Web of exam cheating helped students, teachers and parents in brazen theft

The source said the teachers agreed to help them to revise the purchased papers.

Saturday March 12 2016

Chavakali High School candidates sit for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination on October 19, 2015. Investigations have established 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. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Chavakali High School candidates sit for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination on October 19, 2015. Investigations have established 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. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

A Saturday Nation survey has revealed shocking details of an elaborate cheating syndicate in last year’s Form Four examination, which involved teachers, examination officials, brokers and candidates.

Investigations have established that Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (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.

Individuals were reportedly charged Sh1,000 per paper while schools paid 10,000 and more for the service.

A headteacher whose school results were cancelled claimed that unscrupulous Knec officials visited schools during the examinations collecting money with a promise to protect the schools if found out.

The principal, from Homa Bay County, said the money was meant to make the officials look the other way when leaking was reported and spare the schools from harsh reprisals.

And while it was in the public domain that the tests were available before the examination dates, the council never took any measures to substitute the papers.

Examination officials, whom the source claimed to have met several times in the line of duties, visited his school, collected money and gave the examination a clean bill of health, only to cancel the results.

According to the former candidates, whom we cannot name because it would expose them to victimisation, questions were conveyed to them at least a day to the scheduled date of the paper by teachers of the respective subjects or class prefects.

The students then organised long and rigorous revision sessions early on the day of the examination.

“It is our teachers who had access to those papers, which they gave us at the last minute for revision,” said one of the former candidates whose results were cancelled. “There are instances when we would be woken up as early as 3am to revise the day’s paper.”

LEAKAGE
Out of the 42 students who wrote KCSE at St Patrick’s Kyamatheka Secondary School in Makueni, only five got their results in full while the remaining 37 got Y grades in Kiswahili.

“We had access to the Kiswahili questions before we sat the paper,” one of the former students, whose results were cancelled, confided to the Saturday Nation on Friday. The source said a classmate with relatives in Nairobi had brought with her several Kiswahili questions hours before the class sat the paper and advised everyone to revise.

“Everyone had a look at the questions and we discussed them among ourselves before we sat the paper,” she said.

A former student at Nduluni Secondary School in the same county, and whose results were also cancelled, said the school was complicit in the cheating scheme.

The source said students used their mobile phones to access questions from their colleagues in other schools, which they revised in between exams, and claimed that teachers and invigilators in the school were aware that the candidates had carried smartphones to the examination centre.

Another former student from Homa Bay said: ‘‘We obtained the papers from people who were moving around the school in motorbikes during examination days and were selling them to us at affordable rates, with each paper going for as little as Sh500.”

The source said the teachers agreed to help them to revise the purchased papers.

Two former candidates confessed to having sneaked into the examination hall written answers stuffed inside belts linings, ties and underwear.

The two said they heard senior teachers urging the invigilators and the supervisor to ‘‘go slow’’ in their duties.

As a result, they were allowed extra time and the freedom to exchange answers.

In a stunning revelation that conveys the magnitude of the systemic collapse in the administration of the exam, the students said invigilators were only too willing to pass around pieces of paper containing answers from one candidate to another during the test.

Confronted with these findings on Friday, Knec chief executive Joseph Kivilu termed them malicious and baseless.

“The allegations that the council deliberately leaked the exam is neither here nor there, because they have no evidence,” said Dr Kivilu.

Even then, he said the Knec had investigated and had concrete evidence of where the loopholes were and had presented that information to the relevant authorities.

The council chief argued that cheating was a societal problem and parents and the community at large should work with the council to “instil good morals” in students.

“If you are a parent going out of your way to buy an exam for your child or a teacher who is waking up in the morning to teach a leaked paper, what kind of example are you showing our kids? Let parents and teachers teach good morals,” said Dr Kivilu.

UNLUCKY SCHOOLS

But even as he spoke, a former student from Siaya said that, in some cases where an invigilator proved to be too strict, one of the candidates simply called his mobile phone, prompting the teacher to step out to attend to the call, hence creating the perfect atmosphere for cheating.

Some teachers, who admitted to being complicit in the leakage, said they were under pressure from schools to produce good results.

Meanwhile, some of the candidates missed their results for the second year running, casting a cloud on their prospects for further education.

“I sat my KCSE examination at Koibeiyon Mixed Day Secondary School in 2014 and had my Mathematics results cancelled over alleged cheating. I decided to re-sit the exam last year at Kaboson Girls but hell broke loose again when results for the English paper were cancelled,” a former student said in Bomet.

A principal in Homa Bay blamed the council for the leakages, saying they were deeply involved in the racket.

“It is difficult to convince students that there is no leakage when their colleagues from other schools forward to them the questions through emails and WhatsApp messages. What we are witnessing is a growing cartel that risks bringing our education system on its knees,” said the teacher.

In Homa Bay, at least six schools — including Nyahera Girls, Waondo, Seka, Kisegi, Leeds High and Nyandiwa Mixed — had results for various subjects cancelled.

A former student in a school in Siaya County said they received WhatsApp messages with the questions.

“Some of our friends had smartphones in school. They would get WhatsApp messages from other candidates in other schools which contained the real questions,” said the source, adding that the questions were exactly the same as those in the official papers.

The cancellation of the results has shattered the former student’s dream to score a grade B+ of 70 points and study law.

A teacher from Vihiga County who supervised the examination recalled having come across questions for the Biology paper as they circulated on WhatsApp and being shocked by their similarity to the test.

“What is happening is disturbing, since I have personally talked to my students and they have admitted it is very easy to access the questions in advance after paying the Sh1,000 charges,” said the teacher.

INCREASE OF VICE

National Assembly Education Committee Vice-Chairman Julius Melly said the committee was “very concerned” about the exam leakages.

“Exam leakage is on the rise and it is a really worrying trend that only one out of the 47 counties was not involved in cheating,” said Mr Melly, the Tinderet MP. “We want to have a national conversation about it.”

Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General Wilson Sossion argued that children should not be punished for a problem perpetrated by the examiner.

“It is the work of KNEC to secure examinations and no student or teacher should be punished at all; punish the actual culprits,” said the fiery union leader, who also argued that the three-week teachers strike last year should not be blamed for the increase in cases of cheating.

The damning reports emerged as the deadline for submission of a report to President Uhuru Kenyatta on how to restore the integrity of the exams draws to a close.

On Friday, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i hinted of possible radical changes in the way the exam is administered.

“The Interior CS and I have worked so hard on this issue. We will be presenting a plan on how to handle examination management in the country before March 31,” Dr Matiang’i said over the phone.

While releasing the 2015 KCSE results, Dr Matiang’i said cheating cases had increased to 5,101 candidates compared to 2,975 reported in 2014 — a rise of about 70 per cent. Makueni, Bomet and Kisii Counties had the highest number of exam cheats last year.

Reports by Patrick Langat, Ouma Wanzala, Barack Oduor, Silas Apollo, Geoffrey Rono, Benson Amadala, Maurice Kaluoch, Derick Luvega, Pius Maundu and Nelcon Odhiambo

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