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State officials’ visit to examination venues adds no value at all

By Agumba Ndaloh | November 15th 2019

For three years now, senior government officials have taken direct charge of the administration of national examinations. They have been witnessing the collection of the examination materials from the metallic containers and making impromptu visits to the examination centres. Some have even visited examination venues and posed for pictures.

That top government officials will troop to different parts of the country to monitor the KCSE examinations is fait accompli. We are living in strange times. For once in the history of this country, even a Cabinet meeting had to be postponed to allow the members to go and help in examination management. Some government services rendered by the senior State officials were suspended. The lazy ones and they are many, are even exploiting the situation to be away from work.

Are we the only country faced with the canker of examination cheating? If no, how are other countries addressing this vice? Do they have to marshal the whole State machinery to kill the mal-practice?  

Aside from this, have we ever stopped to look at the rules governing the administration of exams in general and supervision/invigilation in particular? Who should be in the exam venues? Why is it that during exam rehearsals, candidates are introduced to supervisors and invigilators of the examinations?

These questions point to the fact that top government officials have no business monitoring examinations. There are 10,287 centres with a total of 699,745 candidates spread across the country and 70,790 personnel directly involved in the administration of the examinations. What can the scattershot approach of the top ministry officials serve to add to the quality of the exercise?

Huge allowances

The truth is that the visits by the top officials are cosmetic and serve little other than enabling them to draw huge allowances. It’s time we left the field officers and those hired to help in the administration of the examinations to do their work.

Whenever senior officers visit exam venues or appear at the collection points, those mandated to oversee the task are often gripped with trepidation. Things are made worse by the threats our top officials have become accustomed to issuing. Such an environment is not enabling for examinations.

A stranger’s visit to an exam venue usually increases the anxiety levels of candidates. Anything happening in the exam venue can have a negative impact on their performance. I know the visits may have a positive impact, but the truth is that it can go either way. As teachers and parents, we should try our best not to lose even a single candidate due to poor psychosocial effects of our actions.

The traipsing that has become a regular feature of government officials as a way of addressing crisis or problems should be re-examined. It is nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to confronting a challenge. The truth is that we should empower those entrusted with responsibilities to carry them to the best of their ability.

Well empowered

Putting a lot of hope on an individual or group of individuals run counter to the objectives of having institutions to manage our affairs. Field officers and those hired by Knec, if well empowered and enumerated, can do a good job in managing exams. It’s high time we saved the money paid to the top ministry officials as per diem for other purposes.

Out of the over 10,000 exam centres, how many will the top government officials visit? Don’t you think that those which will not be visited will feel left out? Or are those visited not able to think they have been flagged as cheating hot-spots? The top government officials should do their part in making sure the exams run well. I doubt whether traipsing from one school to the other contributes majorly to this.

Those of us with experience in exam management know that the culprits usually plan for their nefarious activity many weeks or months in advance. The impromptu visits will thus not dissuade them from actualising their plans. Increasing surveillance and putting in place more air-tight measures have a higher potential of nipping exam mal-practices in the bud than visits by top government officials.

Ultimately we should empower those entrusted with direct administration of the examinations. Train them well and increase their numbers to ease their work. We should also give the allowances with a human face.

Currently the measly payments they get can easily tempt them into accepting bribes from the candidates, parents or centre managers. The level of security should also be raised. It is also high time administration of exams took a centre stage in our teacher education programmes.

Dr Ndaloh is a curriculum and teaching expert at Moi [email protected]

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