The crackdown on cartels driving cheating in national examinations took a decisive turn on Thursday when two key suspects were arraigned even as police said they were yet to arrest the ring leader.
Shaban Ouma Omar, a former secondary school teacher and former Ugenya North Ward Member of County Assembly was taken to the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi and released on a Sh200,000 cash bail.
Another suspect Emmanuel Nakasi Nkonina was presented at the Kajiado Law Courts where detectives were given orders to detain him until Monday as they continue with the investigations.
Mr Nkonina is the executive director of Save the Minority Action Alliance, an NGO which says it “tackles poverty and lack of education” in south west Kenya.
When we called the NGO, a secretary at the organisation said they had a new executive director and that Mr Nkonina was now the chairman.
It was not immediately clear what role the two played in cheating in the ongoing Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), but detectives said the details will be known when the suspects are charged.
Checks by the Nation however showed that the arrests relate to the disappearance of examination papers during the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations in Narok last week and an incident in Kisii on Monday, where 17 people were caught in a home working on the examination papers, apparently with an intention of presenting them to candidates in one of the schools.
While loopholes for stealing examinations through getting unauthorised materials to halls have been largely sealed, the cartels are still finding ways of breaching the tight security.
Detectives said they were pursuing claims that the suspects colluded with teachers and students to get examination materials in advance, either for filling up answers like in the Kisii case or for photocopying question papers so that teachers could have more time to ‘revise’ with candidates.
It is believed that is how the papers which disappeared in Narok without a trace were used.
Sources said some teachers, working with professionals guarding the examinations — security agents and invigilators — had also tried to transmit examination materials through mobile phones.
This could explain why the mobile phones of the suspects were confiscated for investigation on Thursday.
Meanwhile, two KCSE candidates at Heights Academy in Thika were put under one year in probation after stealing mobile phones from an invigilator and a police officer on Tuesday.
The two - Bor Peter Dut and Michael Njenga Munene - pleaded guilty before Resident Magistrate Kianya Nyamori.
The students had intended to use the phones to get leakages from undisclosed sources.
An invigilator was also charged in the same court with involvement in examination irregularities by opening Chemistry papers before the scheduled time.
So far 31 people including police officers and teachers have been charged in courts in Kakamega and Kisii over the incident in two schools.
Police said on Thursday said they believe Mr Omar and Mr Nkonina were involved in coordinating cheating with the help of centre managers.
Mr Omar was arrested at his residential room on the first floor of Karen Boo along Bongani road and his mobile phones confiscated for analysis. Mr Nkonina was arrested in Kajiado South.
The suspects are believed to have called several teachers with the intention of sharing the examination materials before they were arrested.
Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said unscrupulous people had over the last three years devised new tricks of opening examination packages a few minutes before start time in what is called “early exposure”.
“Usually, the target of these unethical people is the second paper of the day. Their game-plan usually is to smuggle all or some of the examination questions, take them to hired goons outside who are expected to the tackle the questions and then smuggle the “answers” back into the examination rooms,” Ms Mohamed said in Lang’ata on Thursday.
Ms Mohamed said the two were hunted down after a long and meticulous investigation.
She directed that all school gates be kept wide open throughout the examination hours and that security officers sit at strategic positions where they have full view of the materials for the second paper as the morning paper goes on.
“Examination officials must not take any time off from the halls while examinations are in progress,” she said.
Teachers, secretaries and clerks would also not be allowed in examination centres, except those handling practical subjects “during the days the subjects are taken”, she added.
Reporting by Ouma Wanzala, Maureen Kakah, Mary Wambui and Wachira Mwangi.