The bold picture of a school principal holding national examination papers close to his chest on one hand and clutching his shoes on the other as he wades through flooded waters illustrated the nightmare teachers undergo to deliver examinations.
And the sight of a security officer holding his gun on one hand and his boots on the other while keeping steps with the teacher demonstrated the firm commitment of ensuring all candidates sit examinations.
With their trousers folded up to the knee and bracing the chilly morning to deliver examination papers, Along’o George Mutwiri, the principal of Lairuba Day Secondary School, and police officer James Chege became the face of this year’s national examinations.
Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i last week acknowledged the two officers who “went above the call of duty to ensure safe delivery of examination papers”.
“Principal Along’o and Officer Chege demonstrated the commitment of public servants to serve and through this selfless act they have set an example of ‘service above self’ that we should all emulate,” Matiang’i noted in a Twitter post.
“I have written to the Chief of Staff to ask that Principal Along’o and Officer Chege be considered for a Recognition Award,” said Matiang’i.
Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia termed the gesture exemplary.
“These are the unsung heroes and we stand with all our teachers every day during all work situations and support them,” said Ms Macharia.
Some 615,773 candidates are sitting this year’s KCSE exam across 9,350 centres.
Sunday Standard can today reveal the pain, panic and anxiety that teachers and senior Ministry of Education officials undergo daily to ensure examination administration plans go as scheduled.
The Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) has introduced new regulations to curb cheating. First, all school heads are the managers of the examination centres.
Therefore, they must pick the papers at the storage containers by 6am.
And while at the centres, they take full responsibility of any mistake that might occur.
The headteachers said some of them wake up as early as 4am to be in time for opening of examination containers.
“Containers are opened at 6am. Arriving late to pick examination papers is not an excuse. You must be there on time,” said one principal.
Wake up early
The principal said the distance between teachers’ homes and the containers prompts them to wake up early.
“By 5.45am some of us are always hanging around the containers waiting for the opening,” he said.
But it emerged that picking the examinations by the school heads is not the hard part.
Ensuring that the process of writing the examination is perfect and with no hitches is the hard part, confessed another headteacher.
“Once we deliver the examination to the supervisor, it is not in our hands. But remember we are the centre managers. We take responsibility for anything that goes wrong,” said the principal of a top school in Nairobi.
He said the exam papers must be closely guarded even when the teacher is not directly in contact because the possibilities of infiltration of the examination are higher from that point on.
The teacher said some school heads literally kneel down and thank God each time they receive the papers back after a flawless process.
“I thank God because no incident has been reported. And it is a relief once I deliver them safely at the container in the evening,” said the teacher.
Education officials are expected to file daily reports on the process through a Whatsapp account only accessible to the top leadership.
Sources at the KNEC said the security situation in this year’s examination is so tight that anyone who attempts to contaminate the process is dealt with severely.
A secondary school principal in Trans Nzoia County is already facing a disciplinary action that would likely cost him his job after he allegedly attempted to leak the examination.
David Wafula of Bikeke Boys’ High School has already been replaced as a centre manager and is now in court facing charges of being in possession of examination papers ahead of scheduled time.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s personal involvement tightened the scrutiny of the examination.
Uhuru instructed that Cabinet Secretaries should be directly involved in monitoring the administration of the exams.