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How Kyambogo University’s IT staff altered students’ marks

Kyambogo University students writing their exams

Kyambogo University students writing their exams

A joint investigation by the police and Kyambogo University management has so far found that two university ICT staff engaged in the alteration of marks for four students.

The affected students will miss this year’s 19th graduation which starts today (Wednesday) and ends on Friday this week, writes YUDAYA NANGONZI.

The preliminary findings indicate that one female student with a retake approached the two ICT staff to change her marks so that she would be cleared for graduation. However, the staff went ahead to alter marks of three more students who came with similar requests at a fee.

Sources privy to the investigations led by the deputy vice chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs and the academic registrar said the staff was offered money below Shs 1m to accomplish the task.

“The female student first boldly asked one ICT staff [not among those implicated] to change her marks but he refused. He advised her to retake the papers. This forced management to continuously monitor the system just in case more ICT staff were given similar requests. After two weeks, the university noticed changes being made to some students’ marks by other ICT staff,” the source said.

Asked how the two ICT staff were easily identified, the source pointed to the university’s Academic Management Information System (ACMIS) two-factor authentication mode of running the system. Under this arrangement, the system identifies whoever logs into the system and it keeps audit trails of all activities of each ICT staff such as viewing, deleting, and updating information, among others.

The system can also attest to the login locations, gadgets, and web browsers used to access the academic system. Preliminary audit trails have so far confirmed that the two implicated male staff altered the students’ results. They also fraudulently changed the award level of one student from a second-class upper degree to a first-class.

The Internet Protocol (IP) address on the system showed that all the alterations by the two staff were done inside their ICT offices at the university.

HOW CHANGES WERE MADE

The two-factor authentication was initiated into the system to prove that it’s only ICT staff working on the system. In case one intends to make any changes to a student’s marks, they are supposed to request an update of “change of marks” on the system.

To further prove one’s correct identity, the system sends the ICT staff a token number either on the phone through an SMS or email address linked to their ACMIS account to grant them access. The investigators established staff who received tokens on particular dates when results were illegally changed.

“The two staff also had the permission to migrate student records from the old system to the new one. So, they took advantage of these powers while migrating results of other students who had already been approved to alter those who offered them money,” the source said.

The source added that the ACMIS accounts of the two staff have since been blocked to aid the ongoing investigations.

KYAMBOGO VC SPEAKS

In his pre-graduation address to the media on Monday, the Kyambogo University vice chancellor, Prof Eli Katunguka, confirmed the suspension of the two ICT staff and the four affected students. He said the six culprits were caught after a whistle- blower, also a student, addressed the matter to the administration.

Katunguka said if the two staff members are found guilty, disciplinary action including dismissal from the university, could be taken against them.

“The students are four but we expect the number to increase when investigations, which started last month, are completed. Students should know that even if you graduate this week and we later discover that your marks were altered, we have a policy that empowers us to revoke your award at any time. Let nobody deceive you that you will beat the system after making it to the graduation day,” Katunguka said.

The university management also agreed to omit the altered results after the original marks from the Heads of Departments (HoDs) didn’t match those on the ACMIS system. The HODs have the final say on the graduating students. According to Katunguka, the original copies also played a critical role in identifying more students with altered marks.

“Initially, I didn’t know about these issues until one female student approached me crying that she had been deleted from the graduation list yet she appeared on the tentative one. I bounced her back to the head of the department who informed me that the same student was involved in an attempted alteration of marks,” Katunguka said.

He added: “We are trying to curb this vice although it is hard to fight due to evil people. But, if we get anybody involved in this practice, we shall take stern measures against them.”

Meanwhile, our sources noted that whereas the university can crack a whip on ICT staff, it remains an uphill task to trace marks that are illegally changed before being uploaded on the ACMIS system.

“We have since established that there are also teaching staff who are negligent with their work. For instance, some staff are issued with accounts to upload student marks but assign their credentials to third parties who are unknown to the university,” the source said.

The third party can easily change the marks using the lecturer’s ACMIS account which poses more risks to student marks and the system in general. The investigators have found that such altered marks at the level of the lecturers are quite many but hard to trace until the involved parties disagree and one turns into a whistleblower.

For now, the university is contemplating conducting a comprehensive audit of all results of students to determine the extent of the alterations of marks.

nangonzi@observer.ug

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