MBALE – On October 13, 2023, Daily Monitor headline read; 6 teachers sent to Luzira over plan to leak examinations.
A week later another headline ran; Old Kampala SS head teacher, two others arrested over examination malpractice.
The marking of these national examinations will be done but during the release of the results you will again read headlines in the Uganda dailies; “Students results withheld due to suspected examination malpractices.”
Despite the existence of the UNEB Act 2021 that proposes tough penalties for anyone found guilty of exam malpractice, Mal Practices have continued in national examinations especially in urban centres around the country.
Section 26 of the UNEB Act 2021 provides that “anyone who, while serving as a supervisor, invigilator, scout, monitor, or special needs education support personnel, negligently allows unauthorized assistance to be given to a candidate commits an offense.”
If convicted, they can be liable to a fine of up to Shs 20 million or a prison sentence of up to five years, or both and the Act also stipulates that registered teachers who are found encouraging malpractice may not only face legal consequences but also disciplinary action in accordance with the relevant laws governing the teaching profession. This disciplinary action could include disqualification from the teaching profession.
These are tough penalties that have not helped stop mal practices in National examinations that are conducted every year for Primary Leaving Examinations [PLE for P7], Uganda Certificate of Education [UCE for S4] and Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education [UACE for S6].
Examination malpractice is defined as any deliberate act of wrong doing, contrary to the rules of examinations designed to give a candidate an undue advantage. It is also known as cheating is the illegal action that students take during their examinations to try to make good grades by cutting corners.
Education as a process of teaching and learning is evaluated through examination at the end of the learning period but mal practices hinder its purpose.
And although examinations not only serve as a feedback for the trainer to ascertain the level of knowledge acquisition and also serve as a measure of knowledge retention by the trainee, examinations in Uganda have lost it.
It must be noted that any misconduct or irregularity during an examination distorts this feedback mechanism and gives a false outcome of the learning process; UNEB should find ways of eradicating examination malpractice in the country to level the ground for both urban and rural schools that are disadvantaged.
Examination cancellations have become the norm, year after year there about 5000 candidates who sit for UNEB Examinations have their results cancelled due to cheating and other related examination malpractices.
But take it leave it, UNEB is aware that it is true that it is people who worked as suave middlemen and security officers, teachers and the UNEB officials themselves who leak examinations every year.
Education serves as a prime investment in Uganda but the issue of mal practices in national examinations is making many a parent lose trust in the credibility of examinations set by UNEB, the national examiner.
Although it is true that the main purpose of examinations is for certification of achievement, selection for educational and employment opportunities, quality control of the curriculum and its delivery, monitoring of education standards and assessment of school effectiveness, in Uganda examinations have failed this.
The occurrence of malpractices and leakage of question papers at any level of education poses the greatest threat to the quality of human resource this country produces. It is regarded as the national tragedy of Education in Uganda.
No wonder, our human resource can’t compete favorably within the East African region and at international level; you will find a doctor [PHD] in Uganda teaching at primary school level in Europe or washing plates in a restraint in the Arab world save for the few who pass on merit.
UNEB seems to have lost credibility due to massive cheating perpetrated by cartels that operate right within UNEB and at the gates of the offices.
This has become a certified business and yet at the same time rot that is running quite deep and affecting many parents across the country that pay colossal sums of money in the name of tuition/ fees.
The poor and declining academic performance of students in institutions of higher learning across the country is due to examination malpractice which is becoming so alarming that the achievement of the set goals of education for sustainable development is endangered.
The effects examination malpractices can be disastrous to any student; it can trigger a feeling of low self-esteem regarding your academic performance but you will never know how threatening it might be unless you are confronted with the consequences firsthand.
The malpractices in our examination also manifest a big picture of failure in teaching and learning processes, it is a deviation from the prescribed syllabus, lack of classroom discipline, absence of proper marking of answer scripts, leakages of question papers, and so on t lower institutions.
For the rural students malpractices have made them lose faith in UNEB, this is because they find the system to be unfair and If the system is unfair, the students don’ t take the governing rules and regulations seriously.
In such a scenario, students in rural schools have forgotten all about the values that the system teaches, e.g., honesty, fairness, truthfulness etc-because they don’t see them during national examinations.
Examination malpractice influences candidates’ performance in examinations and renders the scores/grades obtained unreliable, thus a threat to Examination Bodies and the education system of the nation (Uganda).
The general moral decadence and a high premium placed on achievement and certificates by Ugandans have spawned examination fraud, prompting parents to bribe their ways in order to help their children.
The general over dependence on educational certificates as a measure of one’s knowledge and competence to secure jobs has led to a mad rush by most people for educational certificates.
And in bid to acquire such certificates, many have resorted to unethical means foremost among which are examination malpractices- just to acquire the certificates at all costs.
UNEB should not just be in the denial of examination leakages because this is worse than fueling the menace, the one thing to do is to admit that the examinations’ integrity has been compromised so that you can cast the net wide and capture the culprits.
Remember that a country that is notorious for examination practices loses international credibility; the implication is that academic documents and certificates emanating from such a country’s higher institutions of learning are treated with suspicion.
In a society where examination malpractices are rampant, it is seen in the type of human resource the system produces, this means that once Mal practices in national examinations remain unchecked, the entire education system is doomed.
ICT has proved to be more relevant and applicable in whatever man does examinations inclusive. UNEB should now use ICT on conduct of PLE, UCE and UACE examinations as the only best solution to examination Mal practices.
It has been identified and discussed among others as an intervention (Code Security System) using Dynamic Sustainability Framework as ICT measure for mitigating examination leakages/ examination malpractice.
And yes, improving funding and training and sensitization of staff and further research on security systems and new interventions can enable UNEB mitigate Examination malpractice using ICT.
Take it leave it, Education is the key to development in any nation and Uganda is no exception and this is the time UNEB should wake up to tame malpractices in national examinations in order to save its credibility that is going down the drain every year.
The author, David Mafabi is a veteran journalist and PML Daily senior writer