UCE 2023: Headteachers, invigilators arrested over exam malpractice

UCE 2023 candidates being searched ahead of the exams

The Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) together with security agencies has arrested a number of headteachers and invigilators over their alleged involvement in examination malpractice in the ongoing Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) exams. 

Uneb spokesperson Jennifer Kalule confirmed the arrest of a chief invigilator and three headteachers from different schools. There is another group of candidates who are also currently under investigation for suspected malpractice.

In a press statement, Kalule revealed that a chief invigilator, at African Pearl Secondary School in Makindye Division, Kampala was arrested on suspicion of providing external assistance to the second shift of Chemistry students.

“This was during the practical examination of Chemistry Paper 3…A handwritten piece of paper with suspected answers of the practical paper was found in the examination room where the chief invigilator was supervising,” Kalule noted.

The invigilator is currently held at Kabalagala police station as investigations continue. Section 26 of the UNEB Act of 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. Furthermore, the Act 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. 

Additionally, students from an undisclosed school in Kagadi were found in possession of answer sheets filled with practical paper responses, even though they had not completed the practical sessions. This practice, involving teachers providing advanced knowledge of practical paper content to students, has been a persistent issue. 

Two of the arrested headteachers, one from Paul Mukasa SS in Kalagi, Mukono district, and the other from Kanyabwanga secondary school in Bushenyi district, were caught sharing and receiving what appeared to be examination papers electronically. 

“Police in Bushenyi have arrested the headteacher of Kanyabwanga secondary school for sharing information/an image purported to be an examination material for a Uneb Biology practical paper for 2023. The content is said to have been shared on a social media platform for headteachers,” she stated emphasizing that the suspects will face legal charges for aiding and abetting malpractice.

The widespread misuse of social media platforms has led to an increase in instances of individuals sharing materials claiming to be Uneb examinations. Even before the official start of the exams, Uneb identified counterfeit papers circulating on platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram, resulting in the arrest of nine individuals, including headteachers. 

Dan Odongo, executive director of Uneb, issued a warning regarding the fraudulent nature of many of the circulated papers. Under the new UNEB Act, possessing examination papers, materials, or information, whether genuine or counterfeit, can lead to legal consequences, including a fine not exceeding Shs 40 million a prison term not exceeding five years, or both.

In Kwania district, the head teacher of Inomo SS was also arrested for alleged tampering with an envelope containing Mathematics Paper 1 examination papers. It is suspected that the content of the envelope may have been tampered with between the storage center and the school. Police are actively investigating the case under Section 28 of the UNEB Act of 2021, which classifies it as an offense to damage, destroy, or manipulate such materials. 

In related events, police in Kagadi are investigating two students of St Michael SS, Nyakoma, who wrote each other’s index numbers, claiming to have forgotten theirs during the Geography exams. UNEB suspects that this incident may involve impersonation, similar to a case witnessed in Kawempe last year, where a substitute, known as a “machinery,” wrote the exam on behalf of a candidate. 

The introduction of the new UNEB Act and increased resources demonstrate the organization’s commitment to combat the problem of exam malpractice. Some experts are optimistic that stricter penalties and effective enforcement can eventually eliminate this vice. However, critics attribute the prevalence of malpractice to the high stakes associated with national exams and advocate for alternative assessment methods, such as formative assessments, to reduce pressure on students and deter malpractice.

As the UCE exams continue, candidates are set to tackle the Biology (practical) paper in the morning, followed by the Commerce paper in the afternoon on Day 4. This year, a total of 364,421 candidates have been registered for the exams, which will run until November 17, 2023.    

Source: The Observer

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