The surprising stellar performance of some schools in last year's Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam has now being called into question.
Doubts are being raised about the integrity of the examination process after education stakeholders said it is not normal for a school to post an improved mean score of more than one point.
While releasing the results, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu assured that there were no cases of cheating.
Little-known schools like Nyambaria High and Rigoko Day Mixed Secondary posted excellent results, trouncing traditional giants. Schools like Cardinal Otunga Mosocho and Asumbi Girls whose performance had dipped in past years, also shot to the top of the table.
Rigoko Day Mixed Secondary School from Nyamira County posted a mean score of 9.0 up from 5.73 in 2021. This translated to an improvement of 3.3 points.
Nyambaria High School in Kisii County posted a mean score of 10.897 compared to the previous year’s 9.308, making a deviation of 1.58 points.
The school also moved from four candidates with 'A' plain in 2021 to 28, while those with A- (minus) increased from 79 to 383.
Cardinal Otunga High School Mosocho in Kisii County had a mean score of 10.76 while Asumbi Girls in Homa Bay County posted a mean score of 10.371 with all 434 students getting B- (minus) and above.
Nyambaria High, Cardinal Otunga and Asumbi Girls cumulatively produced 840 learners with a mean grade of A and A-(minus).
Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale was among the first to voice his doubts about the authenticity of the results.
"We hope the emerging allegations of cheating in the 2022 KCSE are just mere allegations. The collapse of the education system is the collapse of a nation," Dr Khalwale said.
Prof Philip Amuyunzu, a lecturer at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, said improvement should be gradual, and must reflect a normal curve.
"It is a bit challenging because if a school had 4.0, that is a D+ (plus). Moving to 9.0 is a B, which requires a miracle for someone to achieve that kind of a grade.
"A normal curve is where majority of students should be in the middle at 50 per cent with a few being towards the 100 mark and a few towards the lesser marks," Prof Amuyunzu said.
The lecturer said last year's results were skewed, adding that this forces students to drop courses when they get to institutions of higher learning.
Aquinas High School Chief Principal Stephen Gathii said that improving a school's mean grade within a short time was not a walk in the park.
According to Mr Gathii, to pull off such a feat requires hard work, commitment and dedication from all players.
"It can even take some schools four years to achieve a single digit improvement in national examinations. With Aquinas, we have seen the hand of God, moving from a mean score of 6.07 to 7.01. We have invested a lot in it," he said.
Aquinas dropped in 2021 from a mean score of 6.84 in 2020 before improving in last year's results. "We have had a steady improvement in the last three years which has seen us take the majority of our learners to the university," said Gathii.
Tunza Mtoto Foundation Executive Officer Ouko Muthoni said that while there were people who were trying to downplay the issue, the government must get to the bottom of the matter.
"There are concerns that have been raised about certain schools and their performances and it is only fair that the government should investigate to unearth the secrets on how a school can post such an improvement.
"We should not sweep the issue of exam cheating under the carpet. We don't want to go back to where we were in 2016. Maybe the CS doesn’t understand the gravity of the matter, but it's for the country to uproot the demon of exam malpractice," Ms Muthoni said.
Nanyuki High School, which was the second-most sought after school in Form One selection for the third year running, posted a mean score of 8.8 from the previous year’s 8.739, and 8.683 in 2020.
Principal Oliver Minishi said it takes time to make a major improvement. The school, he noted, had taken four years to move the mean score up by 0.12 points.
“We have invested heavily in technical subjects despite the fact that the subjects are not being supported fully by the Ministry of Education. The steady improvement in performance has been attributed to this investment,” said Mr Minishi.
Maurice Mutisya of Zizi Africa Foundation said the government needed to get to the bottom of the matter.
"A big shift like that requires a focus of attention to understand what may have been done differently that may have resulted into this. It raises questions. There are a lot of hypothesis that may go into that, which include examination cheating although I have no evidence."
Dr Mutisya said that even with the ministry coming out to say that there were no cases of cheating, "the results are evident."
"If you go to schools that attract many students from primary school, you will realize that there is either a plus or minus 0.5. They do not have 100 per cent transition to university," he said.
Former Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha fought hard to eradicate cases of exams cheating that had become rampant.
“We had got to a stage where Kenyan examination certificates were being questioned elsewhere and the holders even re-examined. That is to say that our certificates are about to become worthless,” Prof Magoha had said.
The Cabinet secretary, who passed away earlier in the week, had said that anything outside the bracket of 5-10 per cent of learners passing the exam is extraordinary and suspicious.
"For a school to have 96.6 per cent scoring A, then that is stupidity of the highest level and nobody should be associated with it."
A school like St Mary’s Lwak Girls produced only one student with a mean grade of A, yet its mean score improved by 0.9662 to 7.7577 from the previous year's 6.7915.
National schools like Mang’u High from Kiambu County posted a mean score of 10.366 points while Kapsabet Boys had a mean score of 10.083.