What you need to know:
- When asked what reasons students give to change their marks, the source said that many of those who have approached him said they were not satisfied with their marks, while others reportedly said it was due to the pressure from their parents.
- Our source revealed that marking assistants use students to work as middlemen to collect bribe money from students.
A few years after several Ugandan universities were rocked by sex-for-marks scandals, a new vice has been exposed with some students this time claiming they bribed their way to better grades and graduation.
Information detailing how shady academic staff connived with dodgy students to switch poor marks in exchange for cash was collected by Monitor during a three-month undercover investigation. Included in the documentation are clips of recorded conversations, text and WhatsApp messages exchanged between the parties to the fraudulent scheme.
The elaborate racket, our sources revealed, involved some full and part-time lecturers who reportedly worked through willing marking assistants to perpetrate the crime.
Monitor learned of a number of instances where students at two of the country’s premier public universities; Makerere and Kyambogo, enabled the malpractice using a fixer who also acted as a courier for the dirty cash.
To their credit, when approached for comment, authorities at both institutions confirmed a zero tolerance policy against academic fraud of any description. Monitor got information that individuals suspected to have engaged in this misconduct were relieved of their jobs.
Kyambogo University automotive engine class, 2021/2022
One year ago, a combined class of 40 students studying in the Department of Mechanical and Production Engineering sat an end of semester paper on automotive engine power systems. The subject was offered at diploma level under the automobile and mechanical engineering programmes, both of which were scrapped this year.
Enock (name withheld), one of the affected students, recalls how they had expected to sail through the examination with minimum fuss. However, it transpired that the test questions set were unexpectedly difficult.
Faced with prospects of failing and the resulting inconvenience of re-taking the subject, Enock revealed that some of his classmates agreed to 'find a way out.'
“One of my classmates came and told us that the guy (lecturer) needs money and if you don’t contribute, you will fail the paper. So, we had to get that money there and then. Some people even had to borrow,” Enock revealed.
After some discussion, the classmates altogether raised about Shs1.5 million, although some of the more financially handicapped among them never contributed. This was then handed over to the fixer for onward delivery to the subject examiner (names withheld).
According to Enock, all 16 students studying for a diploma in automobile engineering each paid at least Shs50,000. 24 of their colleagues pursuing mechanical engineering raised Shs900,000. The money was passed onto their colleague (names withheld), who was a close friend of the lecturer, to deliver it.
Through painstaking investigations, Monitor discovered the identity of the courier student. The individual was approached and given the impression that our reporters were equally distressed students who wanted help in reaching the same examiner.
Unsuspecting, the individual acknowledged his role in the affair but without how much he delivered and when. “It’s me who collected the money,” he said, “and it’s me who delivered it to him. So, you are talking to the right eye,” he said.
The young man also advised that it would be better if we met the lecturer alone.
“I personally wouldn’t advise you to go as a group. Because you may collect the money from those guys and some sh*t happens. It is easier for you as a person to go and negotiate for yourself than you negotiate for five guys. Now, what if anything happens and one of them gets a retake? It will be hard for you to explain. Have seen it and I am telling you this out of the experience,” he explained.
Offering more unsolicited advice, he went on: “I don’t want you to get scared but trust me he is desperate. He lost a job. He also needs money but you just have to make sure that you are smart.”
“Before you call him, just make sure that you find out whether he has already handed in results. In case it happens, trust me he cannot change anything, he won’t help you. He will just eat your money. He may promise and something like that but at that point it will be out of his control and that [is what] happened to us. We gave him money when he had already handed in the results.”
Monitor later confirmed how things the situation described above occured early this year. On March 3, those who had participated in the bribery, were shocked by exam results that were uploaded on the official university portal.
Through their WhatsApp group titled ‘Strictly DAE’ (possibly an acronym for Department of Automotive Engineering), created on January 27, 2023, affected students shared messages expressing their unhappiness. Below are some of their exchanges posted on the group.
One student posted: “Man, I have been here doing my work but I have lost energy and I have even left the work……why someone giving you a retake? We have to do something, either he has to report to the head of department that he missed adding our marks for coursework and he adds them there but we have to think of what to do”.
