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Now UK targets Kenyan academic essay firms

Thursday April 04 2019
GRADUAND

A happy graduand. The Ministry of Education has been pushing universities to offer market-driven programmes, march enrolment to their capacities and diversify their revenue streams. PHOTO | PHOTOSEARCH

By VINCENT ACHUKA

Thousands of jobless graduates from Kenya who help lazy university students in developed countries to cheat academically could soon be forced to find something else to do after the UK government started clamping down on essay mills.

On Thursday, international digital money transfer service, PayPal, announced it was withdrawing its services to essay-writing firms selling to university students. This was after weeks of pressure from the UK government, which insists stopping payments for essay mills would go a long way in beating academic cheating.

PAYMENTS

PayPal, which is so far the most popular method of processing payments for the essay mills, announced it would contact the companies starting from next week informing them of its intention to stop payments.

“PayPal is working with businesses associated with essay-writing services to ensure our platform is not used to facilitate deceptive and fraudulent practices in education,” PayPal told British broadcaster BBC.

“PayPal will continue to diligently review and take appropriate action on accounts found to be facilitating cheating or otherwise undermining academic integrity,” it said.

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PAYMENTS

Essay companies rely heavily on payment platforms to process student orders and payments for those who do the academic writing.

Although the decision by PayPal is an isolated move by a single company, the British government is understood to be piling pressure on other payment platforms to withdraw their services as well.

Some 40 vice chancellors of UK universities have asked Internet search engine giant Google and YouTube to shut their services to the essay writing companies as well. Additionally, a parliamentary petition is already under way in London to have the essay mills banned from UK’s Internet space.

If this happens, a ripple reaction by other developed countries could render jobless the thousands of youth in Kenya engaged in the business valued at $1 billion globally, according to Forbes. PayPal has acknowledged it is a global problem that requires a global solution.

ACADEMIC CHEATING

“This is a business that operates across national borders so there will need to be an international response,” said PayPal.

Universities in Kenya prohibit academic cheating but there is no law preventing Kenyans from engaging in the practice for students in other countries. As a result, Kenya has been listed by the UK as the leading black market for academic cheating by its students.

According to the British media, doctorate candidates pay £2,000 (Sh264,000) to £6,000 (Sh790,000) for dissertations.

UNEMPLOYMENT

“Kenya is the hotbed where the writing happens. There is high unemployment and a job working from home is coveted. They have good English and low overheads,” Dr Thomas Lancaster, a senior fellow at Imperial College, London, was quoted by the British press as saying.

On Tuesday, a Nation expose showed that the practice has also crept into the Kenyan education system where students pay to have their master’s and PhD dissertations done at a fee.

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