Yesterday the CS Ministry of Education Dr. Fred Matiangi, in a move to reduce incidence of KCPE and KCSE exam cheating, instructed that starting this year, there will be no prayer days, half terms, and visiting days during third terms. Interesting move, but I don’t think doing away with prayer days, cancelling midterm break and making head teacher’s managers of KCSE and KCPE exams will help reduce national exam cheating.
It is however understandable why the CS would make such a move. In the past, the Kenya National Exam Council has tried so hard to curb KCPE and KCSE exam cheating with no success. Every year, a number of students receive the most heartbreaking news that their KCPE or KCSE results have been cancelled. I have been a victim of result cancellation when my high school had the entire KCSE results cancelled, forcing all the candidates to resit their KCSE the following year. In most cases, result cancellation end up affecting many students who fall victim of the actions done by other students.
As most on social media have agreed, prayers, midterms, and visiting days do not contribute to KCPE and KCSE exam cheating. The question therefore is; who and what facilitates cheating in Kenya’s national exams?
1. Candidates help candidates cheat
In my former school, few days before the exam reports were doing rounds that form four candidates were sneaking out of school to acquire mobile phones and examination papers. This forced the teachers and the school security officers to tighten their guard within the school. However, this couldn’t work since most students had developed a good relationship with the watchmen who used to help the candidates sneak out.
Apparently, the watchmen used to act as custodians and lenders of last resort in times of a crisis, and for this matter KCSE is always treated as one because it leaves most student stressed.
From form 2, students used to invest on the watchmen by giving them soap, sugar and cash. This was a long term investment because in form four they are the only guys who can help with the keeping and storing of smartphones within the school premises or sneak out to fetch answers from whoever is selling them. It was a give and take relationship.
Sometimes students used to hide their phones in ceiling and two candidates could access them from time to time. Exam questions were sent on the phones and discussions were carried out in line with the questions. These questions could do rounds in more than five schools at the same time frame with the aid of a phone.
In the exam room, it’s very easy to cheat provided you make a good relationship with the invigilator who always creeps on everybody’s handwriting. After bribing or sweet talking the supervisor, a paper used to move within the exam room. This paper allowed students to write the questions they are comfortable with and thereafter out light all the answers. Within an hour, the paper has relatively all the answers and as it goes around the class the second time, students just copy paste whatever is written on it.
2. Teachers and KNEC officials aid cheating
Most senior examiners who teach sciences always know what will be in the paper, so it’s easy for them to give students answers and a way of answering them so that KNEC doesn’t doubt a thing.
Two weeks before the exam, students always have the answers on their finger tips or in a weird song explaining how the human bones work.
In March this year, the Daily Nation team interviewed a student who revealed how teachers used to avail the papers two days before the exam.
“It is our teachers who had access to those papers, which they gave us at the last minute for revision,” said one of the students. “There are instances when we would be woken up as early as 3am to revise the day’s paper.”
The fact that the council has decided to make head teachers manage exams, will increase exam cheating because the same teachers aid the ill practice. Most head teachers are senior examiners and they are the ones who come up with the questions; chances are these teachers can as well come up with a cartel to trim down those questions and deliver them to their respective schools.
An investigation was done and found out that KCSE questions were sent to candidates in advance through WhatsApp messages on mobile phones after payment to individuals with links to the Kenya National Examinations Council. Students were reportedly charged Sh1, 000 per paper while schools paid 10,000 and more for the service.
The 8 4 4 system is exam oriented and everybody wants to win by producing the highest grades. I believe the only way of solving this issue, is by doing away with national exams altogether with the council (read: Just abandon National Exams). Students need to be engaged in practical subjects that deal with their career line or interests.
The council can be replaced by a bureau that will measure whatever these students will be producing by the end of their studies.