Concerns over preparedness of Grade Six pioneers as candidates rehearse for exams

The teachers also expressed concern over lack of familiarity with cut-throat examinations as the learners went through a curriculum whose assessments were school-based and not rigorous.

Also emerging is the anxiety and transition uncertainty of the Grade Six learners which teachers and parents said hampered preparations for candidates for the tests.

The details emerged during the rehearsal day for some 2.4 million candidates across the country .

Of these, 1,244,188 candidates will sit Kenya Certificate for Primary Education (KCPE) exams, as another 1,287,597 will write Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) exams.

Kenya National Examination Council data also shows that another 884,263 candidates will sit KCSE exams. But it is the concerns over preparations of Grade six candidates that caught the attention of teachers and parents on rehearsal day.

The candidates will sit for Mathematics and English papers on Monday, Integrated Science and Kiswahili on Tuesday and Creative Arts and Social Studies on Wednesday.

Doreen Ocholle, the head teacher of Tassia School in Nairobi, said it has not been easy to prepare the two pairs of candidates for the exams.

''As you know, it has not been easy preparing two sets of candidates in a compressed academic calendar. The KCPE exam has been there before and students are prepared psychologically as opposed to their juniors,'' Ocholle said, adding it has taken resilience of teachers in preparing the candidates.

Early Bird School, Machakos head teacher Augustine Musyoka also noted that teachers concentrated more on preparing KCPE candidates at the expense of those in Grade Six.

''Learners are well prepared, especially those sitting for the KCPE. However, the KPSEA candidates have a lot of excitement and anxiety as a pioneer class. They engaged invigilators with a lot of questions about the examination which showed clearly they are not conversant with what they are going to sit for,'' Musyoka said.

Kennedy Aroko, head teacher at Emmaus Education Centre in Korogocho, Nairobi, says having the two national exams run co-currently in a primary set-up has strained resources in many schools.

''The classrooms are not enough considering the high number of candidates some schools have. Having Grade Six candidates sit together with Standard Eight is really straining,'' Aroko said.

However, many learners say they are excited and are willing to experience the new era.

''I have been sharpened to face the exam and I believe nothing will stand in the way of scoring a good mark. However, I prefer remaining in my current school as I grow up hopefully in the next three years,'' said one of the candidates.

On transition, Ocholle observed that schools are in a dilemma on the placement of learners, saying the time left before transition is too short for schools to prepare.

Grace Kagungu, an invigilator in the centre said, the learners have been prepared for the exams.

"We have taken them through all the exam regulations on time, exam irregularities and conduct during the exam period," Kagungu noted.

A Grade Six candidate at Gilgil Hills Academy said he was confident of their preparedness for the national exams but cited high levels of anxiety as the first candidates under Competence Based Curriculum.

"We are fully prepared but we have nobody to look up to as having ever sat for KPSEA in the past. We are looking forward to join junior secondary early next year," he said.

Another candidate at St Peters' Elite School said that they were ready to be the trailblazers for KPSEA exams.

"I believe there won't be a lot of difference between the national exam and the assessments we have been taken through since we were in Grade Three," she said .

Some of the schools like Gilgil Hills Academy, which produced the best KCPE 2021 candidate nationally, and Roots Academy, have set up separate facilities for junior secondary students. Cephas Mwangi, the head teacher at Gilgil Hills, explained that they have no pressure on their infrastructure as they set up a secondary school years ago but had not operationalised it.

At St Peters' Elite, the school headteacher Linet Yugi said that they had five classes that would remain vacant with the transitioning of the KCPE candidates to secondary school.

In North Rift, Dr Eddyson Nyale, the Uasin Gishu County Commissioner, said the examinations will be administered in 707 centres for KCPE and 848 for KEPSEA in the county.

At Bishop Muge Memorial Primary School, 113 candidates are ready for KCPE and another 80 for KEPSEA.

"We have been briefed in the rehearsals and all is set for Monday. Our class eight candidates are prepared as usual and the same applies to Grade Six, though this will be our first experience," said Mr Sammy Sawe, the school head teacher.

At Lessos Education Centre in Nandi County, invigilators were satisfied the institution was ready for examinations at both levels.

Mrs Mary Tanui, the school manager, said they have 27 candidates for KCPE and 35 for KEPSEA.

In Kakamega county, Pendo and Jabstir primary schools were also set for Monday's exams.

"It has been a journey of dealing with unexpected holidays caused by the coronavirus pandemic but we are good to go. We have counseled some who looked consumed by the long stay at home and the mood of candidates is generally good,"said Stella Kombo, the director of Jabstir.

Joel Omino Primary School headteacher Veronica Otieno, said 523 students will be sitting for exams next week at the Kisumu school.

"I am positive and can confidently say the grade six are especially prepared as a huge number of them did very well in the KNEC assessment," she said.

[Reports by Mike Kihaki, Kennedy Gachuhi, Titus Too, Gilbert Sitati, Robert Amalemba, Anne Atieno and Sharon Owino]