How Prof Magoha dismantled exam cheating cartels

Kenya National Examinations Council Chairman George Magoha. (Photo: Jeff Ochieng)

When George Magoha left the University of Nairobi, where he was vice chancellor, he never knew he would be called upon to clear the mess at the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec).

In March 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed the professor to head the scandal-riddled agency whose national examination papers were being hawked in the streets long before the real tests were done.

The mandarins manning Knec whose examination results were no longer credible to the public and the job market, were bundled out of office unceremoniously because of systemic and massive leakage of primary and secondary school examination in 2015.

Truth be told

In his revealing memoirs, appropriately titled: George Magoha: Tower of Transformational Leadership, the don writes: “Truth be told, it was not a normal appointment.’’

Prof Magoha recalls at the time he took over, Knec did not have a pool of already set and moderated examinations papers in every examinations as is the practice in many other examination agencies.

He observes the council had only one single examination paper for every subject set yearly and labeled accordingly.

This, he believes, set the ground for the examinations to fall into the wrong hands.

Magoha further says the examination was set by only one subject specialist identified solely by Knec and later moderated by other external specialists identified by the same body, a process that was majorly flawed.

To remedy these challenges, Magoha undertook a series of institutional reforms that would ensure a workable, transitional and tramnsformative management team.

He instituted a framework for swift packing, transportation, storage, actual sitting for marking and finally releasing the examination results.

To ensure integrity, they printed and proofread in a safe place abroad where only five people would come into contact with the examinations including the principal secretary in charge of primary and secondary education.

He further adds the transportation was efficient, confidential and controlled and the examination scripts were accompanied in each of the five flight trips to the United Kingdom.

On arrival, security agencies would escort the exam to a safe warehouse which was equipped with CCTV cameras linked to Knec smart command and control centre located at Mtihani House, Nairobi, monitoring the place on a 24-hour basis.

On examination leakages, the professor would ensure the Knec subject specialists would set a large pool, of about 15 unlabelled examinations papers per subject per year and moderated by external specialists who at that stage, would be unable to tell which paper would be examined and in which year.

With regard to storage of the examination scripts, the body ensured 346-foot-long metallic containers were purchased and strategically placed at each sub-county where they deployed 24-hour security surveillance.

When it came to collecting or returning the scripts, they were transported under tight security involving deputy county commissioners and directors of education who were on hand to receive, store and lock them awaiting the dates of the actual sitting according to the exam time table.

Whenever the containers were opened every morning, head teachers and principals of primary and secondary schools were present with other senior Government officials who included the Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.

When it came to final part of marking the examinations, the transportation was closely monitored from the command centre.

“We discovered to our utmost surprise that marks for many of the students were very low, this was confirmation that the 2016 KCSE examinations had neither leaked nor been compromised,” says Magoha.

Impacts knowledge

To the teachers, he has some gems of advice: “Our children will forgive and respect you, but you must earn their respect as the teacher who imparts knowledge to them.”

“I believe the credible results achieved will provide a very strong basis upon which the Government can successfully reform the sector.”

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