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Safety features introduced in Kenya's exam papers

By Augustine Oduor | August 18th 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

A 2015 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams candidate prays before a paper. Some 11 million copies of this year’s national examination papers have been printed but they will only be flown into the country one week to the start of the tests. (PHOTO: GIDEON MAUNDU/ STANDARD)

Some 11 million copies of this year’s national examination papers have been printed.

But the papers will only be flown into the country one week to the start of the tests.

This is one among several measures implemented to prevent exposure and to protect the credibility of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations that begin on November 1 and 7 respectively.

Additionally, enhanced security features that include tamper-proof packaging and watermark barcodes on the papers to deter copying have been introduced.

The consignment will arrive aboard five cargo planes. Apart from the warehouse at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi, the papers will be stored in three other protected stations in Mombasa for the Coastal region, Wajir for North Eastern and Eldoret for Rift Valley and western Kenya.

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A senior Government official familiar with the latest development on KCPE and KCSE exams explained that “a lot has changed” in exam preparations.

“There shall be no more elongated time with the papers because the Government does not wish to give room for any form of exam leaks,” the official said.

Anxiety has greeted preparations for this year’s national exams, with reports that fresh questions had been generated to guarantee the credibility of the tests.

physical delivery

Speaking exclusively to The Standard, the official said only one set of the many examination questions produced for every paper was randomly picked, and 11 million copies printed ready for delivery.

“Previously, the examinations were wired through the Internet. This time, it was done physically. Everything was done with care and unnecessary contacts with the questions was limited. Only a few Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) officials may be aware of the actual printed questions,” said the official who declined to be named so as to speak freely.

Fresh details show that this year’s examinations will be the most guarded as additional security measures have been introduced to tame cheating.

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i recently asked candidates to prepare well for the examinations “because it will not be business as usual”.

Matiang’i spoke as he revoked the old Knec and unveiled a new one “to restore public confidence and credibility in the management of examination processes”.

Some 1.5 million candidates are set to write the examinations this year. Of these, 952,445 will sit KCPE while 577,079 will do KCSE.

The official gave a step-by-step account of the Government’s measures to lock out cheating.

Each page of the question paper to be used by the candidates will have specific watermark barcodes that will help in investigations and identification of any copying.

“Each page will have this mark such that if you make a copy or take a picture, we can trace back to the gadget’s details and time the copy was made,” said the official.

“Even though the damage shall have been done, we will be able to know where it was done,” said the source.

Shrink wrapping has also been introduced on all examination cartons.

“The moment it is opened, it can never be wrapped back. We will also be able to tell when the cellotape was peeled off. It will not be business as usual,” said the Government official.

The Standard also established that a high-level Education ministry team and Knec officials visited the printing plant abroad last week.

“Papers meant for Northern Kenya will be flown there directly. Those for the western part will be flown to Eldoret while Mombasa will receive papers for the Coastal region. Only papers for Nairobi will land at JKIA,” said the official.

Storage warehouses

Plans are underway to build huge storage containers that will be highly guarded across all sub-county headquarters.

“These will be manned by Knec staff and security teams. Papers shall only be delivered here at most one day to the examination time. School heads and principals will pick papers here every morning.”

The source said deliveries for schools around cities and towns would be made daily.

“In Nairobi, for instance, daily deliveries will cover up to Nyeri... don’t Kenyans in Busia read The Standard daily? How do they get the papers? Better be late by one hour and credible examinations are done than make papers available over many hours for the cheats,” said the official.

The security measures have also been extended to the marking process. “All marking centres will be within a 50km radius of Nairobi city centre to ease the random monitoring of activities.”

Knec Chairman George Magoha yesterday declined to comment, terming the matter sensitive.

“Give us time to work. We have a goal and our eyes are on that goal. No room for sideshows. But we are not taking chances,” he said.

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