National exams begin today with northern Uganda calling for affirmative action. This is because the schools have been displaced and teachers have fled. So while some candidates will be thinking of cheating, those in the north will be struggling to recall
â€œThis time we shall have no mercy. Anybody who is caught abetting or condoning any form of examination malpractice will either be prosecuted or discontinued or both,â€ Mr Matthew Bukenya, UNEBâ€™s Executive Secretary, told Education Vision last Thursday.
Candidates will be automatically discontinued and their results cancelled without being allowed re-entry as candidates in subsequent examinations.
According to Bukenya, the main form of examination malpractice is external assistance by supervisors who write or dictate answers to candidates during exams. This is prevalent for Primary Leaving Examination and â€˜Oâ€™ levels.
Other forms of exam malpractice include impersonation and smuggling of answers into the exam rooms.
Last year alone, 12,065 PLE candidates had their results cancelled because of exam malpractices. Up to 322 primary schools were affected.
â€œThe government decided that the affected pupils be allowed to sit this yearâ€™s PLE without paying anything,â€ Bukenya said. â€œBut this year we shall not be lenient,â€ he added.
For last yearâ€™s Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE), 736 candidates had their results cancelled. The same was the case with 76 candidates for the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE).
Bukenya cited districts in South Western Uganda - including Masaka, Mbarara and Rukungiri - as those with the worst records of indiscipline during examinations. The west is followed by central and eastern regions. The North and West Nile are relatively upright, he said.
â€œThe most safe area is Karamoja (Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit). I think cheating is not in their culture,â€ Bukenya said. â€œI donâ€™t think we have ever cancelled any results from Karamoja.â€
The UCE examinations kick off today and run up to December 12. A total of 122,504 candidates are sitting it, an increase of about 20% from last yearâ€™s 105,702 students.
At least 52, 496 â€˜Aâ€™ level candidates are also beginning their papers today. The â€˜Aâ€™ level exams will end on November 29. This yearâ€™s â€˜Aâ€™ level candidates also went up by over 7,000 from 45,500 in the previous year.
The Uganda Junior Technical Certificate Examinations (UJTCE) is also beginning today and winding up on November 15.
The two-day PLE exams are to be conducted from November 20 to November 21. A total of 401,555 pupils are registered to sit in 8,997 centres. This represents an increase of over 10% from the 350,120 who sat last year in 8,321 centres.
On the demands by some people that exams from the war-disturbed northern region be postponed, Bukenya said it was not possible.
â€œWe had discussions with MPs from the north, officials from the Prime Ministerâ€™s office and the Ministry of Education, so we agreed to go ahead and conduct the exams,â€ Bukenya said.
A team of Inspectors of Schools (DISs) from eight northern districts, however, presented a recommendation to UNEB proposing preferential treatment for the northern candidates who are sitting under insecure atmosphere.
Their memo dated October 30 stated: â€œWe are appealing to the Ministry of Education to consider our candidates affirmatively during selection for admission.â€
Bukenya clarified: â€œWe can always compromise during admissions.â€ This, he explained, would be done in such a way that a candidate from the disadvantaged area who scores aggregate 15 can be admitted to the same good school as one who got aggregate four.
The northern leaders also want UNEB to be considerate during marking and grading of the papers from the north.
This, they said, was because of the Kony war which had left many candidates displaced and without adequate had time for revision nor finishing the syllabi.
The affected districts include: Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira, Apac, Adjumani and parts of Nebbi and Kotido.
Mr. Francis Lubanga, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Education has meanwhile instructed District Education Officers of various districts to allow displaced candidates sit from any centre.
In an October 24 press release, Lubanga said: â€œIt is the primary responsibility of all displaced candidates, and their parents/guardians, to report to the area District Education Office with details that will facilitate their registration at these new centres...â€
Bukenya said candidates from insecure schools of the north would be shifted to new centres. Adequate armed protection is to be provided.
The board is also on the look out for those selling fake exam papers purported to be from UNEB.
â€œAny school which will be found to have involved itself in examination malpractice will have its centre number withdrawn forthwith,â€ UNEB warned in two separate documents detailing the conduct of the examinations.
â€œIf it is a private school, the Ministry of Education and Sports will de-register it and its proprietors will be blacklisted,â€ Bukenya emphasised.
â€œAll those teachers who will be found involved in examination malpractice will be prosecuted, punished and de-registered by Education Service Commission.â€
He also blamed some parents for abetting examination malpractice by either bribing teachers to help their children or buying fake question papers purported to be from UNEB.
â€œWe have to join hands in fighting examination malpractice. This is the only way we can start laying the foundation for an honest generation with integrity,â€ Bukenya implored. Ends
UNEB TO CRACK DOWN ON CHEATS