In Summary
  • Performance curve. Cheating leads to abnormal passing and thus tight grading. A hardworking intelligent student, who would score Grade One, would score Grade Two and such is the plight of the bright, innocent and non-cheats. On my recent pastoral visit to a remote Eden Junior Anglican seminary primary school, I was startled by the 2017 PLE results.
  • The results were not in sync with the steady performance curve of the last five years where the school had posted not less than four First Grades yearly.

After the release of Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) at the beginning of the year, the executive secretary of the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) Mr Daniel Odongo, was quoted as saying “while there was widespread leakage of exams, there was no significant impact on the grades of students.”
I disagree with this claim. There is ample evidence to support a contrary view. The genuine 2017 PLE scripts are confirmed by several people to have circulated on social media, especially in towns before exam time. This suggests that the culpable pupils must have accessed them through corrupt head-teachers, teachers, parents or other contacts.

It is not surprising that there are primary schools, which posted super- ordinary excellent grades that are not in tandem with statistical analysis of the past successive years nor with their mock results. It was not unusual when I was a teacher at Ntare School in the 1990s to admit pupils who had scored the maximum Agg 4, but by end of first year, they would not cope academically.

This trend could be traced to particular cheating schools and there were schools whose pupils, who even scored genuine Agg 8, but would end up top of their classes thus displacing some colleagues who had scored Agg 4.
The Uganda Certificate of Education examinations (O-Level) 2017, were also affected by leakages and these are mainly being traced to Mbale, where some teachers and Uneb scouts were apprehended and are being prosecuted. It is widely believed that most leaked subjects were Chemistry and Christian Religious Education.

Indeed Chemistry, which is ordinarily a difficult subject, witnessed super-excellent grades in some schools countrywide. As regards Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education examinations 2017, it is generally believed that following the leakages of primary and secondary school exams, there was more alertness and sealing of loopholes in the exam process. Sadly, exam cheat speculators are believed to have taken advantage of the situation to sell fake papers, which disorganised even the most intelligent students.

I was astounded by some schools that have excelled in A-Level exams for successive years, but performed comparatively dismally in the UACE 2017.
It would seem the most vulnerable schools are those that have porous gates and rules that allow for interaction of students with the outside community during national exams.

The total effect of cheating takes its toll on the innocent and mainly rural students who can’t easily access leaked exams because Uneb hikes the grading of students to their disadvantage.
Cheating leads to abnormal passing and thus tight grading. A hardworking intelligent student who would score Grade One, ends up with Grade Two and such is the plight of the bright, innocent and non-cheats. On my recent pastoral visit to a remote Eden Junior Anglican Seminary Primary School, I was startled by the 2017 PLE results. The results were not in sync with the steady performance curve of the last five years where the school had posted not less than four First Grades yearly.

None of the candidates in 2017 scored a Grade One. While there might be other possible factors accounting for the sharp decline, the zero First Grade score is not logical. Pupils from this school who score First Grades have always excelled in top level secondary schools.
I pray and hope that religious foundation bodies, majority owners of schools, will take the lead in fighting exam cheating since a lot of it is perpetrated by school head-teachers and teachers in connivance with invigilators or possibly Uneb scouts.

The Minister of Education and Sports, Ms Janet Museveni, known for her strong Christian etiquette, will need to institute a probe that will get to the root of the problem and prescribe an effective cure so that Uneb assesses the grades according to actual performance.
I hope those who cheat exams will in the near future be discovered and the practice stopped eternally.

The Rt Rev Mwesigwa is the Bishop of Ankole Diocese