A British daily newspaper’s investigation has uncovered a cheating scandal reportedly capitalizing off of Kenyan academics and paying them as little as $1 an hour to churn out essays for British and American students.
“Slaving away in ‘essay factories’ in Nairobi, the highly educated experts earn as little as a dollar an hour while their millionaire bosses cream off the profits — and cheating Western teenagers take the credit,” The Daily Mail said in its August 23 report.
The newspaper called the enterprise a £100 million industry that British politicians, speaking of the effect of cheating on U.K. schools, say is a “cancer” that is “undermining our universities brick by brick.”
In one case at the headquarters of Mambo Microsystems, the 36-year-old founder, James Waitutu Karuri, pulled up each day in a different luxury car, the Daily Mail reported.
“Like most people, I started my essay writing business while I was at university,” Karuri told the newspaper at his penthouse office.
Over time, he said he expanded his business into other markets and hired 15 administrative staff members and 80 freelance writers.
“I remember clearly when I made my first million,” Karuri told the Daily Mail. “I felt a great sense of achievement, like all my hard work was paying off.”
The Daily Mail reported that at least 115,000 British students buy essays each year.
“Everything to do with cheating is more widespread than we know,” computer scientist and expert in contract cheating Dr. Thomas Lancaster told the newspaper. “From my research, Kenya rules the world in this type of work.”
Prohibited from interviewing current employees, the Daily Mail tracked down one of Karuri’s former colleagues.
“A Kenyan student starting this work might get 50 cents per page for a school essay, when the original fee might be $50,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, told the newspaper.
Pay does go up as the writers gain more experience, but not before spending years working 12-hour shifts for minimal pay, the former employee said.
“After a few years, for technical writing at PhD level, an experienced writer could earn $2,000 per job – still a small amount of the total but very good money for Kenya.
“At that level, writers subcontract the work, paying peanuts and keeping the lion’s share. But on average, most writers just earn about a dollar an hour.”
That wouldn’t work for Alex Kamau, a 33-year-old IBM expert with two degrees in computer science and two children to support.
He told the Daily Mail he has been writing essays from his Nairobi home for two years and has paid tens of thousands of dollars to buy access to better-paid commissions.
“If you want to make big money, you need to pass academic tests and work very well for many years to improve your ranking,” he said. “It is all done online, like a computer game. When your rank goes up, better commissions are unlocked.
“The quick way is to buy a high-ranking account from a broker. But that is very expensive.”
Kamau told the Daily Mail he and six friends used their life savings to buy a top account for $2,000 that allowed them to pick more profitable essay jobs, such as masters dissertations and Ph.D. theses.
Their account, however was shut down when they missed two deadlines, Kamau told the newspaper. So they raised $4,000 to buy an even more profitable account.
Due to mismanagement, Mr Kamau and his friends they missed two essay deadlines. The account was summarily closed by the online provider.
“We now hope to break even in about five years,” Kamau told the Daily Mail. “It is a long road, but there is no other way to make money in Kenya.”