Rid country of fake academic papers menace

Fake certificates

Fake academic certificates found when two suspects were arrested in Eldoret town on October 30, 2019. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The country’s future looks dark and gloomy, our education system is losing meaning and relevance and employers can no longer trust our graduates, locally and abroad. On service delivery, we are victims of fraud and forgery. The principal contributor is the presence of forged and fake certificates, which should worry us.

Thousands of counterfeit diplomas and degrees from recognised universities have been used by individuals to gain undeserved prestige and jobs. Fake certification is a dark business enterprise growing in a multi-billion-shilling industry. But it is bad news for the integrity and the efficiency of our output in the work environment.

Hiring people with fabricated credentials often results in operational errors and incompetence for employers, loss of public trust in public office holders, loss of image for the nation and reputational harm for employers, which can take years to rectify.

The Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) reports that 30 per cent of public officials possess a false certificate in one form or another. Despite the public accountability processes and oversight, academic cheats still find their way into employment, locking genuine qualification holders out of the limited job opportunities. This is grossly unfair. Honest people and employers have a responsibility to end this state of affairs. The trumpet has been sounded and the goodwill extended.

EACC investigations have identified five ways through which academic dishonesty is propagated in the country. One, academic dishonesty can entail changing high school grades to get admission into an institution of higher learning. Two, outright forgery of documents to secure employment after failing to graduate from university. Three, altering university grades to make it appear as if one attained higher degree classification or GPA. Four, forgery of higher qualifications, like master’s and PhD degrees, which one did not study for. Lastly, impersonation by posing as the owner of a certificate.

All must make integrity and hard work pay. Stakeholders should value quality education. Employers, learning institutions and professional bodies should conduct background checks and demand certified copies of certificates before granting employment, admission or registration to anyone.

KNQA should have proper mechanisms and timelines to authenticate internationally attained qualifications, benchmarked with standard international credential assessment processes. Kenyans, and employers, should be obligated to report all suspected cases of academic dishonesty for prosecution. Employers should reward academic integrity and stringently deal with the fraudsters. The government can establish a task force to crack down on the production and distribution of fake certificates.

The country should classify its occupational skills, eventually detaching Kenyans from their appetite for higher qualifications and ensuring a renewed focus on acquiring skills. That means value will be attached to skills and not academic degrees.

- Dr Omai, PhD, is an anti-corruption crusader and governance consultant. [email protected].