Teacher’s mind: Report cards: Watch out for forgeries

Honest effort ought to be rewarded with honest rewards. Evidence of such rewards should also be presented genuinely. I am talking about students’ report cards.

Honest effort ought to be rewarded with honest rewards. Evidence of such rewards should also be presented genuinely. I am talking about students’ report cards.

By the end of this week, most students not in candidate classes will return home after the closure of the academic year 2007.

Some schools even allow students to go home after exams to only return on the final day to pick report cards (a measure I do not support since it only benefits the school owners who save millions of francs meant for students’ food – I call it embezzlement).

Now that the academic year has come to an end, teachers are busy calculating marks and filling out students’ report cards. Meanwhile, students are preoccupied with the thoughts of promotion to the next class or demotion.

Good marks mean that one will be promoted to the next class and the contrary leads to repeating the class or even being chased away from the school for good.

A student with a good report card is a darling to his/her parents while the one with miserable marks is simply a disgrace. 

The stakes seem to even be higher for students whose tuition is paid by humanitarian organisations, sponsors or guardians. This is because a bad report card may spell the end of their sponsorship.

An organisation like FARG gives priority to students who perform well. Those who fail to attain a certain level of academic success are usually deleted from the sponsors’ lists.

The fact that a report card at the end of term has high implications on the life of a student compels some of them to improvise in some cases, so as not to carry a shameful card back home.

‘Improvising’ here means acquiring a forged report from someone outside their school. On knowing that they are going get a bad report or even after getting it, some students run to secretarial bureaus to forge a report giving them decent marks.

Some unscrupulous people in Kigali have forged school stamps and even know how to mimic the signatures of school officials like headmasters and the deputy headmasters. They often get a copy of the report and simply photocopy it.

The remaining task is to stamp it and get a fake signature. Thereafter the student can even fill in for himself what he considers to be decent marks. Within minutes a student will have a ‘good’ report similar to the real thing.

Some parents are not educated enough to scrutinize a report card to find out if it is forged or not. Others are simply not that careful while some pretend to be too busy to even look at the reports.

As for the humanitarian organisations like FARG, the capacity to scrutinize thousands of reports is simply not there. Such conditions have helped report card fraud to thrive unhindered.
How can this vice be cured? My prescription is intelligence.

Firstly, reports are usually forged by students with poor marks who then claim they wish to change schools (because they have been told to repeat or have been kicked out).

So head teachers and parents should be more careful when a student presents a ‘good’ report card and then suggests that they wish to change schools.

Schools usually retain a copy of each student’s report so any parent in doubt of their child’s performance should simply contact the school for verification.

Most schools keep their administrative offices open even during the holidays. Please utilize them. Schools should make an effort to make reports that are hard to forge. Preferably a report should be on a letter head with the school logo in colour.

Black and white reports can easily be forged even with the help of the obsolete Olympia typewriters. Most reports have an area that a parent is supposed to sign to confirm that he has at least seen the report. Parents should therefore play their part.

In case of any doubt, there is always a school telephone contact on the report that a parent can use to instantly find out from the school administration whether the report is genuine or not.

Lastly, the schools and parents should collaborate with the police to see to it that those involved in forging report cards face legal punishment.