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End of an era: Tough times ahead for new KNEC CEO

EDUCATION
By Augustine Oduor | June 30th 2021
Education CS Prof. George Magoha (left) witnesses as KNEC outgoing CEO Dr. Mercy Karogo signs hand-over notes on 30th June 2021. In a red tie is the new CEO Dr David Njeng'ere, Basic Education PS Dr Julius Jwan on the far right and KNEC Chairman Dr John Onsati behind Dr Karogo. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Dr Mercy Karogo has exited the national examinations agency after nearly six years at the helm.

She handed over the office Wednesday to Dr David Njeng’ere who was recently appointed Chief Executive by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

Dr Karogo was part of the dream team put in office in 2016 by then Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to spearhead reforms at a time credibility of the national tests were at crossroads.

The reforms came against the backdrop of massive examination irregularities reported in 2015 when a shocking 7, 800 candidates had their results cancelled over examination irregularities.

Of these were some 5,101 Form Four candidates and another 2,701 Standard Eight pupils.

Flanked by the late Joseph Nkaisery, then-Interior and Coordination Cabinet Secretary and Joseph Boinet, then Inspector General of Police, Matiang'i made the shocking announcement– the national examinations board had been dissolved.

The purge saw senior deputy secretary in charge of examinations, deputy secretary in charge of security, principal examination secretary and the senior deputy secretary in charge of reprographics retired.

Also sent home were senior deputy secretary, senior deputy secretary in charge of ICT, the principal supply chain management and deputy secretary.

The bold decision marked the start of a new dawn in the administration of Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations in the country.

This marked the entry of former University of Nairobi vice chancellor Prof George Magoha who was appointed the Council chairperson, replacing Prof Kabiru Kinyanjui.

Dr Karogo who assumed the position of Chief Executive role in acting capacity replaced Joseph Kivilu.

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The disbandment of the Knec Council was part of the eight-point strategy that the ministry mooted to curb the increasing examination irregularities that had dented the national tests.

Six years later, Karogo who has been the centre of reforms implementation exits the stage with spotlight shone on her achievements.

During this year's administration of examinations, some 27 officials, including school managers, supervisors or invigilators, were “relieved of their duties” over allegations of violating regulations guiding the administration of the examinations.

Another 37 civilians, including three university students and two businessmen, were arrested for attempting to engage in examination irregularities.

And 50 cell phones were confiscated from candidates at examination rooms during the exercise.

Overall, cases of impersonation and collusion attempts to expose contents of the question papers ahead of time were reported.

Even though cases of cheating in national examinations remains a challenge, the vice has largely reduced with education stakeholders credited the reforms for decrease.

Magoha and Karogo introduced some of the key innovations introduced from test development, secured printing, packaging, storage and administration of examinations.

Printing of all examination papers and related materials for the high-stake examinations (KCPE and KCSE) examinations are now done abroad.

Previously, some of the papers were being printed locally, in what insiders said gave way to leakages that dented credibility of the tests.

Repackaging of examinations locally was banned as materials delivered from overseas were ready for dispatch to the field right from printing.

The famous ‘container business’ was introduced and adopted as the best storage method for national examination papers at Sub County level.

This also saw reduction of the time examination materials are stored in the country before being delivered to the field.

Secondary School Heads Association national chairman Kahi Indimuli said the installation of double-locking of the storage facilities and vesting of the security keys strictly to the Sub-County Education Officer and the County Commissioner helped guard examinations.

Previously, the examinations were stored in police stations. The reforms however shifted the responsibility over security of examinations from the Kenya Police to the Cabinet Secretary in-charge of Ministry of Internal Security and Coordination of National Government.

This is what birthed the multi-agency approach on the administration and supervision of examinations where Ministries of Interior and ICT were roped in the supervision of the tests.

“The early morning opening of containers and impromptu monitoring of the examinations scared those with bad intentions and it helped protect the examinations,” said Nicholas Maiyo, national parents’ association.

School heads who spoke to The Standard said that the appointment of Head Teachers / School Principals as Centre Managers is an innovation that and enhanced accountability and protection of the tests.

Johnson Nzioka, primary school heads association national chairman said accountability vested on heads during picking and dropping the papers to the container was a major achievement.

“It puts the pressure on the head teacher to ensure everything goes right and smooth and this has helped guard the administration process,” said Nzioka.

Magoha however said that some unscrupulous teachers and parents are still hell bent to beat security checks to access the papers

“This is one area that the new CEO must address because we have seen increasing attempts to access the test papers between the container and the examination centers,” said Indimuli.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary General Akello Misori said that creation of an ‘examination season’ where only candidates sitting examinations were allowed in learning institutions also helped curb malpractices.

He said there is minimum interaction between candidates and teachers, parents and learners in lower classes which has helped lock up loopholes for cheating.

Marking of national examinations have also been shortened to approximately three weeks for KCPE examination and about one month for the KCSE examination.

Previously, marking took longer time giving room for meddling of results by various players in the process.

Number of markers have also been increased and marking centers reduced to enhance supervision.

Maiyo said Knec must continue to address the gaps that may give way to cheating.

“We have been happy with the innovations that protected the credibility of the examinations and the new regime must better the gains already realised,” said Maiyo.

The the new CEO has his work cut out as he needs to consolidate the gains already realised and also implement new innovations that would further protect credibility of tests under the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC).

Teachers, who are increasingly attempting to meddle with the examinations will play huge role in future administration of national and school based examinations under the CBC.

The proposed Competency-Based Assessment (CBA) concept envisaged in the CBC, gives teachers more powers over learners’ marks.

And educationists are worried that these new powers for teachers may be abused.

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