The end of a term usually presents a tumultuous moment for both parents and school-going children. Whereas parents might want to nod their head with satisfaction, students want to present a commendable report card. Therein lies the dilemma and subsequent fraud as the report cards are altered. Collins Mwai looks into the jigsaw;-
There are times when you walk into a shop, look at what you want to buy, examine it carefully then pay at the counter. Much as you are interested in leaving with your new purchase it is always important to demand for a receipt. It is proof that you paid for a particular item. That way, in case you have any trouble with what you bought, there is certified evidence to seek some recourse with.
Now, the school Third Term has come to an end for those who are not in candidate classes. As children headed home from last week, they not only carried personal belongings or joy that the hectic school schedule was taking a break. They carried report cards detailing their academic performance for the third term and the year in general.
The importance of the report card means that chances of it being tampered with are quite high. How can parents be sure that what they are seeing on these report cards is the reality?
“When I was in school, some students would easily forge or alter the report cards especially when a teacher made a comment that would not go down well with parents. The most common way was photocopying the report card of one who did well while white-washing their name and later adding yours by pen, few parents understand if the report card is supposed to be handwritten or typed,“ says John Mgirane.
“Those who lived with grand parents or older relatives had it easier as they would go home and say this term they didn’t have the report cards or didn’t even sit for exams. Being old and some of them illiterate, they would not bother to follow up this matter or understand what was on the report cards,” Mgirane adds.
Curbing the fraud
“Although I have never attempted it, I have seen classmates who can make a report card that looks as genuine as the one presented by the school. Some go to printing and photocopying outlets and for the right amount of money; they can have a similar one made. The report cards are made from easily available printing papers which are the same one in printing outlets all over town,” says Sheila Uwamahoro, a senior four student.
Groupe Scolaire ADB’s head teacher Jean Marie Nzabamwiza says it is possible for the students to forge the report cards and alter the results.
“I stamp and sign the report cards but that doesn’t mean students can’t make their own. They go to some places and make their own which would pass for the real ones. Even stamps and signatures are always forged to complete the fraud,” Nzabamwiza says.
“I would urge parents to contact school authorities in case they are suspicious of the results or comments indicated in the card. Schools always have a back up of the results and most will be ready to clarify in case one has doubts.”
At IFAK Secondary School in Kimihurura, the Principal, Fr Innocent Gatete, says the easiest way for a parent to spot an anomaly in the card is if it is not stamped and signed or if it is a photocopy.
“Other than signing on the card, I put the school seal on all the report cards. If any of those is missing, a parent should contact the school to get the real scores of their child. The card shouldn’t be a photocopy, it must always be the original copy.”
Giving to parents
Some schools like Wellspring Academy that was awarded the best performer in Kigali in 2013 chose to do away with the ‘messenger’ and hand the report cards to the parents themselves.
“Report cards are meant for parents not students, so we give them to parents instead. When the parents don’t come to pick the cards up, we keep them until the parents have time. It is at this time that we get a chance to discuss the students’ progress and behaviour in school and compare it with their conduct at home. With that we eliminate any possibility of the students handling the report cards and altering them.”
But even as school authorities have measures in place to see to it that parents and guardians are able to get their sons and daughters results some parents are yet to take the cards with the seriousness they deserve.
Marie Kayitare, a former primary school teacher and a mother, says the purpose of the card should be more than just indicating one’s marks in the previous exams.
“Report cards that are issued once in a term as most public schools do can be hard to follow up or keep up with. The card may have percentages that few parents understand or some parents may not have time to discuss the results in detail with their children and where necessary contact the responsible teacher,” Kayitare says.
“Report cards purpose is more than just indicating scores in the previous exams. They should be used to discuss and point out challenges that a student may have that would otherwise go unnoticed.”
Do you understand what appears on a child’s report card?
James Kalisa, a graphics designer. ‘I definitely read my kids’ report to know his weak points at school and find a way of helping him. I normally discuss with teachers of my children on their behaviour and performance at the school.’
Gerald Mugisha, doctor. ‘Honestly, I do read my children’s reports but I don’t exhaust everything. I’m only interested in their position and the date they will be going back to school to see how best I can prepare them for the next term.’
Clementine Ingabire, office attendant. ‘I don’t know how to read everything on my children’s reports but I ensure that I get someone to read and explain for me because I am interested in knowing what the school requirements are and how my child is performing.’
Thomas Munezero, student. ‘I don’t remember my dad looking at my report, it is my mother who sometimes does so and is only interested in informing my father of the date or return to school. But I do my best to perform well because I know that it’s my life and my future at stake.’
Odette Musabyeyezu, office attendant. ‘I read everything; I mean, that’s the only way you can evaluate their performance. If I don’t read my children’s report then how best can I account for the money I’m investing in them?’
Compiled by S. Kwihangana