HIGH STAKES AS STATE FIGHTS PERENNIAL CHEATING IN EXAMS
After a record 5,101 cases of cheating in last year’s KCSE exams and half the number in KCPE exams, Education CS Fred Matiang’i is personally spearheading efforts to tame the vice fuelled by a craze for good grades
CANDIDATES’ USE OF CLIPBOARDS AND GEOMETRICAL SETS HAS BEEN BANNED, WHILE EVERY EXAM ROOM HAS A MAXIMUM 20 CANDIDATES POSITIONED 1.22M APART.
The release of the 2016 KCPE results at the end of December and KCSE results in February next year will be a litmus test on the government’s efforts to fight cheating in national exams. Supervision of exams by senior ministry officials and appointment of headteachers as sole examination centre managers are among the measures whose success is at stake.
The craze by candidates, parents and teachers for good grades that engenders cheating is now up against the government’s bid to ensure credibility and integrity of the exams. The Education ministry is working alongside the ICT and Interior ministries for round-the-clock monitoring of exam papers.
So high are the stakes that CS Fred Matiang’i has undertaken to personally supervise the exams, as witnessed at the start of the 2016 KCPE exams. He pitched tent in Vihiga county, as senior Education ministry directors supervised the exam in other regions. The Kenya National Examination Council members are also supervising the exam.
“The government wants to be sure that the new system put in place works,” Matiang’i said.
Appointment letters from the Kenya National Examination Council noted that, “Headteachers are directly accountable, responsible and answerable for any examination malpractices that will take place in their institutions.”
In May, the CS promised to set aside all his ministerial duties to supervise national exams. “I will be at the exam centres myself, working with the supervisors. Principal Secretaries, ministry directors and I will work together to ensure we deliver credible results this time. All of us will be on duty,” Matiang’i said.
Knec acting CEO Mercy Karogo has said: “We do not expect candidates to engage in stealing of examinations. Parents and everybody should allow the candidates to score their rightful grades.”
She said headteachers, county and subcounty directors of education are jointly accountable for all examination materials at the 26,308 KCPE and 9,158 KCSE examination centres in subcounties. School heads are supposed to work closely with carefully selected supervisors, who traditionally were in charge of the examination centres.
Teachers’ union Knut opposed the move to have headteachers collect and return examination papers from the distribution centres on a daily basis. Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion said this is the job of Knec-contracted supervisors.
In the past, exam distribution centres have dominantly been identified as the origin of exams leakages, thus the focus on them seeks to stop the leakages. Police manned the centres in the past.
TOUGH NEW RULES
In the new measures, the National Treasury directly bought 346 metal containers at Sh120,000 each. They are staged in all subcounties to store the exam papers and also act as the new distribution centres.
The containers are under 24-hour police guard to stop leakages, and were simultaneously opened at 5am in all sub-county education offices. The metal containers have three keys held by the subcounty commissioner and county directors of education to limit contact from the police and other persons, as happened in the past.
Unlike in the past, where standard eight and form four exams were set two years earlier, the 2016 examinations were reset. Candidates’ use of clipboards and geometrical sets has been banned in the test rooms, while every exam room has a maximum 20 candidates positioned 1.22m apart.
Candidates, head teachers, supervisors, invigilators and police officers are not allowed to enter examination rooms with mobile phones or any electronic devices.
After the start of an examination, no candidate is allowed to go to the toilet, unless accompanied by an armed police officer. Teachers and pupils without roles have kept off schools from October 28, as November was declared an exclusive examination month.
Some 952,472 KCPE candidates sat for the exams from November 1-3, while 577,079 KCSE candidates face the test from November 7-30.
Knec’s top hierarchy of 11 were dismissed early this year after some of them were linked to previous cheating incidents.
Vetting of the more than 400 staff at Knec is ongoing. Knec chairman Prof George Magoha has noted that more changes will be effected at the council to ensure that only credible people hold positions there.
Even the ban on ranking of schools and candidates in 2013 was aimed at stopping cheating.
Knec has also implemented new rules for marking to monitor the conduct of examiners. These include a ban on the use of electronic gadgets inside marking centres and movement within marking centres.
Currently, Knec is encouraging the public to send in any feedback concerning the conduct of the examinations via telephone number: 0800724900.
Former Education CS Jacob Kaimenyi blamed decaying morals in society for the recurrence of cheating. “Parents and teachers, who should be role models for children, are sometimes at the forefront of perpetuating and abetting examination irregularities,” he said.
Collusion among candidates has been detected as the main method of cheating. This involves collaboration between parties who are known to each other.
“Poor supervision and invigilation during examinations is the main cause of collusion,” Kaimenyi added.
Collusion in exams persists despite the existence of a five-year jail term or a maximum fine of Sh1 million or both as penalty.
Every year, Education ministers di-
‘PARENTS AND TEACHERS, WHO SHOULD BE ROLE MODELS FOR CHILDREN, ARE SOMETIMES AT THE FOREFRONT OF PERPETUATING AND ABETTING EXAMINATION IRREGULARITIES’
rect the Quality Assurance and Standards directorate to intervene, but the rot persists.
In December last year, Matiang’i directed that all data on KCPE and KCSE examination results over the last three years be made public, so that regions can have candid conversations and review the trends in their performance.
He asked all players in the education sector, including teachers’ unions, to be honest with themselves when talking about the problem.
CURRENT CHEATING REPORTS
Even before the examinations started, Knec chairman George Magoha was forced to declare as fake an English exam paper that was on sale to a pupil of Rongo Primary School.
“We wish to notify the public that some of these papers have been sent to the council, which has scrutinised them and found that all of them are fake,” Magoha said.
On the first day of KCPE exams in Mombasa, Knec official Ombega Ndemo was caught leaking the content of the English language paper and composition at Mary Joy School Academy in Nyali subcounty. Ndemo was released on Sh200,000 bond.
In Nyamira county, 11 teachers, among them the St Andrews Kaggwa Boys headteacher, a supervisor and a KCPE candidate, were arrested on November 3.
They were to be charged in a Keroka court on Friday over exam cheating. The candidate was found with written material in an exam room on October 31.
PAST CHEATING TRENDS
Last year’s KCPE was plagued by 2,709 cases of cheating, while the KCSE witnessed a record 5,101 cases. Some 171 individuals were arrested and charged in courts for committing various offences.
The arrested included 11 school principals and deputy school principals, 34 teachers from public secondary schools, 22 university and college students, 104 KCSE examination candidates, two police officers and one TSC secretariat employee.
In the 2014 KCPE exam, 1,702 were caught. Busia county had the highest cases of cheating at 261, while Mandera and Vihiga had one each. In the KCSE exam, 2,975 candidates were involved in cheating.
Some 157 people were arrested and charged for various offences, including head teachers and deputy head teachers, teachers, university students, candidates, police officers and parents.
In KCPE 2013, 1,576 candidates were involved in cheating. In the KCSE exams, 3,353 candidates cheated. Meru county had the highest number of cheating cases, with 471 students having their exam results cancelled.
In the 2012 KCPE, 718 candidates cheated, as compared to a record 7,967 cases in 2011. In the KCSE exams, 1,700 KCSE candidates cheated.
Candidates get screened before the start of KCPE exams at Khadijah Primary School, Mombasa.
Education CS Sam Ongeri shows inscriptions on a sandal that a student used to cheat in the 2011 KCPE exams.