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Exams: Elaborate plan to beat stiff hurdles

By Augustine Oduor | October 26th 2019 at 08:39:20 GMT +0300

Students seated in a hall at Kisumu Boys High School as they wait for the invigilators to verify exam security seals on November 05, 2018. (File, Standard)

Details of how this year’s national examinations will be managed have emerged, days to the start of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) tests.

And it will be not smooth sailing for the examinations officials across the country. Although practicals for a few Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates began this week, the real test comes once the sessions for compulsory subjects start.      

After wading through muddy roads to the villages, those overseeing KCPE and KCSE will have to deploy every resource available amid suspicions that some individuals are hellbent on cheating.

Already, the weatherman has confirmed that the ongoing heavy rains will continue to pound all corners of the country throughout the examinations period.

The Saturday Standard has established that the Ministry of Education and the National Police Service are rolling out a high-level security plan to secure examination papers right from the printer to the classrooms where candidates will write the exams.

Also activated to enhance smooth management of the national examinations is the multi-sectoral approach to ensure critical players tackle the administration process.

Flagged out

The multi-sectoral team brings together the ministries of Education, Interior and ICT as well as the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

Documents seen by the Saturday Standard reveal the Government has flagged out four critical stages where heavy security will be deployed during the entire examination period.

Under the plan, huge security presence has been mounted at the airport go-downs where examinations are stored when they land from the printer.

This is where the question papers are sorted out before being dispatched to the regional warehouses.

Security officers will escort the examination materials from the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) warehouses to storage facilities in the sub-counties. 

The material will be handed over to the sub-county directors of Education and the deputy county commissioners.

479-odd metallic containers are being used to store examination papers across 338 sub-counties.

The Knec brief also says that five police officers will be deployed to guard the containers at each place, round the clock until candidates write the last examination paper.

Two officers will work during daytime as the other two take over at night. One senior police officer will supervise the four.

Knec also reveals that sufficient police presence will also be required in schools and examination centres where the candidates will write the exams.

Identification badges

Written KCSE examinations will start on November 4 and will run through to November 27. A total of 699,745 candidates will write the examination.

And on Monday, some 1,088,986 will sit the KCPE examinations, which ends on Thursday. Overall, 1.1 million candidates will sit KCPE and KCSE examinations. Finer details of the examinations administration reveal that school heads, who are also the centre managers, will pick question papers from the containers at 6am.

Primary and secondary heads will have the distinct role of collecting and returning examination papers to the metallic storage containers.

But before collecting the papers from the containers, all school heads will be required to produce their appointment letters and identification badges for vetting and confirmation of legitimacy by the sub-county officers.

As a security measure, sub-county officials and examinations official jointly open the metallic containers in the presence of a police officer.

The head teacher and sub-county education officer will be required to sign against accountability documents confirming that both the container and examination papers have not been tampered with.

Examination administration guidelines require that deputy county commissioners and assistant county commissioners will be involved in the daily opening and closing of the containers.

Once the examination papers for the day have been issued to centre managers, the containers will be locked and will only be reopened when the candidates’ answer scripts are returned after the day’s examinations.

All question papers will be escorted by armed security officers each day of the examination when the centre managers will be collecting and returning the candidates’ answer scripts to the container. 

Details of the examination papers show that enhanced security features were introduced to protect them.They include tamper-proof packaging and watermark barcodes to deter copying.

Each page of the question papers has specific watermark barcodes that help in investigations and identification of any copying.

Shrink-wrapping has also been used on all examination cartons to discourage breakage.

Seating arrangement

Regulations demand that at no time should the examination papers be in the centre manager’s office. Before the start, the invigilators will be expected to search candidates each time they enter examination rooms.

In the examination room, Knec has prescribed the seating arrangement to be 1.22 metres between candidates on all sides.

Each supervisor will be required to man a minimum of 15 candidates and a maximum of 40.

And in the case of large examination centres with over 200 candidates, a second supervisor may be nominated to take charge of their own rooms and a group of invigilators.

Still in the examination rooms, candidates will be required to have only mathematical tables vetted by Knec. Mathematical tables not printed by Knec will not be allowed during the examinations.

Supervisors will also ensure that no unauthorised persons – including teachers – have access to examination rooms or communicate with candidates while examinations are in progress.

The role of supervisors and invigilators will be limited to the administration of examinations, after which they will hand over the scripts to school heads.

Knec rules say centre managers will ensure that no unauthorised person will be in the examination centre for the entire exam period.

At the end of every examination paper, the supervisors will hand over sealed envelopes containing candidates’ scripts to the head teacher/principal.

No candidates, supervisors, invigilators or head teachers will be allowed to enter an examination room with mobile phones or other electronic devices.

Supervisors and head teachers should keep their mobile phones and electronic devices in the office for use in case of emergencies that must be communicated to Knec.

On packaging of examination materials, there will be no extra papers provided as the packaging of question papers is done strictly according to number of candidates.

And in case of extra question papers due to absentee candidates or protest papers (where candidates register for wrong papers), Knec instructs that they are sealed in the question paper envelope and placed in front of the candidates.

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