Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC), the police and school heads are the weakest link in examination administration leading to mass irregularities.
It also emerged that political interference, inaction by teachers’ employer and the schools heads oversights play part in eroding governments’ effort to ensure credibility in national examinations.
These details emerged on Friday when various education stakeholders appeared before the National Assembly Education Committee in Nairobi.
The committee is probing last year’s KCSE examinations conduct and administration.
MPs heard that the promotion criteria deployed by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) contributes to unnecessary competition that pushes teachers to engage in malpractice.
Dr Gladys Malonza, the Nairobi Regional Exam Officer said the number of exam malpractice involving mobile phones declined to 21.
The previous year, she said, some 71 mobile phones were confiscated.
She said that cases of impersonation also dropped from 18 cases to only two.
Malonza noted that even after raising the cases with KNEC, no one was found eligible to face charges.
‘‘All individuals who were found to aid in the examination malpractice were arrested but later released. This informs the gaps that exist in the police Directorate of Criminal Investigation department,’’ she added.
He response seems to point fingers at police for failing to prosecute the culprits by not collecting enough evidence.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers Secretary General Akelo Misori however was bold and said the national exams in the country have become high stakes.
Misori said the leakage is just a smoke screen in what happens in national exam administration.
‘‘The presence of impersonators, phones and other illegal materials found during the examination period is a clear indicator that cheating existed in the schools,’’ Misori said.
He proposed repeal of KNEC Act, 2012, saying the current position doesn’t give the Council room to deregister any candidate who has flouted examination code.
‘‘The leakage is a true reflection of the crisis of corruption in the country including stealing of public funds. We need to identify the areas of weakness from the printing of exams, distribution, storage and administering of examinations,’’ Misori said.
The KNEC Act says that a candidate who during examination copies from the script, another candidate, communicate with another candidate with intent to assist the candidate answer exam, to seek the assistance in answering, is in possession of a textbook, electronic device without lawful authority shall be disqualified from taking the entire examination.
And if (candidate) already taken a paper at the examination, the paper shall be cancelled, reads the Act.
Mosori also said that some exam markers decried the intimidation by chief examiners when they detected learners with similar answers which is a clear implication that either the question papers had leaked.
The legislators also heard that senior political leaders influence the examination malpractice by ordering the release of results of those who had been implicated in the vice.
‘‘We got a communication that was said to have ‘come from above’ to allow the case to be shelved because it was an election period. We had nothing to say, only to fold back,’’ Margaret Lesuda, Nairobi Regional Director of Education.
The committee chairman Julius Melly (Tinderet, MP), turned heat on parents, blaming them of abetting the crime through transferring learners from their original schools to register in other institutions to get favour through the quarter system.
‘‘There is an emerging trend where parents have adopted the movement of children to register for examinations in ASAL areas while they study in a different region. What is it with the movement, or is it that that is where cheating takes place,’’ Melly said.
Education officers said parents in some schools in Nairobi are transferring their learners in order to benefit from the government admission criteria based on the quota system.
‘‘Most of our schools in Nairobi especially in Kamukunji and Starehe Sub-County are on a transfer spree. We don’t understand why but the committee should help us address this,’’ Melly said.
Misori further said, instead of blaming the Council alone, the teachers credibility is also put on test, saying they leverage on weak links in KNEC as a conduit for businesses.
‘‘The Centre Managers determine and demand who to administer exams in their schools. This is a straight cut for allowing the examination compromise,’’ he said.
Lenana Chief Principal William Kemei poked holes in TSC for using performance scores to promote teachers. He said this has enabled teachers to use skewed means to gain the promotion.
‘‘KNEC should widen the scope of assessment which will minimise cheating. I suggest that the council implore quality assurance like discipline of the principal and of students, infrastructure development during his/her tenure, talents enhancement amongst others,’’ Kemei said.
Narok County MP Rebecca Tonkei blamed the system of promoting teachers saying this has led to many deserving teachers stagnating in the same job group for long.
‘‘There should be some parameters to be based on, we are going to look at those whose schools perform well, the heads will do everything possible to compromise quality,’’ Tonkei said.
‘‘The real animal is KNEC which aids in cheating and intimidating examiners. The same council holds on information from whistle blowers,’’ she said.
Abdul Ibrahim, Mandera South MP said what the country is experiencing is a systematic problem which the committee should find its root cause.
‘‘If a calf is taught how to cheat by the cow, the calf will not have any other way but to follow suit. This problem was there during the tenure of past education ministers. We need to find a way we can handle this dragon,’’ he said.
Misori reiterated that at the school level, the pressure to have attained a high mean grade as a key performance indicator has forced administrators to engage in malpractices.
‘‘Principals in our schools carried out a systematic and high level of cheating in their schools. Beginning with compromising the security officers, supervisors, invigilators and even some of the education by paying heavily,’’ he said.
But Parents Association chairman Silas Obuhatsa excluded the parents from the blame saying parents cannot have examination centres or marking centres but the head of schools and police.
‘‘When the police arrest the culprit for impersonation or having ferried illegal materials to exam rooms, why don’t they allow the law to take its course. Parents have no instruments of powers to investigate the matters,’’ Obuhatsa said.