By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA– On Saturday over 5,000 scouts who are deployed to oversee the national examinations that kick off tomorrow March 1 2021 were briefed at Kyambogo grounds.
“This key is your life. Don’t hand it over to anyone, even if you are dying. You have been fully facilitated, so we don’t expect you to get tea or lunch offered by schools where you are deployed to scout or invigilate, lest you get compromised,” warned Daniel Odongo the Uganda National Examinations Board Executive Secretary.
The over 5,000 scouts are part of the team including security agents who have been deployed to check on exam malpractices to avoid a repetition of what happened on 13th October 2017.
For starters, on 13th October 2017, a rare occurrence shocked the nation when four UCE examination papers were leaked on social media.
The leaked papers included; English, History 1, Christian Religious Education, Chemistry paper 2 and Biology 1.
This was so sad given the fact that Daniel Odongo was new, after he replaced longest-serving UNEB Secretary Mathew Bukenya. Though our investigations revealed that this was an inside move by some “unscrupulous” UNEB staff to frustrate Odongo, this instead helped him curb on exam leakages as we discovered.
How exams leak
When exams leaked massively in 2017, Daniel Odong termed the incident as ‘a matter of national security’. Odong on orders of the First Lady and Education Minister Hon. Janet Kataha Museveni investigated the matter leading to the arrest of 50 individuals.
In its investigations, UNEB discovered that examinations are leaked mainly between the storage facilities at the police stations enroute to the schools and examination centers.
Top on the list were top UNEB officials, especially those involved with examination setting, printing, packaging and dispatch.
These officials, whom we discovered deal with proprietors of top ‘performing’ schools in the country and corrupt police officers, are paid between shs5- 80 million to offer exams in advance.
In 2017, inside sources at UNEB told this investigative website how they deliberately sent marking guide and answers on watsup to schools, who collaborated with them. Each paper was charged between Shs300,00 to Shs500,000 depending on the school.
Others noted were the Chief Scouts, Area Supervisors, invigilators, scouts and police officers who connive with headteachers to cheat.
The exams are dispatched to the various police stations where the headteachers pick them 30 minutes to exam time.
But much as the exams are supposed to be opened in the presence of the students, chief invigilator, invigilators, we discovered that headteachers connive with the Chief invigilator and Chief Scout to have the students go through the papers in form of revision. In some cases, Headteachers open the parcels before they reach the schools and read out the questions to their teachers vide phones.
A proprietor (names withheld) of a top school in Wakiso, whose school has very many examiners, invigilators and supervisors on the UNEB list had a habit of paying the Chief Scout millions of shillings to aid cheating. “I was a scout at this school, but when I sensed some form of cheating, I got a call from the Chief scout ordering me to leave the school,” said a UNEB scout, we shall not name.
Apparently, according to the scout, once you become hard to tame, the proprietor calls the chief scout saying; “This scout of yours is disorganizing the candidates,”.
The other findings from the invigilators, scouts, chief scouts and area supervisors we talked too was the issue of low remuneration. UNEB used to pay low allowance to these people prompting them to desist temptation from high paying corrupt school owners.
How has Odong addressed exam malpractice?
The task was hard, but after he asked for Shs18b from parliament to help UNEB curb on exam leakages, things are getting better. As compared to 2017, a few cases of exam malpractice are being registered.
It was also apparent the people who set exams were teachers of some powerful schools, this gave a chance for them to coach the students after getting hefty payments.
But Odong put in place strict measures for the examiners and those who print the exams. Among the measure includes confiscating phones for markers, packers, printers and examiners during the time of setting, printing and marking to cut off any communication. They are not allowed to leave until the exams have begun.
With some increased funding, UNEB has managed to purchase 300 plus containers that are stationed in various police stations across the country for storage of exams.
