In 2010, I hit a jackpot that was too good to be true.
The previous year, someone had introduced me to something called academic writing, but I had ignored it. This time I saw how someone was making good money through academic writing and I decided to try it.
Every Kenyan who was in college in the last ten years would know what I am talking about when I mention academic writing. For those still in the dark, it is a remote gig where one is paid to write assignments, projects or even thesis for students in UK and US Universities. It was said that these students had the money, but no time or competence to do their assignments. In Kenya, students had the time, and needed the money.
This interesting scenario brought in some middlemen who ran writing bureaus, mostly from Eastern Europe. They had online platforms where students would submit their assignments, and another interface where writers could bid to do the work. Such platforms included Uvocorp, Essay Writers, Academia Research and many more.
The industry still thrives to date. In fact, it has become more complex despite attempts to crack down on the vice. It is so common in Kenya that Kenya is considered a global powerhouse in the industry. Kenyans calls it academic writing. Elsewhere, it has the infamous name of contract cheating industry.
Being a student in Kenya, there are very limited opportunities to make money. With a high unemployment rate, not even graduates are assured of jobs.
Finding a way to make money is always welcome. The good thing with academic writing was that it was appealing to a group of people who had the right skills, the time, and the need.
One other appeal of academic writing was the fact that it gave one an opportunity to explore interesting topics. You would write about engineering, law, history, medicine, philosophy or any topic that you found fit. This in itself was interesting.
I got connected to somebody who was in the industry and had accounts with one of these platforms. They would give some assignments, and I would be paid KShs 180 bob per page. That was the start, and I was just doing enough pages for extra income. In October 2010, I did 23 pages and the following month I did 24 pages. That was an income of 4,140 and 4,320 shillings respectively, just enough to feed a student.
Come January 2011, I had more time and more resources. By April 2011, I was doing 300 pages a month at KShs 200 per page. That was enough money to last me a few semesters.
Writing and studying needed some balance. When school was in session, it was hard to keep up with writing, only doing enough to keep me going. Many people had already discovered academic writing and there were enough support groups to assist when you were in a fix.
No one really saw academic writing as something unethical. No one would call it aiding academic cheating. It was just work. Registered companies were offering the services and various players were making it possible, including PayPal, Skrill, and others.
I never gave it much thought, until one day I had a unique assignment. I did 12 pages of work on a certain topic in nursing that I had little knowledge about (I was studying Engineering). Neither the topic nor what I wrote made any sense to me, and I was very sure that the client would reject the work. To my surprise, the client was extremely satisfied and even wanted me to do their final term paper.
That is when I started to question the whole thing. Here was a nursing student who seemed to be an F student, and was banking on me to help them get good grades. What would happen when they graduated? How were they going to work in hospitals? Would I allow such a person to treat me?
I lost interest in academic writing, but I never quit fully.
I still went on with the writing, but by the end of the year I had shifted focus to something else. Instead of working with a middle man, one could open their own account with the websites offering academic writing services and build their own portfolio. The pay was also better, starting at $5 per page for beginners. I started creating accounts with those websites.
Creating accounts was the hard part. The tests were quite hard and it would take about 4 attempts to successfully get one registered. It involved a lot of hard work and preparation, but the results were worth.
I managed to open a few accounts which I sold to interested people. I remember that the last one I sold in September 2012, for KShs 25000. That was still good money. But I had had enough. I stopped dealing in anything to do with academic writing.
More than ten years later, academic writing is still thriving in Kenya. Instead of working with middlemen from Eastern Europe, Kenyans have now set up their own businesses where they deal with the foreign students directly. It is a booming business.