Focus on these areas to reduce cases of exam cheating

Students during a class session at Kedowa Special Secondary School in Kericho County [Courtesy]

A week ago, this newspaper published the opinions of two people (an adult residing in Kakamega and a student at Lugulu Girls High School in Bungoma County) on whether stealing examinations should be made a capital offence. The adult gave a nod while the students’ response was an emphatic no. However, going through the arguments of the duo, you come across two related but divergent positions. The adult brought out the effects that cheating visits on society whereas the student shed light on some of the underlying causes of the cheating. Combined, the two views agreed on the negativity of the malpractice.

Cheating in examinations is an abhorrent practice. Its effects on society are colossal. Besides, it’s immoral and criminal. Luckily, the leadership at the Ministry of Education is rock-solid against it. I have followed keenly the developments in exam management this season. The government, through the multi-ministerial team has been quite pro-active. It has, to say the least, stopped the cheats in their tracks. This is what can guarantee the credibility of the exams. We have to keep pace with the cheats and as much as possible, nip their nefarious acts in the bud.

A close scrutiny of the leakages of the exams that were reported clearly places their source to after the scripts leave the containers. This is a thumb-up for the safety of the container system as a measure of maintaining sanity in our exam administration. The problem is the period after the scripts have left the container. This brings to focus the centre managers, supervisors, invigilators, security officers and of course the candidates. It is this phase in the examination administration that should be addressed even though the attempts that were reported were a drop in the ocean. We have to repair the crack on the wall to prevent rebuilding the whole wall.

Another issue that came out clearly in the exam cheats that were awash in some social media sites was that most were those scheduled for the mid-morning session. Why can’t we schedule a paper per day? This would prevent what was witnessed with some papers that were done in the just-ended examinations. Going forward, the government should also re-look the position of the centre managers in exam management. The current practice where the manager is the head of the school might be partly our Waterloo in the exam administration chain.

The headteachers, like parents and guardians, have vested interests in the examination. They should thus never be allowed anywhere in the vicinity of their stations. Why not take them to manage schools which they do not head? This would stop centre managers from becoming emotionally attached to the outcomes of their short mandate.

Ultimately, we have to address the issue of curriculum delivery. If teachers can prepare learners well, then there will be no desire for parents, learners or teachers themselves to be involved in examination malpractices. Let the government ensure that teachers are comfortable in their work to enable them promote significant learning in those under their care in our schools.

Dr Ndaloh teaches at Koitaleel Samoei university college.