The integrity of a country’s education system is deeply tied to that of the national examination bodies. Charged with the preparation of national examinations, implies that a high level of competence from the examination body that leaves no room for fraud is expected.
I was shocked to read that some primary school candidates sat for the wrong Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). The fact that it happened was not as shocking as the way it was handled. What actually happened was that eight primary school candidates at Mukungu ADPR examination centre (Karongi district) sat for an English language exam while all their colleagues were doing the scheduled Mathematics exam. Apparently, one of the examination packages that contained the day’s Mathematics exam also had some English scripts enclosed.
The students are said not to have realised the mistake until the end of the exam. They were then isolated from the rest in order to prevent leakage of the English exam that was to be done the following day.
Anyone who read or heard about this story must have got the impression that this was a minor issue and all was good. I beg to strongly differ. There is nothing minor about this and the Rwanda National Examination Council ought to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves.
In any life situation, things are bound to go wrong. However, the smart thing is to ask ourselves how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place and how to respond to it. Such questions seem not to have occurred to those concerned in this case.
Much as the examination papers had wrongly been included in the Mathematics parcel, for them to be handed out and done shows a high degree of incompetence especially on the part of the examination supervisors.
For a student to sit through an entire examination without realising that it was the wrong one implies many things. It means that this student was not aware of the timetable of the examinations. This could be true since the RNEC does not provide each individual candidate with the examination timetable leaving them at the mercy of the teachers and supervisors who may not always be ready to remind the candidates of what the next examination will be.
It is also clear that the students lacked the confidence to raise their hands and bring the anomaly to the attention of the examination invigilators. What about the invigilators? Why didn’t they bother to ask the students before the beginning of the examination whether they all had a Maths script before them?
By not doing this, they failed to do their job. It also means that they spent the whole time standing in one spot or outside the examination room without moving around to check on the students, otherwise they would have been able to see at least one (and they were eight of them) of the students doing the wrong exam.
And because they did not move around, it means that if the students were cheating then they would have also gotten away with the act. To cut the story short, the situation in Karongi should not be seen merely as an oversight but one of gross incompetence. It is like having a traffic officer on the road yet he is unable to tell the difference between a bicycle and a motorcycle!
The students may be excused for their foolishness but we cannot do the same for the teachers and invigilators who are supposed to be professionals. With such invigilators in place, the practice of candidates employing impersonators will continue to go unnoticed.
RNEC should look into this issue and ask some questions concerning this issue to uphold its institutional integrity. Isolating the victims is simply not enough, but rather traumatising! Imagine how those kids felt getting isolated like it was their fault that they did the wrong exam!