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Revealed: Kenya a hotbed of academic cheating

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By VINCENT ACHUKA
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Only days after Kenya made the headlines for producing the world’s best teacher, it is in the news again, this time for the wrong reason.

It is described as a hotbed of academic dishonesty, where jobless graduates are minting millions of shillings writing thesis and term papers for students in the United Kingdom.

According to the British media, doctorate candidates pay £2,000 (Sh264,000) to £6,000 for dissertations. “Kenya is the hotbed where the writing happens. There is high unemployment and a job working from home is coveted. They have good English and low overheads,” Dr Thomas Lancaster, a senior fellow at Imperial College, London, was quoted by the British press as saying.

“There are thousands of people in Kenya whose job is to write essays for cheating students. There are several writers in every apartment block,” he added.

A motion is set to be introduced in the UK parliament to ban all forms of advertising for any assistance in academic work.

Initially, the business was done entirely through outsourcing websites run from Europe and hiring people with an ability to write academic material on a freelance basis and then floating jobs for them.

The jobs are usually academic papers given as assignments to students in Europe or the US, but are too lazy to do them. The pay is per page and can be as high as $15 (Sh1,500).

A Nation investigation on Monday found that several young people in Nairobi are engaged in the practice full-time.

In a shared office on Moi Avenue, the clicking of keyboards fuses with the noise from the street below to create the impression of an industry on a roll. The office, just a stone’s throw from the University of Nairobi, is illustrative of the booming underground industry that is helping thousands of students cheat their way to PhDs and Masters degrees.

For Sh30,000 to Sh50,000, depending on the course, one can get a research project done in two weeks to a month for work that is supposed to take an entire semester for a Masters student. And for Sh200,000, a PhD thesis can be done.

An assignment costs as little as Sh500, while a term paper sets you back about Sh2,000.

The company is just one of the dozens, if not hundreds, of such outfits spread across the country that are helping universities churn out graduates who have not met all the requirements.

Assignments and term papers contribute to the overall grade of a student. Masters and PhD students are required to undertake research project or thesis and defend it before they are cleared to graduate.

Dr Nancy Booker, the director of academic affairs at the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Mass Communication, says it is the only way for a graduate student to show that he or she has mastered a particular subject. “It shows you have mastered a discipline and you can execute a project from start to finish. It is what makes you an authority in a certain area,” she says.

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However, with a simple search online or through referrals, students can get academic research papers done for them, which they present as their own without detection. Fuelled by access to cheap Internet, high unemployment rates among graduates and the commercialisation of university education, academic cheating continues to boom.

The “research writers”, as they are known, are not only helping Kenyan students cheat, but their work is being felt globally through the outsourcing websites.

The business gathered steam in 2009, when the importation of refurbished computers was zero-rated. The undersea fibre optic cable also came at about the same time, significantly bringing down Internet costs and presented Kenyan youths with a host of job opportunities.

Some graduates who could not get jobs found it a worthwhile method of self-employment. In estates like Roysambu, Kahawa West, Kasarani, Kahawa Wendani and areas neighbouring Kenyatta University), students have turned it into a money-minting venture.

However, the dry periods between May and September, when universities abroad are not in session, have made those engaged in the business turn to the Kenyan market, which looks like it had been waiting for them all along.

This is evident from the explosion of websites targeting Kenyan students who want to cheat their way to degrees. And the openness and vigour with which such services are being marketed is remarkable.

Just next to the University of Nairobi at Kampus Towers are about a dozen such firms, each employing up to 10 staff.

The beginners in the industry start by doing assignments and term papers before slowly graduating to research projects and then theses. All this from a desktop, with no field work whatsoever.

The findings from what is supposed to be field work are then cooked before the student is coached on how to defend his or her project.

“We do desktop research and then write the thesis based on that research. The time frame and total cost depends on the expected word count. We charge Sh800 per page,” an executive of a firm told this writer when he posed as a student looking for someone to do research for a Masters in Journalism degree.

“Our work is plagiarism-free and all the work is scanned before being submitting to the client,” the executive said.

So clinical are those in the business that they even ensure that the work is within the acceptable plagiarism range and any queries from the lecturer supervising the student are dealt with to perfection.

And business is booming. “It depends on the amount of work available, but in a month, I can do between six and seven research projects,” the owner of a company that does projects on behalf of students told the Nation.

“It is not that difficult as students see it. I can describe it as driving; once you learn how to do it, you do it so effortlessly. It is the students who fumble because it is something they do once in their academic journey,” he said.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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