The Uganda National Examinations Board – UNEB is seeking options on how to end impersonation in national examinations.
UNEB has observed that impersonation is emerging as a new most sophisticated way of malpractice with candidates hiring people to write for their exams. For instance, two of the three documented examination malpractice cases included imposters who had been hired to sit examinations for the registered candidates.
UNEB spokesperson, Jennifer Kalule, says the board has discovered that in addition to individuals who have already been caught in the act, many others may be going unreported.
“The board is investing in this area to better understand how this misconduct is planned so that they can cut it off. This is a big problem and racket involving parents, teachers, and occasionally invigilators. The board is currently investigating the options for circumventing the system to hire imposters,” says Kalule.
Already there is a long trail of cases of impersonation that have been registered over the years.
For instance, in 2019 alone UNEB arrested 12 imposters from one centre during Primary Leaving Examinations.
Moses Kakinda, a former UNEB scout, says that, aside from collusion, impersonationis one of the widespread and covert forms of cheating that has remained unchecked for years.
“Over the years, we have learned that some students procure mercenaries to write their exams for them. And this is widespread at the PLE level,” he said, adding that back in his day, schools would fiddle with the candidate photo albums by replacing the photos on student IDs.
Kakinda adds that in order to stop the vice back in day, scouts were instructed to always utilize the UNEB photo albums to relate to the faces of students in the examination rooms. He however adds that it seemed that those orchestrating the mischief were good since a few or even none of the imposters could be busted.
As time has gone on, new techniques have emerged. For instance, UNEB officials were this week surprised to find out that administrators at Kawempe Standard SS, along with the parent of a candidate named Hudah Namuwonge, had elevated impersonation to a new level.
In this case, the parent, Amina Nalwadda, funded the registration of a Senior Three boy from St. Janan School to write exams for her daughter but the plan was foiled by a suspicious supervisor. The parent has since been convicted and fined 4.8 million shillings after pleading guilty.
The other suspects including the head teachers await trial after denying the charges. In the new UNEB act, impersonation is an offense that can attract a fine not exceeding 20 million or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.
Dr. Kedrace Turyagyenda, the outgoing director of education standards at the education ministry, says impersonation will soon be eradicated when the ministry and UNEB roll out a new learner identification data system.
Dr. Turyagyenda, who has been a longtime board member of UNEB, attests that the new system, which has been created to track a learner’s performance starting on the first day of school, will make it challenging for parents or schools to send a third party to sit final exams on behalf of another candidate.
“This education management information system (EMIS), is going to sort that as well. The learner’s data will be drawn directly from NIRA and will be required to submit his or her identification number to UNEB for registration. Biodata will be coming from NIRA. This will end human errors in the system,” she says.
This is not the first time that the UNEB or educational authorities have proposed using technology to prevent impersonation in national examinations. In 2017, UNEB made a proposal of utilizing a telephone-based application to check each candidate’s index number, photo, and name. But this was never put to use.
While UNEB works to stop malpractice, a number of education experts claim that a complete assessment framework revamp is the best way to put a stop to such vices. Nearly everyone who has appeared this week before the education policy reform commission has advocated for limiting the authority of the national exams.
The experts were saying that due to the stakes of the exam, malpractice might be unavoidable because a candidate’s life is profoundly affected by success on a national examination both immediately and over the long term. to them, this pushes many to the extreme to ensure that they pass.
Dr. Gorreti Nakabugo of Uwezo Uganda, says that there is a need to have more class-based continuous assessments so the high stakes on UNEB exams are reduced.