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Examiners sacked after dispute at KCSE marking centre over pay

 A headteacher collects 2022 KCSE examination papers at a depot in Nyeri. Examiners marking CRE Paper One at St Francis Girl's High School- Mang'u downed tools Tuesday. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Examiners who threatened to paralyse the marking of this year’s Kenya Certificate for Secondary Education (KCSE) were sent home and replaced with a new team.

This happened after commotion rocked the marking of the Christian Religious Education (CRE) Paper One at St Francis Girl's High School- Mang'u, in Gatundu North.

The centre hosted about 1,000 examiners. The Standard established that the decision to send home some of them was made following a meeting between the Ministry of Education, the Teachers Service Commission and the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC).

Education CS Ezekiel Machogu, TSC chief executive Nancy Macharia and KNEC chief executive David Njengere attended the meeting.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) weighed in calling for better terms and working conditions for the examiners who were marking CRE papers.

The row was caused by the succession politics around the position of the chief examiner which was resolved after the present one was replaced.

But the situation escalated after more examiners seized the opportunity to push for better terms prompting a crisis that led to their dismissal.

‘‘The council authorities, upon consultations, agreed to replace the Chief Examiner as a compromise to ensure the marking exercise continues smoothly,’’ KNEC chair Prof Julius Nyabundi said in a statement to newsrooms last evening.

Nyabundi said that the examiners had fresh demands on raising marking fees yet payments were a personal contract matter.

‘‘Since the issue of the examiner’s marking fee is an individual contract, and agreed to before reporting to a centre, the Council found it impossible to find an extra budget to revise the rates midway,’’ Nyabundi said.

He said Council resolved to allow the examiners who were willing to continue with the marking process to do so without interruptions.

“Equally, those who wished to exit the marking exercise were allowed to do so without causing further interruptions to the process,’’ Nyabundi said.

 KNEC chair Prof Julius Nyabundi speaks during a past graduation ceremony. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Insiders said that the decision was reached to save the credibility of the examination and to stick to the timelines of processing the examinations.

Nyabundi assured both parents and learners that the marking of KCSE examination is going on smoothly in all the 35 centres.

However, teachers' union officials came to the examiners' defense and even pushed for a meeting with KNEC to resolve the matter.

Akelo Misori, the Kuppet secretary general said that the minimum pay per script should be increased to Sh100. He faulted KNEC for failing to provide a conducive environment for tutors to dispense their duty.

‘‘It is becoming a trend that, during every national examination, the Council fails on its obligations, resulting in the examiners employing different methods of protest before the grievances are addressed,’’ Misori said.

Misori said, in the past, teachers have been subjected to harsh working conditions which infringe on their rights.

 before they went on strike. He further said, the frustration is a way to compromise the integrity of this year’s examination results.

‘‘In all recent national examinations, examiners have implemented go slows and other measures to protest poor remuneration and horrible working conditions at the examination marking centres,’’ he added.

Misori observed that instead of KNEC addressing the challenges raised by teachers, KNEC has doubled down on the malpractices.

‘‘This year, the Council is running an authoritarian work schedule where examiners work from 4am to 10pm. Such practices violate essential constitutional rights to fair labour practices and access to the highest attainable standard of health,’’ Misori stated.

 KUPPET Secretary General Akelo Misori speaks during a press conference in Nairobi on January 10, 2023. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Earlier in the day, the examiners were given 30 minutes to leave the centre and police officers deployed to fast-track the closure process.

Journalists were also ordered to leave the area by police officers. 

A section of teachers who spoke to journalists on conditions of anonymity expressed their dissatisfaction with how the exercise is being conducted.

Among others, the aggrieved examiners cited intimidation, dictatorial leadership by the centre manager, poor pay and introduction of punitive examinations marking policies.

Also at the centre of their protest is meagre payment per script marked as compared to assessors evaluating other subjects such as Kiswahili.

According to them, CRE examiners are only taking home Sh55 per paper marked as compared to assessors in other subjects who are receiving Sh78 per script marked.

Speaking on conditions of anonymity over fears of being victimized, the markers also took issue with their bosses in the marking exercise for overworking them saying that they have been waking up at 5am and retiring to bed past 10 am.

As a result of the working hours, the examiners regretted that fatigue has disabled them from making a fair judgement and could end up failing.

Further, the examiners decried confiscation of their phones and laptops from the marking area, a situation they decried has cut their entire communication.

The stalemate is reported to have started on Monday.

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