Early marriages, teen pregnancies linked to students skipping KCPE

In 2019, at least 5,530 Standard Eight candidates missed the examination. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Concern has been raised over the increasing number of students, who fail to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination despite registering.

An analysis of the just-released 2021 exam, reveals that 11,523 candidates failed to sit the test.

This may be a drop from the 12,424, who failed to sit the test in 2020, but the trend is nevertheless worrying stakeholders.

In 2019, at least 5,530 Standard Eight candidates missed the examination. 

Players in the education sector are demanding to know why so many candidates are missing the exam, with the situation being worse in the last two years.

Some experts have blamed it on the registration of candidates, which is normally done before the examination.

“We need to register candidates during the examination year, not a year before the scheduled time of the tests. There is a likelihood that some candidates may drop out of school due to pregnancies or earlier marriages, among other factors,” Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary-General, Mr Akello Misori said.

Mr Misori noted that early marriages, child labour and teenage pregnancies are among other factors leading to the increasing numbers of absentee candidates.

Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) registered candidates for KCPE, while they are still in Standard Seven, arguing it gives them time to plan. 

“The problem with the early registration is that students may drop out of school before the exams and this is due to many reasons,” said Emmanuel Manyasa, Country Manager of Uwezo Kenya, an organisation involved in the push for increased access to education to improve literacy and numeracy levels.

He added; “Early registration of candidates is done to ensure there is enough time for planning purposes. This is because we have attached too much value to examinations.”

In 2021, Nairobi had the highest number of candidates, who registered for KCPE but did not sit for the exam.

Other counties were Meru (644), Turkana (589), Kakamega (583), Nakuru (561) and Trans Nzoia (524).

Isiolo County had the lowest number of absent candidates.

Out of the 4,053 registered KCPE candidates, only 26 candidates failed to sit for the exam.

 Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General, Collins Oyuu, said the prolonged school closure due to the outbreak of Covid-19 also affected many school-going children.

“Some parents married off their children. For some, they face cruelty at home. Because of this, some disappear and others opt to live with relatives, who may not be keen to take them back to school. We appeal to parents to take care of their children and prioritise their education,” said Mr Oyuu.

Further, Mr Manyasa noted that insecurity and drought led to some students missing out on KCPE. 

“We had difficulties during this year’s exam due to drought and insecurity. Residents were migrating in search of water and pastures. For parents, they would rather their children miss the exam than risk their lives due to insecurity,” he said. 

Mr Manyasa said that the lack of fees has also forced many students out of school.

“Even as the government talks about free and compulsory education, not every child who has attained school age is actually in school,” Mr Manyasa said.

On his part, Mr Misori claimed some schools register ‘ghost’ candidates to comply with KNEC’s rule that requires every examination centre to have a minimum of 30 candidates, hence the increased absentee candidates.