity and serving humanity. All my actions and work, presently and foregoing, stand for integrity. Work starts at 8:30 in the morning and I am there at or before that time, expecting all of my colleagues to report at that time, too. It’s a value system that has to be built and upheld. Thirteen years ago I made that decision to stand up for what is right at all times and I must say it’s been fulfilling, especially with the good results tailing those actions.

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