In Summary

Mr Tweheyo suggests that any student found during marking that he or she cheated exams must not have their results released.

The Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) on Wednesday released results of the 2017 Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) exams. The students that took the exams were 320,119 but Uneb withheld the results of 4,525 candidates from 112 examination centres across the country on grounds that they cheated exams.

Why were results withheld?
The executive secretary of Uneb, Mr Dan Odongo, said at the release of the results that the nature of the examination malpractices that led to the withholding of results of candidates would be given to the affected centres. This means that at the moment, no one else knows the possible reasons why such a big number was affected.
Mr Odongo was not available to give details of the grounds upon which the Board decided to withhold the results.

Neither was he able to explain whether the schools affected were the ones that participated in the leaking of the examinations since he was engaged in a meeting by the time of filing this story.
This publication in October last year broke the story about the leaked examinations after the papers were circulated on social media the night before each was done. Despite acknowledging the leakages, Uneb declined to heed to calls to withdraw the affected papers and subject the students to a new test.

How were the leaked papers performed?
In a survey conducted shortly after the release of the results, this newspaper found out that students scored better in the leaked papers. They included Chemistry, Christian Religious Education (CRE), Principles of Agriculture, and Commerce.
According to the results, students’ performance in Chemistry shot up from 40.1 per cent in 2016 to 59.1 per cent in 2017 while the average score for CRE increased to 89.6 per cent, up from 83.6 per cent in the 2016 exams. Slightly higher scores were registered in Principles of Agriculture and Commerce standing at 72.2 per cent and 63.7 per cent respectively.

What was the most affected region?
According to the overall performance rating, central region topped in the UCE exams followed by western, whereas eastern and northern regions came third and fourth respectively.
When the leakage of exams was reported, Uneb said the scam originated from one of the storage facilities in Iganga District, eastern Uganda. In the regional performance, Iganga topped eastern region with 620 first grades.
At least 688 candidates from seven schools in Iganga had their results withheld by Uneb. Eastern region was joint on top with western region with each having 12 districts affected. Best performing central region had 10 districts affected while worst performing northern had only two districts affected.

Who was punished?
The process of cheating exams is usually facilitated by teachers conniving with invigilators to pass written material to candidates. But with only 49 people suspected to have orchestrated the malpractices being arrested and charged, the number of students affected does not justify the figure of the suspects.
Former Uganda National Teachers’ Union secretary general James Tweheyo says the 4,525 candidates with withheld results is “too big” in one sitting. But he suggests that the teachers and invigilators who supported the students to cheat exams need to be punished severely as a deterrent measure.

“We should not blame Uneb for the leakages but we should congratulate then for getting the thieves. However, the thieves who are the students are suffering in this alone when the teachers, the police (that guard examination stores), invigilators and some Uneb officials (scouts) are going scot-free,” Mr Tweheyo says.
He also suggested that the Ministry of Education and Sports needs to act seriously on such teachers who might be found guilty of helping students cheat exams. He said such teachers need to be prosecuted and have their teaching licenses cancelled.

The Member of Parliament for Kalungu County West, Mr Joseph Ssewungu, who is a teacher by profession, also weighed in on the issue saying Uneb owes Ugandans an answer on how such vices continue to occur.
“Uneb must answer to this country who leaked the exams. And I feel that the officials of Uneb, including the executive secretary, need to be examined properly because some students might be suffering from what they don’t know,” Mr Ssewungu says.

As one of the ways of investigating the extent of malpractices, Uneb has over the years invited the students whose results are withheld for interviews to determine whether they used their own knowledge to answer the exams. Afterwards, some of the results are finally released.
But Mr Tweheyo suggests that any student found during marking that he or she cheated exams must not have their results released.
“You cannot say me who was caught stealing should be released because other thieves were not arrested. There should not be any excuses but let such results be cancelled so that these students go back to class and repeat the year,” Mr Tweheyo charged.

mthembo@ug.nationmedia.com