Another added, “We cannot accept this man to give us these retakes when we gave him our money to avoid such repetitions. We have to do something. Either I am going to do a retake or he will lose his Job. Seriously, he cannot do that and you keep quiet. I am not at all happy with all this. I even want to Blast. My day has not been so bad but no! No! No! No! Let’s find a solution guys. Maybe we attack him and cut off his ears, I have no problem with it. I am not joking because someone has just undermined us. When he told us to give him money, I sacrificed everything to give him money with one heart but he failed to give you marks! You just cut off that ear and you keep it because he did not hear”
Student three: “The truth is I have no other option but we decide, either we fail to graduate or we report Mr (names withheld) because these things are frustrating. How can you confuse a student and then frustrate him, you asked him for money. In this situation we are looking for jobs, he is busy sharing his job adverts in groups, are we going to take these retakes to get those Jobs? We need to talk to Mr (names withheld) one on one. If he cannot add us marks, we are going to report him. I have already set myself and am not looking behind any further.”
A fourth colleague wondered, “If he knew that he was not going to change our marks, then why did he take our money?”
The angry students also attacked their colleague, the fixer who also spoke Monitor, demanding that he provides evidence, possibly a photo with the lecturer, proving that he delivered the bribe cash.
Under pressure, the individual was apologetic in his response, posting that, “For that photo, I am very sorry that I did not capture the photo when I was handing it to him. But the truth is, I also failed to get my phone and take that picture. But anyways, it’s all my fault,”
In the same WhatsApp group, one of the affected students volunteered that they had allegedly met with the lecturer in Entebbe on the day results were released.
“Personally, I have talked to (names withheld) and he told me that by the time we gave him something, he had already handed in marks,” the student shared in their WhatsApp group.
Yet another former classmate who also claimed to have talked to the lecturer on phone reported thus: “He [said] that our papers are going to be remarked by external lecturers. So he can't make any adjustments. He can only make adjustments in course works and tests."
The same person also wrote, “However; he says he had already talked to the head of department that he is going to do some adjustments on the marks. So, somehow...….they changed the head of department and the new one rejected the change of marks,"
It is at this point that someone tagged in the lecturer, but this time the WhatsApp group name had been changed to ‘DAE class 2021/22’.
One post said: “Whoever marked engine power system [angry emojis]… imagine we gave in the money.... Sir, at one point sit down and think of the pain we render in giving in.
Another post read: “I am seriously asking myself, why would someone give me such marks that can't allow me to graduate, when I tried my level best to avoid bad results. Automotive engine paper.....something needs to be done,”
From what Monitor collected, there is no comment or response from the lecturer to his former students’ anguish. Instead, messages which kept on coming in from his number only have him repeatedly sharing job adverts in the group, which annoyed the students even more judging from their reactions.
The lecturer (names withheld) denied the accusations when we called him in early October.
“I was not given any money. The only thing I know is students are striking and they need their marks and the university is pressuring me to submit marks without pay. All the lecturers are complaining… That is the crisis which Kyambogo is going through,” he said.
He also asked that any student who claims to have given him money proves the allegation.
“Do they have evidence? Let them bring proof and evidence that they gave me money, the amount of the money and where I signed because there must be proof, word to words cannot be judged,” he said.
He blamed Kyambogo University for not paying part-time lecturers for three semesters now. “We have been lured into submitting the marks without being paid. So, they want to use students since we are part-timers to trick us thinking that we get bribes from students,” he added.
University administration dismissals
On October 25, Prof Eli Katunguka, Vice Chancellor of Kyambogo University, told Monitor that: “…I know at some point we dismissed some people for changing marks in their portal. There were about two to three people who were working from some faculties we dismissed.”
Ms Jennifer Sibbo, the university public relations officer, also said the lecturer being accused by the students was a part-time lecturer who left Kyambogo one year ago.
She also said he submitted exam marks he was holding over the ongoing teaching staff pay dispute on September 26, but could not say how much Kyambogo owes him.
“I cannot say that there were three semesters, but what I am very sure-of, we have a financial constraint. He is not alone, it is a general problem which affected the university and especially in the Faculty of Engineering. I think the last payment was made in January. But the university is solving that along with the Ministry of Finance," she said.
Ms Sibbo said when such a thing happens to a lecturer and they have evidence, he/she is taken to the disciplinary committee and whatever measures adopted are in accordance with the university’s human resource manual.
Students who spoke to us said the vice of paying for marks exists across several colleges at the university.
