Exposed: Cartels fueling exam cheating in Kenya

March 6, 2016 2:11 pm
The confessed agent claims he acquires the papers from officials of KNEC.
The confessed agent claims he acquires the papers from officials of KNEC.

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 3 – Kenya National Examinations Council officials, school principals and security officers are responsible for the perennial massive examination cheating in the country, according to an agent involved in the racket.

This probably explains why it is almost a norm for one to come across headlines such as ‘Kisii top region in exam cheating, again’ every time results are announced.

Despite the process of setting exams being a secretive practice, cases of leakage are always detected raising integrity questions for the parties involved.

The 2015 KCSE exams had the highest ever recorded number of cheats who were found out at 5,101 candidates compared to 2,975 in 2014; a 70 percent increase.

In 2015 alone, 171 people were arrested and charged in connection with the cheating; 34 of whom are teachers.

In the same period, 2 police officers were arrested in Kilifi County for allegedly leaking the KCSE papers.

Just who is to blame? Is it possible for a national examination to be carried out without a single case of cheating?

Capital FM News exclusively interviewed John (not his real name) in a bid to expose the cartels involved in exam cheating and as established it involves the custodian; education officials.

The man admits involvement in the illegal business of buying and selling papers that he claims are genuine examination materials in collusion with school heads and KNEC officials for 3 years.

“It is pathetic that as a country, students have to be victimized in all this especially having played a vital role and being cognisant of the fact that the main players of this come from the exam officials at KNEC.

They (Exam officials) collaborate with security officers who are supposed to be guarding the exams as well as principals, who even spend their own money to see their students pass.

You need to have somebody within KNEC since they are the major custodians of all papers.

Some of the officials from KNEC manage to walk out with these papers after which they disseminate to their agents. The KNEC officials do not do the manual work of distributing these papers, they are smart.

They, however, send the papers after their agents submit the agreed amount.

The agents after capitalizing on the opportunity then look for their customers and the chain continues. We just extend the network of those people who will benefit from the papers which means leaking the paper to more people.

If you have built a good name of having access to the papers, you just need to contact the Principals and let them know what you have to offer.

If there is a meeting of the minds, then you access the papers to them.

The principal will then give the papers to their teachers who will use them as ‘revision’ materials with the students. If the students are smart, with a little bit of polishing, you will not be surprised getting 300 A’s from one school.

A KNEC official will go for Sh100, 000 and above depending with the paper. There is high demand for science papers because they are perceived to be difficult.

If it’s mathematics or a science exam, a paper will go for Sh100, 000- Sh200, 000 and at least by the time it gets to the ground a school will give Sh15, 000 or so since you are supplying to several others in order to make it visible.

For high end schools, the Principal buys the paper directly from a KNEC official and it is done deal.

It is illegal but our philosophy rotates and revolves around money because when KNEC officials are not involved in this, the second in the tier are the District Education Officers in collaboration with police officers.

They open the paper a day or two before sitting for the exam and they will only avoid that step where the students are supposed to counter-sign upon proving it has been sealed.

Normally, any examination paper involves more than one bunch. They may also give the one which has not been opened if they must do that.

If anything, you just need to remove one paper, do a photocopy and distribute to the agents the copies.

In 2014, I used to distribute a paper to 6 schools and they gave me anything from Sh12, 000 –Sh15, 000. The money is paid upfront…sometime the good officials at KNEC advocate for the emergency paper when they detect massive leakage.

After all I have invested my money in getting the paper. I cannot risk. They pay upfront and then I send the papers.

If it is the correct paper, they are good to go, if it is not, where will they take me? It is illegal.

I do not feel guilty since we are venturing in something which is immoral….it doesn’t have the element of morality in it. I should not be feeling guilty whatsoever.

Parents are more than willing to buy these papers for their children. It is either you score the C+plus minimum for you to get the self sponsored programme or higher for the Joint Admission programme (into public universities) which is cheaper.

If you are admitted by the Government, it is way cheaper and such parents find it economically feasible to buy these papers for their students and secure a place in the university.

I know of incidences where parents request the Principal to do anything that will ensure the students have good grades especially private schools.

At times, students have to be woken up as early as 3 am and teachers are paid some extra money to be coaching these students on the leakage of the exam they are supposed to seat at 8am, the same day.

I might be accused of abetting a crime but it has bigger players than me. I see myself only as an agent.

The sad thing is that the system is only unfair to those who don’t get the leakage.

My clients always come back to say thank you. They are overly delighted every time I help them.

As established, cheating of exams is a ‘monster’ that is fed by parents, police and senior education officials but the motive differs according to the recounts received by Capital FM News.

To some, it’s about money while others want to sustain “the high performance record” for their schools. No one cares about the quality of education and professionals the country is likely to have in future.

Capital FM crew further carried out random interviews on several individuals within the city of Nairobi in a move to establish when they sat for their examinations and whether they were involved in exam cheating.

One of them admits to have successfully cheated in his 2004 KCSE examination.

“The leakage helped me to get an A in Business studies, A- in Geography but we did not manage to get the correct Mathematics paper; I failed,” he recounted.

On how they received the exams, he said, “they school caretaker used to bring the papers.”

Another one from a national school said they were shown the specimens they were going to use during their chemistry practical examinations.

“It always used to happen the night before practical exams. A teacher would come and guide us,” he said.

Others claimed to have been assisted during the examination period.

A senior detective who spoke to Capital FM News, but doesn’t want to be mentioned says, “There is some truth in it. A few of our officers maybe used but the main problem is with KNEC officials.”

He however said that, “majority of our officers execute their work effectively. Police only ensures security of the papers, as we have done for many years.”

KNEC Chief Executive Officer Joseph Kivilu says a probe has already been launched and that it covers all players involved in the preparation and dissemination of exams.

“We are going to look to everybody…and where we have people involved in other agencies. We report to their respective organisations since most of them are Government organisations,” he told Capital FM News.

He however noted that, “we reported that they were tampering in some armories where we kept our papers in some police stations.”

Cabinet Secretary for Education Fred Matiang’i apologized for the 2015 cheating cases and vowed to root out the culprits.

The country can only hope that the menace will be addressed to a level where professionalism and hard work will be upheld.


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