Cabinet secretaries should leave exam supervision to teachers

The 2019 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations that started on Monday come to an end today.

Just like all national exams, this year’s KCPE has been a big deal with a staggering 1,088,986 candidates spread across 27,809 centres countrywide. Such a huge number of examinees calls for meticulous planning and heightened scrutiny on the part of the government.

Luckily, it’s clear the Government had done everything to ensure that the all-important exams run as smoothly as possible by, among others, delivering test papers on time, hiring adequate exam officials and providing exam centres with adequate security. This is commendable.

However, the decision to send all senior officials to monitor the examinations leaves a lot to be desired. For the third year running, virtually all Cabinet secretaries, Chief Administrativesecretaries, Principal secretaries and other senior government officials have stopped their business to supervise exams.

Besides Education CS George Magoha, CSs Fred Matiang’i (Interior), James Macharia (Transport), Najib Balala (Tourism), Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs), Joe Mucheru (ICT) and Margaret Kobia (Public Service) took part in the exercise that also involved Attorney General Kihara Kariuki on Tuesday. In fact, a Cabinet meeting was cancelled so that the CSs could supervise the exams.

But was that necessary? While there is no disputing that national exams are very important, they shouldn’t bring other government business to a standstill. Ideally, the exams should be handled by Education ministry officials with the help of police officers where necessary.

If the ministry cannot administer the exams successfully, then it means something is seriously amiss. It means there are busybodies and officials of questionable character who Prof George Magoha must weed out.

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Despite hurting other businesses, making such high-ranking officials to supervise exams puts a big dent in the pockets of taxpayers as they have to be paid huge allowances.

Transporting them to various parts of the country, some by air, adds to the cost.

At a time when the Government has resorted to stringent austerity measures to keep afloat, such spending should be discouraged.

In any case, even if the CSs and PSs can help discourage cheating and ensure exams run smoothly, how many schools can they visit in a day?

Exam matters, important as they are, should be left to the Education ministry.

Making all top government officials to supervise exams is a waste of public money, resources and time.

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