On top of that, each container has three padlocks, one held by the Chief Scout, the Area supervisors, and now the Military Police, formerly the police. Before First Lady intervened, some unscrupulous police officers would connive with the chief scout and area supervisor to steal the exams; now its becomes a rather risky and very expensive venture to lure a military police officer to do such an act, he would face death after court-martial.
Our team visited some police stations within Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso and discovered that each of the three officials above have a key for one padlock. Basically, you need all three present to open the container. The tough look of the Military officer is enough to send you packing.
Our source at UNEB who used to leak exams this round said: “Boss things are so tight this time, I won’t chew your dime for nothing.”
UNEB increases fees
We can reveal that kudos to Daniel Odongo and his team for motivating the scouts, invigilators and supervisors. Before this scouts were paid Ushs450,000 while chief scouts earned between Ushs1,000,000 to 1, 500,000.
But as he addressed the team on Saturday at Kyambogo, Odongo said: “You have been duly paid, and well. So don’t be compromised.” We were told by the scouts that the money has now been raised to Ush680,000, while chief scouts will walk out with between Ush2,000,000 to 3,000,000 depending on area of deployment. The scouts deployed in hard to reach areas like Kalangala, Karamoja, West Nile were added an additional Ushs100,000 making it Ushs780,000. This caters for their transport, meals and accommodation. UNEB is set to spend over Ushs8 billion in examination supervision alone.
Initially, the scouts were paid paltry amounts yet they had to supervise in many schools. “Those days we were paid between Ushs250,000 to Ushs450,000 yet we had to work in three-five schools per day for a week. This time the pay is more and we are working on two schools per day, 10 schools per week,” said a long-serving UNEB Scout.
Unlike previous times, money is paid instantly via mobile money this time around.
Use of random codes
In the days of Mathew Bukenya, it was easy for examiners to know that these answer sheets are from this particular school. The team leader then would be compromised by school owners to personally mark the exams from their schools. “I remember one time our team leader asked us to hand over all answer sheets of a popular school from Wakiso. He was paid millions, and did the marking alone,” said a scout.
These days UNEB has random numbers that candidates write on their answer sheets making it so hard for examiners to know which school papers they are marking.
The system of using the conveyor belt method of marking has also helped curb on exam malpractice. Here each examiner marks a number and hands it over to another in that order.
Deployment of Permanent Scouts
UNEB has a line of schools they suspect are fond of examination malpractice. It, therefore, deploys a permanent scout (PS) who seats at the examination hall 24/7. The PS is only answerable to UNEB, not even the Chief Scout, and they are paid slightly more since they do a 24-hour vigilance. Schools notorious for malpractice such as Jinja Progressive Secondary (JIPRA) had one last year, while Dynamic Secondary School In Sonde Mukono has one this year.
These schools whose list we obtained, cheating is mandatory, especially with the commercialization of education. Our investigations revealed that the school owners with heavy financial muscles budget for between Ushs5m to shs 80m to effect exam malpractice.
Amendment of the UNEB Act
Now this one is tough, Most scouts, Invigilators and supervisors are teachers, some long-serving headteachers, but with the new Act as amended once nabbed conniving to engage in examination malpractice, tantamount to de-registration and imprisonment, perhaps this fear may see exam cheating cease.
Wealthy school owners get smarter
Since Education has become so commercial, school owners are also getting smarter regarding exam cheating.. Our Investigations has revealed that some of the top performing schools are getting a notch higher regarding cheating exams. Now since UNEB has tightened grips on ground, wealthy school proprietors are now dealing directly with top UNEB officials especially data entrants who are the final gate keepers before exams are released. One top school owner in Wakiso (Names withheld) personally calls these UNEB data entrants as they enter results into computers to ask how his performed.
This school in Wakiso is always among those who score 100% first grades for all candidates.
Our sources revealed that the wealthy educationist pays shs5m to change grades from either third, or second to first per child.
No wonder when we checked with top University where these first grade holders are admitted, our finding were shocking. That will be a story for another day.