Uproar over exam administration as more cases of cheating reported

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha inspecting the ongoing examinations at Alliance Boys school in Kikuyu. [GeorgeNjunge, Standard]

Questions have emerged over the administration of this year’s national examinations as reports reveal more candidates are accessing the questions before time.

More arrests, including of teachers, are being made as the number of mobile phones confiscated during the administration of the tests continue to rise.

The latest is the arrest and detention of 42 students of Dibuoro Secondary School in Usonga ward in Alego, Siaya County, for engaging in exam malpractices.

The students were found with four cell phones, which had the contents of Friday’s chemistry practical paper and Thursday’s Swahili paper.

Siaya County police commander, Michael Muchiri, said the phones had a WhatsApp group where each of the students were members. Upon scrutiny of the phones, contents of the Swahili paper done on Thursday were discovered.

Mr Muchiri said the school principal, one supervisor, five invigilators, a chemistry teacher and two laboratory assistants were among those summoned for questioning alongside the students.

“The matter is being handled by the County Investigation Officer. We are tracing the originators of the content. The key suspect is at large and is being sought,” said Mr Muchiri.

Cases of impersonation have also been reported even as sector players quietly question whether the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) and the Ministry of Education have dropped their guard.

The glaring absence of senior government officials such as cabinet secretaries, chief administrative secretaries, and principal secretaries from the daily monitoring rolls has also raised eyebrows.

In previous years, more senior government officials were deeply involved in the administration of the tests, a move many said reduced early exposure of the examination questions.

Meanwhile, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has placed the blame on the leadership at the Ministry.

Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori claimed that Education Cabinet Secretary, George Magoha, is being sabotaged from within because he is not a team player.

“We strongly believe that examination reforms are being watered down because Magoha wants to do everything. He wants to design policy and implement it himself and he is being sabotaged,” said Mr Misori.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) secretary general Collins Oyuu termed as worrying the trend where candidates are increasingly accessing examination papers before time.

“It is a bit worrying that we are seeing some level of laxity from officials and examination officers.

“The support we extended to Magoha and Fred Matiang’i when reforms were instituted have borne fruits and we cannot afford to drop guard,” said Mr Oyuu.

He wondered why more exposures are reported, especially during KCSE examinations.

“As a union we call upon all teachers to safeguard national examinations because a leaked examination is harmful to the learners and the country at large. We also want to see effort being made by all stakeholders to contain the bad habit,” he said.

Mr Oyuu spoke as secondary school heads said the merger of centres with less than 30 candidates may have given way to cheating.

At the close of the registration exercise for the 2021 examinations, KNEC had registered 608 and 91 new KCPE and KCSE examination centres respectively, with less than 30 candidates. It had also registered 27 new centres with less than 15 candidates.

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association national chairman Kahi Indimuli said some of the bad habits may have been transferred from merged centers.

“Most schools have also improved on internet access with WiFi connections and this may also contribute to the attempts to cheat,” said Mr Indimuli.

Speaking in confidence, some of the examination officials reported creeping laxity from some government officials.

“It seems like the administration of the whole examinations has been left to Magoha and a few of his team. What happened to the multi-agency approach that was witnessed after the 2016 reforms,” said a government officer familiar with administration logistics.

“Previously we saw Cabinet Secretaries of other ministries, CASs, PSs, and top officials and at one time even the head of state visited a school. Today we only see Magoha and a few PSs, where are the others?” the official posed.

The multi-agency team included staff from the Ministry of Interior, ICT, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) and the Ministry of Education.

[Additional reporting by Olivia Odhiambo]