“Wah! Hawa mamode wameingizwa njeve na Matiang’i (my goodness! These teachers have been harassed by Matiang’i rules),” observed a candidate, as they queued to be frisked before sitting for an exam paper.
I am among teachers from Meta Meta secondary school who are supervising and invigilating KCSE. Schola, our chief gossip, has been updating us on the goings-on in our school.
She claims Okonkwo is seen around the compound 24/7. Indeed many principals across the country are now earning their pay. Quite a number are avoiding social joints. They need to be stone sober and on time to collect the exam scripts at the crack of dawn. With senior Ministry and TSC officials behaving like Nikolai Gogol’s Government Inspector the principals are as anxious as the mayor and his officials were.
No one knows where Matiang’i, M/s Macharia, Belio Kipsang or the local county director who have been making random stops at exam centres, may land next. Already there are casualties. A supervisor who apparently felt generous and gave candidates an early Christmas gift of extra five minutes has been interdicted. So have three teachers for arriving late for invigilation.
A head teacher and a supervisor have been taken to court for opening the wrong paper. All this in an attempt to stem rampant cheating that has dogged our examinations system. It’s my prayer that the victims will be afforded a fair chance to defend themselves.
Candidates all over the world engage in some form of exam cheating. Back in primary school, my neighbour would copy everything in my answer sheet - including my name. She is now a grandmother. Being an invigilator, I had to research to make sure that candidates do not make a fool of me. I was shocked at what I found out. There are even websites dedicated to clever cheating techniques.
In Thailand and China, candidates have been caught using gadgets that only exist in James Bond movies. What can you say about a candidate who wears eye glasses fitted with wireless smart cameras? The cameras capture the exam question and send it to a team who work out the answers. The candidates receive the answers in real time via their smart watches.
In 2014, Chinese police confiscated hidden cameras in pens and tiny receivers in the shape of erasers in Changdu, Sichuan province. Many colleges there are using radio signals to detect cheating.
Cases of students copying notes and formulas in their forearms and concealing them in long sleeves have also been reported. Some candidates write notes in their shoes’ inner soles.
Such ask for permission to visit the washrooms a number of times. Female candidates are said to tape notes on their thighs or slip them down their chests. The latter will constantly look down their cleavage. A male supervisor who dares look down the same cleavage risks going to jail for sexual harassment!
Back at KU, a female comrade would write notes on her thighs and enter the exam room in a skirt with a giant slit. To copy, she would flip the slit and pretend that she was scratching her thigh. I hear she is now a senior government official. The requirement that students should carry their writing materials in transparent papers was in order. What about asking them to wear transparent clothes while sitting for their exams?
There is the superstitious lot too. Some students in Korea and Ghana believe that showering before they sit for their exams brings about bad luck. I shudder to imagine how an exam room packed with sweaty unwashed teens would smell like.
Best wishes to the 2016 candidates and KNEC.
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