Mr. Kabba was driving his daughter Saffie to school on a road dotted with neighbouring potholes. Growing impatient she cried, ‘I’m going to be late for school again. You’re driving too slowly, daddy.’ The father softly replied that it wasn’t his fault as he needed to take his time to navigate his way through the holes. ‘Someone needs to fix this road,’ Saffie blurted, getting angrier at the thought of being late for school. ‘I read in the paper that some officer had misused the funds earmarked to repair the road, but we’ll get to your school soon,’ Mr. Kabba assayed to placate Saffie. For a moment she became abstracted but at a point on the road, she happened to see a policeman discreetly receiving a bribe from a driver of an overloaded public bus.
The child in the preceding scenario is representative of thousands of children, who have constantly and helplessly seen and been victims of corruption perpetrated by those who bear care or responsibility to groom them to assume positions of trust in the future. They have been informally socialized to believe that personal success can be achieved not through merit and hard work but through shady means such as bribery, favouritism, and fraud. While these victims remain oblivious to the full havoc corruption wrecks on society they have become, regrettably, highly susceptible to buying test grades, cheating in exams, and like misconducts.
This situation grimly promises nothing else than a paucity of integrity, a dysfunctional public system, and a strangulation of the state economy with increased poverty and public resentment, if we allow the wrongs society has tacitly taught our beloved children to congeal in their psyche. Yet, this dark prospect can be averted by renewing the mindset of the children through teaching them values-based subjects with emphasis on using sustained and interactive practical methods. Thankfully, the Anti-Corruption Commission has set a framework that can help to mould pupils in the best way possible to identify and tap their potentials in preparation for productive future leadership and national development.
The Commission has established and works with Integrity Clubs in secondary schools across the country as part of its extensive efforts to combat corruption through education. It also implements Meet-the-School campaigns in schools. These laudable strides empower pupils to internalize integrity and repel corruption, embolden them to bravely speak out against official impropriety, and reposition themselves as anti-corruption actors rather than acquiesce to and remain victims of the hazard. More specifically and with teacher coordinators in charge, the club members are taught the costs, nature and variations of corruption, integrity, and the work of the Commission itself.
Similarly, the New Basic Education Curriculum for Sierra Leone which is based on the National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education incorporates Civics with a wide range of related subject areas including Honesty, Corruption and Bribery, with the goal of enabling the learner to: a) give simple definitions of honesty, corruption and bribery b) demonstrate honest practices in the home, school and community, and c) identify corrupt practices in the home, school and community. The first learning outcome is entirely cognitive and as such can be measured by correcting answer scripts and awarding marks for answers given by the pupils to likely test questions as ‘Define Corruption giving at least three examples, or ‘Clearly distinguish between Bribery and Honest.’
Conversely, the second and third learning outcomes are much more related to attitude and can be better measured by assessing the behaviour of the pupils rather than rewarding them pass or failed test grades. This is more so given that pupils like Saffie enrol in schools with a capital of experiences of corruption and other societal ills gained from their interactions with the communities they live in, and which need to be undone to create a psychological space for recommended behaviour. Thus, engaging more inclusive and practical teaching and learning methods will be far more effective to fetch the desired outcomes than an all-theory approach that will go no further than improving academic performance only. So, what is the route to the end?
Several techniques could be adopted in the classroom setting in order to wean pupils off the tendencies to be corrupt and inculcate in them honesty, hard work, integrity, and patriotism, among other values for the wellbeing of society now and in future. A World Bank paper entitled Theories of Behaviour Change suggests Self-Efficacy as the first of five keys to change an individual’s behaviour. This means that the individual should be inspired to believe that he or she has the ability to perform a recommended response. To put this into perspective, the teacher may assume that the pupils have been involved in or, at least, seen some kind of corrupt practice (a possible barrier to behaviour change), but should assure them that they can change for the better.
Probably this confidence building can serve as part of an introduction to a demonstration in class like this: The teacher encourages the class to appoint someone to act as a health service provider. Then he gets two of them to act as a mother and a sick child respectively. The idea here is a short skit in which the health service provider refuses to treat the sick child on Free Health Care medicines, because the mother has not money to meet a solicited bribe. The child eventually dies. After the performance, the teacher should trigger a discussion on the events of the skit.
Better still, the pupils can be arranged for a mock test. The teacher divides the class into two, not necessarily equally, and draws at most five multiple choice questions on the blackboard – any other means of presenting the questions to the pupils will suit the purpose. The questions should be simple but should contain detracting answers, so that no one pupil would answer all of them correctly under a real test situation. He can then expose the answers to the questions to one half of the class – it does not matter if the other half of the class notices him doing so. In fact, this will serve to escalate a discussion later on. Once the questions have been answered, the scripts should be collected and marked at once. Those pupils who were earlier exposed to the answers would plausibly score higher marks and make the larger number of passes.