By Darcel Choy Thursday, July 5 2012
An “act of sabotage” was how the Education Ministry described the release of raw data of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) results which were e-mailed across the country yesterday.
Newsday obtained a copy of the 373 page document which was sent in a Portable Document Format (PDF). It was sorted by surnames, named the primary school each student attended, listed the students’ numbers, sex and the schools to which they were assigned.
In a strongly worded statement, the ministry advised the public to ignore any such e-mail or information as it “may be false or inaccurate” and they described the leak as a “sinister plot”.
The ministry said it was committed to the population and assured that the “official and authentic” SEA 2012 results will be released this morning.
The ministry warned there could be possible prosecution for criminal conduct and said it was aware of “these insidious acts” being committed over the past few weeks with the “same nefarious intent and purpose.”
“Preliminary investigations have revealed that there appears to be a determined, sinister plot to destabilise the positive work emanating from the Ministry of Education. There are agents inside and outside of the ministry, intent and determined to create instability, confusion and chaos in the minds of the population as well as the students, parents and teachers of our nation,” the statement declared.
An active investigation is currently being pursued to determine those responsible for the act of sabotage.
In a television interview last night, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said the matter would have to be investigated by the police. He said he tried contacting National Security Minister Jack Warner to notify him of the incident.
“When I get him I will ask him to give some assistance to us to report the matter to the Commissioner of Police what could be a cyber crime issue and those who are found guilty of perpetrating any misconduct, the arm of the law would have to deal with them,” he said.
He said the system within the ministry was very tight and people were sworn to secrecy. He added if there was a possible flaw in the system the ministry will have to look at tidying up the entire process.
Gopeesingh noted that a similar incident occurred when someone attempted to tamper with the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) results, last year.
He said there was an attempt to interfere with the CSEC papers and the matter was under police investigations.
He explained that for the last five or six years, the ministry has used one security firm which takes the SEA papers to a police station in each education district by 6 am on the day of the official release and school supervisors collect them for distribution to principals. He admitted the ministry has had numerous incidents of people sending out information that is not valid.
“There is some degree of nefarious activity done by agents or people within and this has to be dealt with by the force of law,” he said.
In the document Newsday received, checks were made comparing the names of SEA students known by some staff members and they matched those on the unofficial list.
The list also indicated those students who would have to resit the examinations next year. This information is never released in the official results that are published every year.
The ministry in its statement noted that in moving the examinations from March to May it promised the results to be released on or before July 6. Some 17,900 Standard Five students wrote the SEA on May 10. Gopeesingh is expected to visit the top SEA student today.
People were buzzing on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter about the leaked results. Some were congratulating their family members on their achievements while some others expressed shock over the leak.
“Corruption would never end in sweet TT, everybody already know the SEA results and it releasing tomorrow (today),” one young man posted on Twitter
The ministry assured that it continued to be committed to the highest standards of transparency and accountability to the nation.
Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association first vice-president Devanand Sinanan expressed surprise over the leaked results.
“It is cause for serious concern, we have to get an explanation as to how that was possible because the consequence are far reaching, this questions the integrity of the whole process,” he said,
Expressing similar sentiments was president of the National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA), Zena Ramatali who said it was a cause for concern as people put their trust in the ministry and expect those who work there to be of a high ethical standing.
“Obviously there is a breakdown in the system, they need tighter security and confidentiality in the ministry as a whole. There should be a thorough investigation to find out the source of the leak and whoever it is should be held accountable,” she said.
One father who found out his son’s results from the e-mail said he had mixed views on the leak.
“On one hand, one wants the information as quickly as possible but on the other hand the knowledge beforehand of the day violates the tradition of going to the school and being with the child to collect the slip,” he said.
He said he was still deciding whether or not to tell his son as he was concerned that the boy would be told by his friends who may have received the e-mail.
“I would prefer he hears it from his father rather from a friend,” he said.