PDF Version with Illustration

(The UCU Standard – Monday, March 31, 2014)

MUKONO, UGANDA ✦ It’s a new day, a good day, a day when you’ll be tested. Yes, it’s time for another exam and you, dear UCU student, are out of bed, finished your breakfast and walking with a confident smile.

This is why today is such a fine day: you know the answers, every one of them. Because you know the questions too.

Nobody is suspecting that you’re a cheater because you know the game and you play it with skill. You attend every Sunday and community service to praise the Good Lord and pray with fervour too. You know how common cheating is.

But you don’t think cheating is the best word, no, not the most accurate. Everyone needs to prepare in their own way and while plenty of UCU students study honestly, you know plenty of others get ready in the same dishonest ways that you do.

Sure, UCU has rules and warnings and a disciplinary committee. But you’ll take your chances. You can handle a dead term. Better than a big financial hit, which, you know, isn’t very common punishment.

Besides, you also know how easy this all is. There are so many ways.

Last term your lecturer dropped you a simple SMS with everything you needed. Nobody suspected, no, not from that lecturer, a Christian above reproach. The favour he wanted wasn’t so bad. You’d do it again. Easy.

Your parents are so proud of you too, ever since your picture landed in the newspaper when you were young. You’ll never forget how they showered their love and approval. You can’t disappoint now. You have a career ahead of you.

This is how it works in the real world anyway. In Uganda, anyone with their eyes open can see it.

Yes, you’ve learned to cheat (I mean prepare creatively) in so many ways. The best way to fight cheating is to create proper exams. You overheard this once in a conversation between two UCU heads.

It was outside a classroom. One said that most exams in Uganda are, in fact, a sham. That’s the word he used – “sham.” “We need to encourage students to think, not just give exams with tailored answers. But this is how it’s done at national level from a young age.”

“This is it,” said the other. “Education is big business now. Top schools don’t just want the best students, but more fees.

Everything is based on marks instead of skills.” He continued: “No wonder so many First Classers do poorly in interviews. They don’t have basic skills in language or reasoning. When I was in school you had to be a genius to be First Class. It was very rare.”

But these issues aren’t your concern, right? If universities want to turn a blind eye and avoid embarrassment and build on the sand, that’s their business. Let the system and the entire country suffer. You just need to walk on and keep calm.

After all, you might want post-grad studies. Copy and paste, copy and paste, is how your friend just did it at Makerere. He graduated just fine. His supervisor didn’t have time to look into it. And who’s supervising the supervisor?

So you’re ready for it, this test. You’ve exercised your body and steadied your mind. Still, there’s this thought that dishonest gain rots the bones and the soul both, that you’re becoming just an empty shadow of who you’re meant to be.

The secret thought has nagged you, somehow. It’s chased you. You think you might have even dreamt about this recently. The dream was terrifying. You literally rotted from the inside out. It was a horrible and shameful loss.

Then you forgot about it.

Until you read this.

This, dear UCU student, is your real test today. It’s your test any day.