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Uhuru’s command centre to detect and fight exam cheats

Kenya Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) chairman George Magoha with Patience Odanga of Moi Primary school in Nairobi on 30 October 2018 at the start of KCPE exams in the country. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

The details of an elaborate plan to track and arrest exam cheats emerged during Day One of this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations.

According to the strategy, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the Ministry of Interior to set up a command centre to monitor how the exams were administered in his quest to ensure credibility of the national tests.

Sources familiar with the operation told The Standard that the centre was composed of a team of prosecutors, police and National Intelligence Service officers, and officials from the Education ministry and other Government agencies.

The KCPE exams are set to end tomorrow. Written exams for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) will begin on November 5 through to 28.

The centre, which is manned by about 20 officers, is hosted in the Office of the President. It will also coordinate emergency responses as it emerged that five helicopters have been put at the disposal of the team for use when needed.

The facility is equipped to receive distress calls from the field and mobilise response teams in case of emergencies.

The team also has devices to track individuals suspected or reported to be involved in compromising the test papers.

Security detail

Sources revealed that the centre would make it easier to arrest persons suspected of engaging in exam malpractices and charged in court.

It emerged that the arrest of a security guard in Kajiado County who attempted to sneak fake examination papers into one of the test centres was spurred by the investigative team.

The officers also detected a case in Mombasa County where a person was arrested trying to gain access to the containers holding test papers.

Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) Chairman George Magoha said the person was entering the container with unauthorised materials.

And in Naivasha, Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia replaced a centre manager after he was reportedly found with the wrong security detail.

Reports indicated that Mrs Macharia acted on a tip-off from the command centre and intelligence officials involved in the administration of the exams.

Speaking at Moi Avenue Primary School, Nairobi, yesterday, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said no major cases that could compromise the exercise were reported.

The more-than-one-million Standard Eight candidates sat the mathematics, English language and English composition papers.

Today, they will sit the science, Kiswahili lugha and Kiswahili insha. Tomorrow, the candidates will end the three-day exams with the social studies and religious education papers.

President Kenyatta was said to have ordered the establishment of the command centre at the OP to complement the Ministry of Education’s efforts to tame exam cheating. He also ordered all his Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and other top Government officials to be in the field and oversee the start of the KCPE.

The KCPE 2018 monitoring schedule for the multi-agency teams shows that top officials of the Ministry of Education, TSC, Knec and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) were involved in administering the exams.

Ms Mohamed opened a container where the exam papers were stored at the Kiambu County Commissioner’s office at 6am. She conducted impromptu monitoring at selected centres.

Interior CS Fred Matiang’i visited several schools in Garissa County.

“We are absolutely ready. None of our children will be denied the opportunity of doing the national examinations on account of security. We have done very effective deployment to all centres,” said Dr Matiang’i.

Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang was in Kakamega town to oversee the opening of a container at 6am before visiting selected centres. Dr Kipsang also oversaw the return of examination papers in Kisumu in the afternoon.

Speaking in Narok County, Interior Chief Administrative Secretary Patrick Ntutu, who supervised the distribution of exam materials to various centres, underlined the seriousness with which the highest office in the land was taking the matter.

“The President sent us with strict instructions to ensure that the examination is done in a proper manner without any cheating and we shall ensure this is realised,” Mr Ntutu said.

Prof Magoha was in Mombasa to oversee the opening of the examination container opposite State House at 6am before he visited selected schools.

Mrs Macharia was in Naivasha town to open the exams container at 6am and also visited selected schools in the area.  

KICD Chief Executive Officer Julius Jwan was in Nakuru town to open a container. He conducted random checks at several centres.

The officials will be in the field for almost a month to ensure the smooth running of the examinations. Education officials and police will be at hand to help address any complaints or cheating.

More than 30,000 security officials are providing security at all examination centres and where test papers are stored.