Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has lifted the lid on cases of “missing candidates” during national examinations, saying officials realised it was a ruse used by several schools to aid cheating.
Speaking in Mbale, Vihiga County, after opening the examination container, Prof Magoha said the deception was discovered and tamed by physically picking up the genuine missing candidates.
Some schools, he said, used to register “ghost candidates” and disguise them as “missing” so as to get extra papers to advance the cheating scheme.
Each year, most schools reported cases of missing candidates and linked them to deaths, dropouts, illnesses and pregnancies.
Statistics showed that thousands of candidates failed to turn out for the KCPE or KCSE examination, prompting the government to look into the issue.
Prof Magoha noted that the culture of missing candidates was later linked to registration of ghost students but he said this problem was resolved as part of a wider plan to tame examination irregularities.
He, however, said there are a few genuine cases of missing candidates who are tracked down by the Ministry of Interior and asked to go back to school to take their examination.
“We know the tricks. Sometimes the crooked teachers register excess candidates so that when the examination comes it looks like the candidate is missing,” he said.
He added: “Together with the Ministry of Interior, we have gone to homes to fish out genuine missing candidates so that they can go back to school and sit the exam.”
He noted that schools used to create ghost candidates so that they could get extra papers.
The paper is then smuggled out of the examination room and photocopied in time to facilitate cheating.
He agreed there are a few absentee and genuine missing candidates due to severe illness and other factors.
Such cases, he noted, are addressed by the Ministry of Interior, with chiefs and their assistants helping to confirm them.
In this year’s examination, the number of missing candidates has not been made public.
Prof Magoha noted that the KCSE examination, now in its second week, is proceeding well.
He also insisted that only two mobile phones, one provided by the Ministry of Education and another by the Ministry of Interior, are allowed in the examination centre to help deal with emergencies.
Meanwhile, Prof Magoha said the marking of the KCPE tests was almost complete.