One of them, who at some point held an unnamed position of responsibility in the College of Business and Management Sciences (COBAMS, alleged that cases of lecturers selling marks to student is common at their college.
“…People buy marks and I have evidence of it several times because students come through the leaders because they feel we have better information about people accepting bribes for giving marks,” the person said, adding that, “…I know what students go through. I send them to guys who accept bribes”
The source also revealed that the charges range from between Shs100,000 and Shs250,000 per course unit. These charges are arbitrarily set by marking assistants.
When asked what reasons students give to change their marks, the source said that many of those who have approached him said they were not satisfied with their marks, while others reportedly said it was due to the pressure from their parents.
The other reason was laziness of students and delays in paying teaching staff which makes some open to bribes.
Our source revealed that marking assistants use students to work as middlemen to collect bribe money from students. During our investigations, we gained the unwitting confidence of an undergraduate student who was said to be one such middleman.
This student, who is awaiting graduation in January next year, revealed how during year one at Makerere, he went to a bar with a colleague in the nearby Nakulabye township. In the same bar, they met a Makerere University marking assistant who happened to be friends with his colleague.
As the booze took effect, the marking assistant reportedly said that he was going to help some lecturers at COBAMS mark exam papers.
“We were jazzing, he told me that he was to mark our Probability paper, from there we kept in touch,” our source said.
From that time on, they became good friends. He claimed to have consistently received an ‘A’ in any exam marked by this assistant in subjects like Intermediate Statistical Methods, Stochastic Processes, Inference and Probability.
According to this student, these course units have been the hardest papers over the years at this college. To pass them, students always cut all sorts of corners, including bribing examiners.
“That’s how guys got marks, the guy who they give money is my friend and a well-known drunkard. So, I always mark papers with him,” he said.
When asked about the charges, the source was not open. “It depends on the person anyway, me I used to help my close friends. Then others I would give them to the other Mukiga guy…”
According to multiple sources, because one of the allegedly 'dirty' marking assistants is reportedly a well-known drunkard, students used that opportunity to bribe him for free marks.
Our source revealed that sometimes they mark papers together in the drink-loving fellow’s room (location withheld). This is the same place where students meet when they want to change their marks.
Through a phone call another middle man said, “You can do it [bribe)] but I usually get in touch with the guy when students have finished the exams. When you finish the exams you will get in touch. You will remind me and I will also remind him,” he said.
Adding, “He usually needs to first know the number because it’s the one that motivates him when marking”.
This middleman also said that the lecturer (who is a Ph.D holder) is not aware of what is happening because “it is very hard to bribe lecturers.”
“The marking [assistants] keep changing, so you have to just pray that he is the one that will be marking,” he added.
Through a telephone interview, our reporter spoke to the drink-loving marking assistant who said: “Eeeeeh Madam, those things, I left them very many million years ago, what kind of help is it [you want]?” he asked.
Dr Simon Waidembe, one of the lecturers whose papers the named marking assistant used to examine, told this publication that the individual was sacked last year sometime between May and June.
“The previous one in the 2021/2022 academic year, there was a guy who was a marking assistant and one of the students told me that someone called her claiming that if she gives him some money, he will change their marks. Actually this year I decided to change to another one we recruited as a department for statistical methods,” Dr Waidembe said.
“I didn’t want to compromise and wait, I told him that I no longer want to engage with him because his marking is of poor quality but again I didn’t want to accuse him over something I am not sure of. But, I at least informed everyone to stop engaging him in our marking,” he added.
Dr Waidembe observed that marking assistants “are paid little money compared to lecturers and this could be some of the reasons why some do cheat which is not very shocking”.
Dr Waidembe also revealed that two other people who were accused of supporting the cheating process were dropped. Although lecturers crosscheck papers marked by their assistants, Dr Waidembe said it is very hard to get the culprits.
“Weird things happen, I must admit. There are these allegations; some of them can be very true. I wouldn’t defend anyone wholeheartedly because he is not my son for me to say that I know him very well,” he added.
About where scripts should be examined, Dr Waidembe pointed out that it is a criminal offence for any lecturer to mark exams from outside of the university premises.
“They are not supposed to move out with papers from the university. But now you give someone a key and since he/she knows that on, maybe Thursday you don’t come, they go with those papers…”