Restore integrity of exams



The Standard of June 20-30, 2016, carried the headline “Say no to sex for marks – Chancellor”.

This was in reference to comments made by the Chancellor Uganda Christian University (UCU), the Most Rev Stanley Ntagali, during his pastoral visit to the Main Campus on June 7.

Every time the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) releases examination results, be it Primary, Ordinary Level or Advanced Level, it laments about numerous examination malpractices. While releasing the 2015 Uganda Certificate of Education Examination (UCE) results, UNEB withheld results for 2,060 candidates, citing malpractices. It is not any different with the boards of technical institutions.

It is apparent that some candidates continually attempt to gain unfair advantage over their peers, thus breaching examination guidelines and regulations.

On a sad note, the universities, private or public, have not been spared by the vice. The involvement of academic, administrative and support staff in these institutions, the parents and the business community makes the challenge a lot more complex to solve.

Where is the integrity of an examination system in education institutions in Uganda?

Articles like “IUIU expels 5 students over exam malpractices” in the Daily Monitor of Monday February 25, 2013; “Makerere lecturers gave secret exam to students who failed” Daily Monitor , Thursday January 17, 2013; “Students hire coursework mercenaries as they party”, in the New Vision January 9, 2012, have highlighted the matter in the media.

The most common malpractices are uttering false examination documents, sitting examinations without valid documentation, taking into an examination room unauthorized materials, impersonation. 

There are others like adding papers on the examination card, taking out of an examination room used or unused answer booklets, plagiarism of coursework and dissertations, essays and projects.

Still others are: neglecting to follow lawful instructions given by the invigilator, exchange of answers in or outside the examination room, and sex for marks.

An associate of mine narrated to me how he caught a lady in the examination room, with writings all over her brown thighs. The culprit claimed that as she was making up early in the morning she quickly remembered what she had read the previous day, and due to limited time, she did not have to waste time looking for paper. Instead, she found it more convenient to write on her thighs!

I have a few modest proposals to solving the problem. Universities need to establish systems for managing examinations with comprehensive rules and regulations. Such should capture what comprises an examination malpractice, how the culprit should be penalized and who should take action.

I am aware that many universities have scanty, uncoordinated and unclear policies on this. I must salute UCU for all its efforts in stipulating and strictly adhering to the examination regulations. 

Universities also need strong examination units as opposed to the poorly staffed ones paling in comparison to the student numbers.

Examination  committees should be set up, empowered and facilitated to execute their duties without fear of favour.

Also the culprits (whether staff or students) should be heavily penalized as deterrent action. Student culprits should be notified to all the other universities so that they do not admit them for at least five academic years.

However painful the suggested measures may be, they still are not comparable to the mess that results from hiring unethical, dishonest and corrupt personnel in our public service. We must collaboratively save the examination systems in Uganda.

Tugume is the Executive Assistant to the Vice Chancellor