The burden that is cheating exams

Mbarara High School  students being  checked before exams last month. Checking candidates before exams could curb exam malpractice in schools. PHOTO/ RAJAB MUKOMBOZI. 

What you need to know:

  • Last month, Uneb’s legal officer in liaison with police at Kawempe Police Station, arrested two head teachers and two students for allegedly engaging in malpractice in the Senior Four examinations. 

October 17 marked the start of a two-month period of examinations by Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) for primary, and secondary schools. The exercise kicked off with Senior Four exams, later Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) and A-Level exams will follow. However, one of the major challenges the education sector faces is cheating exams.

 Last month, Uneb’s legal officer in liaison with police at Kawempe Police Station, arrested two head teachers and two students for allegedly engaging in malpractice in the Senior Four examinations. 

Causes

Teachers, parents and school managers have on several occasions been implicated in cheating exams for their students. Pressure from parents, teachers on children to score good grades has been key in fuelling the vice. Also, the current education system seems to emphasise grades (passing of exams) rather than imparting knowledge.

Some schools aim for good grades to attract more students, thus additional incomes. But cheating exams remains a vice with long term effects on individuals and the country.

Human resource woes

During this year’s dedication service for Senior Four candidates of Mbarara High School, the Bishop of Ankole Diocese Rt Rev Sheldon Mwesigwa, said cheating exams is partly responsible for Uganda’s human resource woes.

 “Uganda still faces human resource challenges stemming from morality, integrity and corruption, among others. You cannot start cheating exams for a primary school pupil, or secondary school students and you expect them to leave the vice later in life. You would have already planted an evil seed in these people,” said Bishop Mwesigwa.

He added “Wrong means always end in wrong results, without a positive and honest human resource the country cannot develop because issues of unprofessionalism and corruption will bring down all the positive efforts a country invests in its growth”.

The Bishop also noted most of the young generation has been ruined because of cheating exams.

“We have seen students admitted at universities for courses such as engineering, and medicine but, they cannot make it because they cheated during their lower levels of education. These children would have ended up being better Ugandans if you allowed them to think and grow positively,” added the clergyman.

No job placements

Mr Ambrose Mugisha, a member of Federation of Uganda Employers (FEU), said most graduates are failing to secure jobs because they were assisted throughout their education through cheating exams.

“You employ people with first class diplomas, degrees or PHD with distinction, but they cannot deliver anything at work. It is very embarrassing and at times this forces employers to shun graduates and instead choose to train their own because they cannot risk their businesses with unskilled people,” Mr Mugisha noted.

He said some of these students cheat their way through institutions of learning but their academic documents are not a representation of their capabilities.

Mr Mugisha cautioned students, parents and schools over graduates’ failure to secure jobs after education because of cheating exams has such long term effects.

Lack of self-esteem

Someone might hit certain goals because they cheated exams, but they will always lack confidence to excel without external assistance. Even though this person is employed he or she might not add value to the employer.

Candidates of Teso College Aloet wait to sit for a Physics practical exam in 2021. Photo | File. 

“Someone who excels through cheating cannot be independent in terms of reasoning or accomplishing any of their own projects.  They become psychologically disoriented and feel incapacitated to do anything of their own, or if they were employed  they would end up being fired for non-performance,” says Ms Ketrah Buringa, a retired secondary school teacher.

Non competitive country

Mr Dennis Akwar, the Uneb principal examinations officer, noted that cheating does not only affect the student’s future but even the country.

“Uganda, as a country we are competing in the world of job market, if our graduates are lacking, then they will not be absorbed. You find a graduate from  a reputable university with qualifications which do not reflect his or her performance. We must join hands to fight exam malpractice in this country, ”Mr Akwar while making an appeal during the recent training of examination supervisors, invigilators, head teachers and security personnel from Rwampara and Mbarara districts and Mbarara City against exam malpractices.

Measures

The Uneb Act 2021 came as a relief against cheating of exams with tougher penalties for example, anyone found leaking examination papers faces either 10 years in prison or pay a fine of Shs 40 million. Also any person including teachers, invigilators, scouts or any other persons who assist candidates to cheat exams is liable to a Shs20 million fine or five years imprisonment or both.

But some stakeholders have come out with preventive measures in their schools, for example, in Church of Uganda schools in Ankole Diocese there is tracking of student’s performance at different levels.

“We started tracking our student’s performance from primary to secondary and higher institutions. If the performance record is drastic at these levels, we have to find what could have been the problem, including interrogating school managers of the possibility of having cheated exams for these students,” said Bishop Mwesigwa.

He said such interventions have helped them check the vice.

Ms Buringa proposed blacklisting some schools suspected of cheating can be another option to stop the vice.

“When I was still teaching, we used to admit pupils and students of high grades from prominent schools but these ended up with very poor grades and even discontinuing some of them. This automatically tells you that these were cheated for and blacklisting admission of students from such schools can also be another option to curb cheating,”  Ms Buringa advised.

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