A section of school inspectors has accused the Uganda National Examination Board-UNEB of masterminding examination leakage and fueling malpractices.
While the examinations body and the Ministry of Education blamed the school inspectors for supporting examination fraud, the inspectors say that most of the leakages come from within. The most common forms of examination fraud include access to examination papers, issue spotting, external assistance, and the use of technological tools to smuggle content into examination rooms.
UNEB Chairperson Prof Mary Okwakol says that such practices occur at the operation level where the inspectors are in charge of the process and adds that unless checked, the practices dent education assessment and compromise the authenticity and credibility of examinations.
UNEB Executive Director Dan Odongo says that the board has learnt that inspectors’ connivance with the distributors to compromise the distribution process, especially among urban schools, even though incidences of tampering with exam papers during distribution are primarily reported in rural areas.
Since primary education is largely decentralized, inspectors have complete control over field operations and are essential in the recruitment of examination distributors, supervisors, and invigilators to the Board. They also direct scouts to examination centres and watch as boxes containing examination question papers are delivered from the UNEB Secretariat staff.
Odongo points out that although the guidelines state that no supervisor should be in charge of a centre for longer than a year, but they have records showing that this has been flouted to aid and abet malpractice.
But Oyam District Inspector Schools Janet Achol notes that while certain inspectors may be complicit in supporting examination fraud, there are allegations that some schools access the papers long before the examinations, a practice which cannot be possible without the involvement of UNEB officials.
Achol was speaking during a meeting held between UNEB and school inspectors in preparation for this year’s Primary Leaving Examinations-PLE. The meeting was held this afternoon in Kampala.
In defence of UNEB, State Minister for Education Joy Moriku Kaducu says that while UNEB has, to a greater extent, stamped out exam leaks, collusion between invigilators or teachers and candidates is still pervasive. This was also highlighted in the 2021 UNEB examination release reports. Kaducu notes that this is also played by the inspectors by posting ‘friendly’ invigilators and supervisors in given schools who look away on in-examination assistance or even take part in helping candidates.
The Minister also emphasized that the School inspectors occasionally do not suggest field personnel of integrity to oversee exams. Instead, they are choosing their friends, family members, and those who bribe them.
“It matters who we assign the distribution job to. Although the inspector may not be personally involved, what do you expect if you hand our papers to crooks? I’ve seen that inspectors recommend distributors based on motorbike ownership. That cannot be the yardstick of who transports our papers and for us when we find that the envelope was tampered with before the examination time, our eyes turn to the inspectors,” she noted.
The examination cycle in Uganda is increasingly marred by malpractice, with thousands of results being withheld annually. Commercialization of the education sector is one of the many causes that contribute to the vice, which has gradually crept into Uganda’s educational system. This has led to intense competition between schools, a desire on the part of parents to enrol their children in the best institutions, and increased pressure on educators to provide results.
According to the new UNEB law, “any person who willfully attempts to gain possession of any examination paper or any part of an examination paper, material, or information commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand currency points or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, or both.”
According to Section 25 (2) of the Act, a person who intentionally or negligently aids or causes any candidate to receive or gain unlawful possession of examination material is subject to a fine of up to 2000 currency points (40 million Shillings) or 10 years in prison.