The Uganda National Examinations Board, UNEB has requested more resources so as to successfully inspect the UNEB examination activities, especially the Primary Leaving Examination.
The call was made by Prof Mary Okwakol the UNEB Chairperson during the annual seminar for District/City/Municipal inspectors of schools.
While addressing the seminar at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday morning, Prof Okwakol noted that they were meeting a team of senior and experienced officers, who coordinate the field conduct of the Primary Leaving Examination on behalf of the Board.
She further told Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu the State Minister for Education and Sports (Primary Education), that the candidature at PLE has significantly increased compared to that for the last examination which requires the Board to deploy more personnel to handle various aspects of the field conduct of the examination.
“Hon Minister, this places enormous resource requirements on the Board. We are, however, very optimistic that with your usual support and proactive planning by the Board, we will, as before, measure up to the task,” said Okwakol.
The chairperson further applauded the Secretariat under the able leadership of the Executive Director Mr Dan Odongo for successfully handling the 2020 PLE examination which took place during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic period. She noted that inspite of this challenge, UNEB was able to successfully administer the examination; process and release the candidates’ results in time.
“The conduct and marking of the examination was done under strict observance of the Standard Operating Procedures put in place by government to control the spread of COVID-19. This required extra funding, and I am very grateful for the strong support by the First Lady and Hon Minister of Education and Sports, and yourself, Hon Minister, for the Board to secure the needed supplementary funding,” the chairperson said.
According to Prof Okwakol, the Board emphasizes the need for validity, reliability and equity in the conduct of its examinations, as espoused in its mission statement. Adding that the Board also remains cognizant of the fact that COVID is still around, requiring continued vigilance.
“Therefore, the UNEB Theme for this year’s examination period remains as for the previous examination, and continues to remind us about our concerted responsibility for three important aspects; the integrity of those who will handle the examination; the security of the examination and the health and safety of the learners.”
Prof Okwakol called upon the Inspectors and all other persons who will have a role to play in this examination to apply this theme in all examination related activities as the Board strives to conduct a PLE free of malpractice, and the results of which will reflect the true ability of the candidates.
“As the Board, we are aware that efforts to curb examination malpractice have generally been successful except for cases of external assistance given in the examination rooms and attempts to access the examination questions during distribution. These occur at the operational level for which you, Inspectors, are in charge. I would like to implore participants at this seminar to devote a lot of time laying strategies on how to stamp out these remnant examination malpractices in our system. This, unless checked remains the only dent on our highly respected education assessment system,” Okwakol noted.
The registration of candidates is done by UNEB centres. The Regulations require each centre to register its candidates by forwarding information through the UNEB registration portal. Okwakol however says they have had many incidences where schools have been denied chance to do that. Some of the officers in the Local Governments choose to do this work on behalf of the schools, but because they do not know the candidates, the exercise is not done well. This causes them to miss or interchange candidates’ photographs or mix candidates of different schools. She says this has in the past caused the Board a lot of problems, including loss of results by candidates.
“Many heads of examination centres for PLE do not even know the passwords to their school portals with UNEB because, we are told, the DIS or some other persons keep them. The heads cannot, therefore, access information that UNEB puts on the school portals from time to time. I wish to strongly remind the Local Government officials in this forum that the registration of candidates must be done by the heads of centres because they know their candidates more than anyone else. Your role as Inspector should be strictly supervisory and administrative. Where there is a deficiency of IT skills, you should plan to build capacity. “
She extended appreciation to the Government for the financial support extended to the Board during the various processes of planning and conducting the examinations. Adding that with this continued increase in the number of candidates; operating costs of running these examinations correspondingly follow.
“As UNEB we shall continue to rely on you for more financial support amidst the competing sector budgetary demands. When candidate numbers increase, expenses on invigilation, supervision, marking and such other key activities increase in equal measure; thus requiring more resources,” she promised.
Prof Okwakol pointed out challenges like the weather trend which she says affects so many areas, especially in the highland zones with floods causing blockages of roads and making them impassable.
She noted that the Board will assess the situation together with its partners, the District Inspectors of Schools, and come up with requests through you, Hon Minister, to the emergency response agencies for logistical support in those areas where such support will be needed.