Masks new headache in exam cheating

The government faces fresh challenges in checking examinations cheats, as it emerged that face masks may give way to impersonation.

New examination rules released by the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) yesterday require that the 1.9 million candidates wear masks at all times. The masks will only be lowered during frisking to allow for identification of the candidates.

“Candidates must wear face masks properly throughout the examination. Refusal shall constitute examination irregularity. Candidates with hearing impairment sitting for KCSE may be required to remove their masks when taking the practical signing examination,” reads the Knec rules.

Similarly, invigilators and school staff will be required to wear masks and shall only be removed when signing candidates with hearing impairment.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting to discuss security of the examinations yesterday, some ministry officials said wearing of masks will call for more surveillance. “Impersonation may not only involve the candidates but some teachers may also wear masks to aid in the cheating racket,” said an official.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha warned that they are aware of plans to cheat through an “advanced cheating scheme of impersonation.” “We are aware that as we plan here for effective administration of exams to protect credibility of the tests, they are also busy planning how to cheat,” said Prof Magoha.

Addressing top security officers and senior ministry officials who will participate in the administration of the examinations, the CS said some schools tamper with the candidates’ photographs to make it easy for impersonation.

“When exams start, there is a candidate called ‘x’ yet his picture does not belong to the person whose photograph is in the Knec original schedule. They tamper with it and put photograph of the person who will sit exams,” said Magoha.

He said the council faced impersonation challenged last year in some schools where almost an entire examination class was affected.

Candidates disappeared

“We had a case in Kisii last year. When the correct details were brought, almost 30 candidates had disappeared because they had hired somebody to do the examinations. Those syndicates are busy right now. And they are not sleeping. And we are aware,” said Magoha.

The CS was referring to a case in which 11 candidates at the Milimani Ramasha Academy did not sit the examinations after security officials busted an impersonation racket.

Sources at Knec told The Standard that impersonation is the toughest cheating method that will require concerted effects of all security and ministry agents to stop.

Last year, investigations revealed that some senior ministry officials, school administrators and parents colluded to pay up to Sh50,000 to seal the cheating deal.

Principal Secretaries Karanja Kibicho (Interior), Jerome Ochieng (ICT), Jwan Julius (Basic Education) and Simon Nabukwesi (University Education) attended the meeting. Also present was the Teachers Service Commission Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia and the Chief Administrative Secretaries in the ministry.

A total of 339 deputy county commissioners and Ministry of Education county and sub county directors were in attendance.

Magoha admitted that the Covid-19 has presented new challenges that must be confronted during the administration of the tests. He warned schools management and security officers against allowing strangers to hang around examination centres.

“The ministry is aware of plans that some centre managers are planning to retain teachers employed by the Board of Management to aid in cheating. The examination centres with such plans have been identified and are being monitored closely,” said Magoha.

Dr Macharia said they have issued compliance directives to all the teachers. “We have asked all centre managers to keep all unauthorised people out of examination centres and ensure all authorised people in the examination centres wear masks, among other safety measures,” she said.

Ensure efficiency

The TSC boss noted that 227,679 teachers have been vetted and approved to administer examinations as supervisors and invigilators.

ICT PS said: “We have invested on software and hardware infrastructure to secure examinations. And we shall ensure efficiency and reliability of the tests.”

Magoha said the ministries of Education, ICT and Interior have working together to enhance security of the examinations.

The CS said staff on leave have been recalled.

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