EACC probes mass failure of exams at Kenya School of Law

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission CEO Twalib Mbarak (left) and Chairman Eliud Wabukala during a meeting with National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee at Parliament Buildings last Thursday. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating the mass failure of bar exams at the Kenya School of Law (KSL).

EACC chairperson retired Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala told the National Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs (JLAC) the commission is probing the matter.

KSL administers the exam as set by the Council for Legal Education (CLE).  

JLAC chair and Baringo North MP William Cheptumo had held a session earlier in the day with Deputy Solicitor General Christine Agimba, KSL chief executive Henry Mutai and his CLE counterpart Dr Jacob Gakeri.

“This is a crisis. I also have a child in that school. Do something about the image of the school. It is worrying,” Mr Cheptumo told the two CEOs as he ordered that they have until Thursday to appear before the committee well prepared.

The investigations come after accusations that KSL has become a profit-making organisation created to reap more from students to maximise profits.  

Students joining KSL are required to pay Sh200,000 for nine units they are required to undertake for one year. Students are also required to sit two exams – in July and November every year.

Those who fail any paper are charged Sh15,000 for a re-sit, meaning that if one fails all the nine units, they are required to part with Sh135,000.

Until one passes all the nine papers, they cannot apply to be admitted as advocates of the High Court.

According to a report of the task force appointed by former Attorney General Githu Muigai in 2016 to investigate the causes of the mass failures, 80 per cent of the 4,533 students failed the exam of November 2018 while about 72 per cent failed the July exam.

In 2009, the pass rate was 92.5 per cent and 91.6 per cent in 2010.

The highest failure rate was recorded in the November exam of 2016 where 85 per cent of the 2,810 students flopped.

Gakeri told the lawmakers that although the exam is set by CLE and administered by KSL, it is marked by a different set of professionals.

There have also been claims of deliberately failing the students so that the market is not saturated with advocates.

Although the task force headed by senior counsel Fred Ojiambo was to recommend the measures to check the mass failures, committee members Gladys Shollei (Uasin Gishu County Woman Representative) and Alice Wahome (Kandara) poured cold water on it saying it has not solved the problem.  

“This report has nothing to do with the issues at KSL and CLE. The task force was set up with the view of improving the situation despite reaching crisis levels, but it has not lived up to the expectations,” Ms Shollei said.

Bringing other schools to administer the bar exam was among the changes proposed in the Omnibus Bill, but Cheptumo said changes to the KSL Act can only be done substantively.