How fraudsters, education officials are stealing exams

Fraudsters working in cahoots with crooked education and security officials have been implicated in cases of cheating in the ongoing Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations. 

The crooks obtain the contents of the examinations when the materials are collected from the distribution centres early in the morning and share them within their networks through various social media platforms. 

They ask candidates or teachers to send money, which is then quickly moved to their bank accounts. One of the syndicates has also been receiving payments through a Pay Bill number registered at a bank. 

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) yesterday said they had cracked an exam syndicate and arrested four college students involved in the sale of question papers. 

The agency blamed the breaches on an “elaborate web of fraudsters comprising school heads, security agents, parents and college students”.

“In spite of the concerted efforts that the Ministry of Education and the Kenya National Examinations Council have employed to uphold the integrity of the examination, their efforts are being jeopardised by crooked government officials at the county level,” the DCI said in a statement. 

The detectives said some containers are opened before the official time of 6.30am in order to gain access to the examination material, which is then sent to the crooks who sell the papers for as low as Sh500. Some charge Sh5,000 per paper, or a discounted rate of Sh20,000 for the whole examination.

The main suspect has been identified as Gideon Kibet Tanui alias Evans Kipruto, who is an Information Technology student at Baringo Technical College. He was arrested in his rented room next to the college on the first day of exams. 

At the time, he was distributing the English paper, which was in session and Chemistry Paper I, which was scheduled for mid-morning. Mr Kibet led detectives to his accomplice, Mr Kevin Kiprotich Langat, a Bachelor of Arts student at Rongo University. He was arrested on Thursday. 

Mr Langat, in turn, led detectives to Justice Leting, a first year student at the university. He was arrested as he distributed the Kiswahili paper, which was in progress. He was also preparing answers for the Chemistry practical paper that was scheduled for the next day. 

We could not independently establish whether the Chemistry paper Mr Leting was caught with was the exact one the candidates sat on Friday. 

“Shockingly, Leting’s mobile phone had the entire KCSE examination material,” the DCI statement stated.

Although the fraudsters promise would-be buyers that they have all the examination materials, we have established that they only begin the distribution moments before or just after 8am. 

“It’s the third day and we are doing well with few shortcomings,” one of the messages reassuring buyers reads. 

The college students work out the answers and share them with those who pay. One Telegram group that had 5,800 members, was sharing examination photos for free last week as the paper was in session. We reported it to Telegram and the DCI and it has since been deactivated. 

The DCI warned that they are analysing all the subscribers to the suspect Telegram and WhatsApp groups for legal action. 

Knec chief executive David Njeng’ere refuted claims that the examination had leaked and blamed some crooked officials involved in its administration of the reported cases of malpractice. 

He told the Nation that contents of the examinations could only be accessed after leaving the distribution centres. He acknowledged that some officials had been reported for taking photographs of the question papers, saying many had been arrested. 

“No one has the contents of the examination beforehand. If that was the case, it would be trending all over. The main challenge we have is with early exposure of the second session paper,” Dr Njeng’ere said. 

Examination centre managers (principals) collect the papers from the distribution containers in the morning and are taken to school in the company of a police officer. The second session paper is supposed to be kept in the examination room in view of the candidates, supervisor, invigilator and security officer. 

“For the packet to be opened ahead of time, there must be collusion between all these people and that’s why when it’s reported, all of them are arrested,” Dr Njeng’ere said. 

He urged officials to uphold the integrity of the examination in the 10,413 centres across the country. 

“If everybody applied the regulations the way we have advised them to, we would have very credible examination administration. Deputy county commissioners and sub-county directors of education are the only ones with keys to the containers,” Dr Njeng’ere said. 

Yesterday, Education cabinet secretary George Magoha directed that school gates must remain open for ease of random monitoring by senior officials. He also instructed security officers to sit at positions where they have a full view of the examination materials for the second paper while the morning paper is underway.

“Supervisors and invigilators must not take any time off from the examination rooms for any other activity while examinations are in progress,” he said. 

Prof Magoha said that only the centre manager and the security officer are allowed to have mobile phones at the examination centre, “in case of any emergency” and these must be kept in the manager’s office.

The government has since 2016 implemented stringent measures to curb cheating in national examinations. The KCSE examinations report the most cases of malpractices as compared to the Kenya Certificate of Primary exams.

Knec has registered 831,015 candidates for the 2021 examinations, 78,034 more than last year. This has been attributed to the 100 per cent transition from primary school which was started in 2018 when the candidates joined Form One. 

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