Key arrests lift lid on exam theft syndicates

Deputy President William Ruto (left) with Everlyne, a visually impaired student at Moi Girl's School, Nairobi, when he visited the school to wish students success in the ongoing KCSE examinations. With them is Education CS Amina Mohamed (right) and PS Belio Kipsang.

Shocking details of an elaborate examination cheating network have been unearthed after a three-year security operation.

The Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) revealed that the arrest of two suspects on Wednesday marked a major breakthrough in the war against cartels that compromise the credibility of national tests.

Investigators believe the suspects are part of a wider network spread across the country.

Major milestone

Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang has termed their arrest a major milestone.

One of the suspects was arrested in Kajiado County while another was arrested in Nairobi.

Investigators believe the cartels are headed by an unnamed team leader, who is on the run, and two deputies.

The leader, who is said to be highly networked, has managed to dodge security dragnets over the years.

The network operates through unscrupulous teachers, parents, students and some security officers who are compromised to beat Knec systems to sneak out examination papers just before they are done.

The network has been blamed for the perennial examination leakages.

It also emerged that the cartel, with huge financial muscle, has been behind the fake examination question papers that flood the market during the countdown to the start of national exams.

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the network has now resorted to early exposure of question papers after the examination council sealed leakage loopholes.

“They have over the past three years devised new criminal tricks of opening examination packages a few minutes before the start time, in what we call early exposure,” Amina said.

The CS termed the suspects the greatest masterminds of the early exposure ring.

The arrest of the two on Wednesday evening opened the lid on new tactics the network has deployed in their attempt to beat examination security.

It emerged that the cartel encourage schools to collect money ­– up to Sh30,000 per student – to buy examination papers.

The ring operates cheating command centres in 'friendly schools'.

The finer details revealed that some examination centres convert staff houses, classrooms or staff offices into command centres.

The centres, it emerged, are mostly manned by subject teachers of the papers scheduled for the material day.

And in most cases, the ‘dean of studies’ leads the team that works out examination questions and sneaks the answers back to students.

Details revealed that under the cheating plan, the cartel gets access to examination papers ahead of time and leaks them in an elaborate plan that includes some unscrupulous invigilators, school heads and security officers.

Students in the examination centres planning to cheat are usually informed ahead of time and encouraged to cooperate in the scheme that is executed seamlessly to evade the keen eye of security chiefs.

The 'command centres' are also fitted with photocopying machines where pre-exposed papers are photocopied and subject teachers tasked to work out the answers.

Amina said the scheme was defeated in Kisii and Kakamega counties when 15 suspects were arrested in connection with cheating at Monianku Secondary School in South Mugirango constituency.

“An early exposure ring of 15 people was arrested in Kisii as they prepared to answer questions from a photocopied examination paper with the intention of smuggling responses to candidates at Monianku Secondary School in Kisii. The case has been taken to court,” said Amina.

She also said at least four people were arrested and arraigned in Kakamega after they were found in a classroom with fake notes.

The CS said the arrest of the two suspects in Kajiado and Nairobi would serve as a lesson to many.

“I wish to promise that these two suspects, who are expected in court, must serve to show that existing stringent examination security measures will net all cheats wherever they hide and they will be dealt with harshly.

Messing up lives

“There can never be any mercy against anyone intent on messing up the lives of our innocent children and our collective future,” the CS said.

Amina also released further measures aimed at frustrating the efforts of the exam cheating ring to curb early exposure.

She ordered unauthorised teachers or staff, including secretaries and clerks, not to be allowed in the precincts of school compounds during the examination season.