The war on exam cheats seems to be doomed after the results of 3,427 candidates in 44 schools were cancelled for irregularities in the 2018 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations.
The number of candidates and schools, whose results were nullified, tripled, raising fears that examination cartels that had been contained in the past two years were re-emerging.
On Tuesday, Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) chairman Prof George Magoha appeared to blame teachers for the many irregularities reported this year despite heavy investment in security.
While releasing the results in December, Knec cancelled the results for 100 candidates and withheld the results of 53 schools.
Some of the schools whose results were cancelled include Kapkenda Girls in Elgeyo Marakwet where 169 candidates were affected, Kasei Boys in West Pokot and Kinna Secondary in Isiolo County.
In Homa Bay, candidates got grade Y in English and Physics after collusion to cheat was detected.
The affected schools include St Anthony Nyandiwa in Suba South and Kariga Mutahi in Suba North.
Some 23 students from St Anthony Nyandiwa were accused of cheating in Physics while 14 candidates from Kariha Mutahi were said to have cheated in English.
In Migori County, where all the 178 students of Nyabisawa Girls had their results cancelled, five other schools — Nyankore, Isaya Munde Kibuon, Lwanda Magwar and Ageng’a Mixed were affected.
Ageng’a’s 169 students missed their results as did Nyankore’s 77.
In 2017, Knec annulled the results of 1,205 candidates compared with 5,101 students' results in 2016. The cancellations forced the government to come up with radical reforms to safeguard the integrity of exams.
Prof Magoha said the 53 schools had a total of 4,702 candidates.
“The investigation discovered glaring collusion among the affected candidates’ answer scripts, including identical errors in calculations; correct responses after incorrect working, identical wording, often with identical unusual grammar or vocabulary, numerous identical corrections by a group of candidates, and a group of candidates having identical readings to those of their teacher in science practicals,” Prof Magoha said when he released the findings.
Exam cheats also copied from textbooks/notes or had answers prepared outside the examination room and ink of different shades in response to one or more questions.
“In essay type questions, the investigation detected collusion cases where candidates presented at least one paragraph that had identical correct and incorrect responses, with identical words, phrases, sentences and punctuation and identically misspelt words.
“Based on the investigations, a total of 1,275 candidates and nine centres from all the affected regions have been cleared in the 2018 KCSE examinations. The affected candidates will, therefore, receive their results,” Prof Magoha said.
He said the investigation showed that the malpractices took place due to negligence, commission or omission of contracted professionals, who did not perform their roles as per the guidelines for management of the 2018 exams.
“The council has prepared a report, including a list of contracted professionals, who were implicated in the 2018 examination malpractices, that will be handed over to relevant agencies for further action,” Prof Magoha added.
The affected schools, the Knec chairman said, were briefed on Monday and Tuesday on the findings of the investigations.
“Candidates whose results have been cancelled have been offered an opportunity to register for the 2019 KCSE examination before the registration deadline of February 15, 2019 instead of having to wait for three years as provided for in law,” Prof Magoha said.
He said the council will continue to tighten the noose on all examinations offenders, including introducing more stringent measures in the management of the 2019 exams.
Prof Magoha said that Knec conducted thorough, fair and objective investigations to ensure its findings are credible and verifiable.
“I commend the 31 counties that were free of irregularities. During the investigations, the council applied international best practices in the identification of collusion in examinations by scrutinising for patterns of similar wrong responses from the candidates,” Prof Magoha said.
Reporting by Ouma Wanzala, George Odiwuor, Vivere Nandiemo and Vivian Jebet