Nairobi — Crooks out to make a kill are cashing in on the examinations season through counterfeit pre-Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations sat in schools known to be perennial top performers, investigation by The Big Issue reveal.
Parents desperate to have their children pass the Form Four exam, which is the gateway to increasingly competitive university places, are scrambling for the papers being peddled in Nairobi streets.
The Big Issue obtained copies of what the cheats are passing as Starehe Boy's Centre mock examination papers, each selling at Sh800. But copies of the exam bought at Starehe, for which the school issued an official receipt, proved the street papers are fake.
It is believed that pre-KCSE mock papers from top schools is the closest any student can get to the actual exam, which starts in November.
Starehe Boy's Centre, which topped in last year's KCSE exam, says it has not authorised anyone to sell the papers.
A bound copy of the original Centre's Form Four exams contains both the mini-mock and mock examination papers for all subjects, complete with marking schemes. The 257-page volume, which is selling at Sh1,000, is only available at the school.
Unscrupulous people seeking to exploit the situation are, however, riding on the Starehe's fame to make a quick buck at the expense of the ignorant learners and parents.
Most vulnerable are students in far-flung districts, where the quest for the 'big' schools' mock examinations is intense.
In these areas, one only needs a computer to compile questions from revision textbooks, which are then printed and bound under the name of top performing schools like Starehe, Alliance, Mang'u, Strathmore, Sunshine, Kianda, Precious Blood and Friends School Kamusinga.
Starehe Director, Prof Jesse Mugambi, warns parents against falling prey to the tricksters, who operate mostly on River Road and Tom Mboya Street.
"I want to appeal to students and parents not to waste money on street copies we have also ascertained that many of the copies are fake, but innocent students and parents are still buying them from the streets," he says.
Other than the names of the big schools, the papers do not contain legitimate content.
For example, the fake pamphlets we obtained in Nairobi only carry the 'Starehe' mock papers without the mini-mock like the true copy. They also have packaged questions and marking schemes separately, yet the original copy contains the mini-mock, mocks and their marking schemes in one volume.
The crooks are playing mind games with gullible parents and students, who have the long-held belief that mock examinations from schools that top the charts every year are prototypes of the KCSE exam.
But according to the Starehe mathematics teacher and Head of Examinations, Mr Nathan Mukangai, this notion is misleading.
"Our mocks are set internally based on the syllabus by the time the boys sit for the mocks in mid June, most teachers will have completed the syllabi, hence they set standardised examinations," says Mukangai.
To ensure timely completion of the syllabus, he said, studies begin on day one until the last day of the term. This is different from what happens in many other institutions, where "serious" studies begin in the second or third week of the term as students "settle down".
Much time is also lost whenever students are sent away for school fees, a practice rare in so-called big schools.
Starehe Boys' principal and head of Physics Department, Mr Paul Mugo, told The Big Issue that genuine Starehe mock papers can be available to those wanting to see them to dispel the notion they are a preview of the KCSE exam.
He added: "We want to dispel fears that what we set is Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) papers and therefore highly guarded from outsiders We are providing the genuine papers to assist candidates from other schools and show that there is nothing to hide."
Mugo, however, cautioned candidates against relying solely on the Starehe mocks, but instead use them as a guide for revision and strive to thoroughly cover all topics in the syllabus by the time they sit for the final examinations.
"Our mocks are tailored to the needs of our students and reflect what the teacher has covered It would be therefore misleading for other candidates to rely on the papers and abandon fully covering the syllabus," he cautioned.
He said the school has no post-mock exams and regretted that tricksters are selling fake papers with 'Starehe Boys Centre Post-Mock Exam' title to arouse interest of targeted buyers.
"We have noted that most schools take mock examinations of the 'big' schools and present them to their students as their own post-mocks As much as this helps students prepare, it is important for all candidates to meaningfully complete the syllabus to stand a better chance of excelling," Mugo said, echoing the sentiments of the Director of Higher Education, Mr David Siele.
Mock exams, he said, were set from what all schools are supposed to cover in the four-year course. "There is no need to make education expensive. The said mocks are just questions within the syllabus and do not necessarily mean they will appear in national examinations because they are set from Starehe, Mangu, Precious Blood or Alliance," he added.
Experienced and keen teachers would easily know what examiners look for, hence better placed to set questions, Mugo said.
Knec also dismisses the notion that mock exams are related to the final papers, saying that it would guard against exam leaks and cheating. Mr Paul Wasanga, Knec secretary, says supervisors and invigilators have been thoroughly briefed on how to prevent cheating. He adds that national exams are stored under 24-hour armed guard.