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Probe reveals how new cartels collude to leak national examinations

EDUCATION
By Augustine Oduor | April 3rd 2021
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha inspects Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) papers at Kisii Central examination Container on 26/3/2021.(Sammy Omingo, Standard)

Revelations of the growing attempts to leak KCSE exams have raised serious security concerns during the administration this year’s tests.

The Saturday Standard has established that the two crucial morning hours – between 6am and 8am – are the new weak links targeted by examination cheating cartel to compromise this year’s national examinations.

It is emerging that collusion between security personnel, centre managers and invigilators are giving way to early exposure of question papers, with university students roped in to aid in mass circulation using mobile phones.

Security breaches

Investigations reveal that all examination question papers are safely stored in the 479 containers in the sub-counties, with security breaches unearthed just after the tests leave for schools.

These revelations have brought to the fore the role of centre managers, security officers and invigilators in the new scheme, with insiders hinting that the old examination cartels are creeping back in a new wave that is threatening to erode examination reforms registered four years ago.

A detailed trail of the question papers reveal a watertight security plan, only breached by key personnel to dent credibility of the examinations.

From the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) warehouses, the examination materials are escorted by security officers to the storage containers in sub-counties.

The examinations are officially handed over to sub-county directors of education and deputy county commissioners who provide security.

Each container is manned by four armed security officers on a daily basis and additional security officers are deployed when need arises.

Only deputy county commissioners and assistant county commissioners are involved in the daily opening and closing of the containers in their respective sub-counties.

The question papers for the day are officially handed over to centre managers, who are also school heads. This exercise, according to Knec examination regulations, takes place at 6am.

And once the examination papers for the day have been issued, the container is locked, to be reopened when candidates’ answer scripts are returned after the day’s examinations.

Examinations security regulations demand that the security officer in charge of the container must adhere to the rules pertaining to the opening and closing of the container.

Details of investigations reveal that compromising the examinations start the moment the papers leave the containers for the schools.

From the containers, the centre manager carrying question papers and using a government vehicle is sandwiched by two police officers.

The big question is how the next two hours from the container to schools give room for leaking questions through mobile phones, in a daring move that raises questions about integrity of some of the police officers and centre managers.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha revealed that the daring groups sneak out question papers which they send to university students for mass circulation.

“Unprofessional examination officials manage to expose the examinations a little earlier than the scheduled time once the papers leave safely from the examinations container.

"The questions are then shared to the targeted candidates just before the examinations start,” Magoha said.

At the start of the examinations, Magoha reported cases of collusion between examination officials and security officers to aid in early exposure of question papers.

Mobile phones

By close of the week, Magoha said candidates had also joined the examination cheating ring, with some of them being caught with mobile phones.

He said some eight candidates were found in possession of mobile phones and 15 phones had been confiscated by the end of the second week of KCSE examinations.

In Busia, a university student was arrested for aiding two KCSE candidates in cheating.

And in Kericho, a businessman was arrested for selling fake exam papers, in what education officials termed as diversionary tactic of the emerging cartel.

Insiders, however, explain that some invigilators and supervisors have been sucked into the scheme, targeting second papers of the day.

This is because the centre manager hands over examination materials to the supervisor once they arrive at the examination centre.

“What we have noted is that the second paper is targeted because they have more time. The first paper is often time constrained.

"However, schools that are near containers have more time to execute the evil plans. And in all these, the supervisor and security must play ball,” said an examinations officer.

The early exposure scheme means that principals, security officers, drivers and examination officials who accompany the examination papers from the containers to the schools must be working together to facilitate the vice.

“Those trying so hard to corrupt the examination system have a choice. But we shall have no mercy whether you are a teacher or a security agent,” said Magoha.

While overseeing examinations, the vetted and appointed supervisors and invigilators are expected to uphold integrity. They are expected to be vigilant and to deter any form of examination malpractice.

The Ministry of Education has banned supervisors and invigilators from being deployed in the same examination centres for more than two consecutive years, in line with Knec's policy.

The government seems to be battling an emergence of collusion between several officials to beat security checks.

A Knec official hinted to The Saturday Standard that early exposure is high-level collusion that starts with the appointment of familiar invigilators and supervisors.

“Some of the regional officials in the ministry and TSC conspire to retain examination officers in the same schools they invigilated last year,” said the official.

The Knec officer said that the identified invigilators and supervisors are then expected to use the familiarity developed with centre managers at the schools they officiated previous year to allow early leaking of exams.

The deployment of security officers to man national examination centres have also been put to question as it emerged that some centres only have one officer.

While in others, National Youth Service (NYS) trainees have been deployed.

Magoha faulted Machakos County police bosses for deploying NYS trainees to guard KCPE exams.

“We must re-emphasise the issue of security and integrity for our examinations. These are irreducible minimums.

"We must have at least two armed security men per centre manager,” Magoha said in Machakos town after overseeing the distribution of examination materials.

The role of security officers have also come into sharp question in the examination centres.

“While at the examination centre, the security officers will ensure adequate security is provided to all the candidates and the examination materials,” Magoha said at the start of the tests.

It expected that one of the police officers patrols the examination centre looking out for any unusual activities around the center.

The other one is expected to have his eyes on what is going on at the examination rooms and also keep close watch on the safety of second paper.

The second examination papers are placed in an open place and at no time should the they be in the office of the centre manager.

Schools investigated 

Magoha said at least 30 schools across the country are being investigated in connection with the new examination cheating plans, signalling the magnitude of the vice.

Among these are three schools in Nyamira County and another three in Banisa, Mandera County.

He also said some schools in Kakamega are being investigated for alleged examination irregularities while schools in Isebania and Migori are under watch.  

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