Marking of this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations was disrupted in two centres over low pay and poor working conditions.
Markers at Machakos Girls High School and Starehe Girls Centre have threatened to quit the exercise saying the money they were getting for each script was not enough.
At Machakos Girls, the markers had even packed their bags and returned their bedding.
If they had made good their threat to quit, they would have thrown the national exercise into jeopardy.
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But Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) acting chief executive Mercy Karogo said the stalemate over pay had been resolved and marking had resumed.
It was later revealed that Knec had earlier pledged to review the marking rates for each script but the agency failed to effect the same when markers reported to their stations.
Data seen by The Standard shows that the examiners are paid between Sh46 and Sh75 for each script they mark.
Teachers who mark English papers are paid between Sh60 and Sh75 per script while those who mark Kiswahili papers get between Sh65 and Sh70.
Mathematics and Biology scripts are paid at a rate of Sh55 to Sh58 while Physics and Chemistry papers range between Sh52 and Sh55.
History papers are paid at a rate of Sh56 while Geography scripts are rated at Sh58 per script.
Business Studies and Agriculture are the least rated at Sh46 per script. These were the subjects that nearly brought the entire exercise to a halt.
The Standard established that normalcy was only restored after Knec reviewed the pay up by Sh6, pushing the rate for each script to Sh52.
The markers had demanded Sh68 per script.
At Machakos Girls, about 1,100 examiners marking Business Studies Paper 2 had rejected the pay offered by Knec, terming it as “peanuts”.
One examiner yesterday claimed that Knec had knowledge of a prior agreement to raise the rates by at least Sh10 per script. But the exams body, the examiners said, changed its tune Monday morning after preparations were concluded
“Knec had promised to adjust the marking rates upwards as we have been negotiating with them for the past two years. However, we were shocked to find they were offering Sh46 per paper, which is way below our expectations,” said the examiner who requested anonymity.
The examiners were expected to complete marking in the next 15 days.
Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary General Akello Misori yesterday confirmed that the dispute arose over payment of the Business Studies papers.
“The rate is far too short of the Sh68 per script paid for similar papers in the exam,” Mr Misori said.
He said the union would back examiners’ demands that the marking rates for all papers be increased to Sh100 per script.
“We are giving Cabinet Secretary George Magoha a seven-day notice to improve the working environment for the examiners.”
Misori warned that the union would ask teachers to withdraw their services if their demands were not met.
Kuppet chairman Omboko Milemba accused Knec of using “cheap labour” to achieve its plan of releasing the KCSE results before Christmas.
“Quality marking must be separated from timelines that are simply supposed to make one look like they have beaten another timeline,” said Mr Milemba.
He added: “Examination marking is not a marathon race. Quality is important in such a process.”
Milemba also revealed that examiners accommodation at Machakos Girls and Starehe Girls centres left a lot to be desired.
Due to lack of beds, he said, examiners had been forced to sleep on the floor while others were sharing beds.
“To better understand the examiners living conditions, consider the fact that the facilities in these schools are hardly sufficient for a similar number of students,” Misori said.
The secretary general also said that despite Knec’s commendable efforts to guard the examinations at the school level, it should be compelled to broaden the reforms to cover the entire scope of exam management.