National Assembly’s Departmental Committee on Education has kicked off public hearings on the alleged malpractices in the 2022 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams.
During the first session held in Nakuru City, stakeholders told the committee how various players play a part or contribute to cheating and other malpractices in the administration of national exams.
Fingers were pointed at Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC), Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the general public for the vice that saw learners get illegitimate grades.
Kamu Manyara, Nakuru County chair for Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (KESSHA), said the integrity of 2022 exam results was questionable and should be investigated.
“We can't run away from the fact that there was massive cheating in 2022. It happened. We shall be unfair to the Kenyan child if we sidestep this fact,” said Mr Manyara.
In a memorandum to the committee, Manyara said that the buck stops with KNEC accusing the body of not doing enough to safeguard examination materials prior to their due date.
“KNEC is the elephant in the room. It is not doing its work as expected. How can else can we explain exam materials leaking before they get to containers or school?” he posed.
According to him, rogue officers allowed a section of the schools to access the materials to give their candidates an edge over others, giving a false impression of the performance.
“Marking schemes were circulating on social media before the exams were done. We doubted their authenticity only to learn they were genuine after the exams were done,” said Manyara.
He called on KNEC to limit the number of people accessing exam materials and introduce security features that would help trace the origin of the leaked materials.
“The ICT team tasked with data entry after marking should be investigated. Some collude with principals to enter favourable grades in exchange for monetary favours,” he said.
He regretted incidents reported of school heads being frog-marched out of their facilities by politicians and parents when candidates fail, saying such pressure drives them into unethical practices.
“TSC has also pegged promotion of teachers on candidates' performance. These teachers are human. They have to find a way up. This contributes to cheating for their own benefit,” said Manyara.
Manyara revealed that TSC, which employs teachers, has on occasion sent show cause letters to school heads whose schools fail to post impressive performance hence their efforts to self-preserve.
Francis Mugo, a teacher, said that individual universities should have their own entrance exams and not depend on KCSE to determine which applicants qualify to join the specific courses.
“This will smoke out cheats and ensure only deserving students were admitted to the university. Cheating is happening. Parents are paying hefty sums of money to schools which buy leaked exam materials,” said Mugo.
He added that the Ministry of Education should cease categorization of schools, terming it discriminatory and pushing principals to bend their integrity to save the face of their institutions and jobs.
“Teachers are under pressure to ensure the children go to universities. This is why some schools miraculously jumped their mean score with a deviation of more than four points,” said Mugo.
Mirriam Ngima, an elder, noted that teachers have also been largely involved in exam malpractices by interfering with the registration process of candidates at various centres.
"Some teachers are registering candidates based on performance in internal exams. The bright students are registered at one school while the rest are registered at another to manipulate the mean grades," said Ngima.
Chief Timothy Kitetu pointed out that some schools were known to have mastered the art of cheating on behalf of their candidates by paying out for their marks.
"Some schools are known to be a preserve for those who have money and can pay for grades. When a student from a rich family fails elsewhere, they are admitted to another where they leave with better grades fraudulently," said Chief Kitetu.
Lugari MP Nabii Nabwera lauded the residents for their insight, noting that this will go a long way in transforming the country’s education system.
“Bad doctors and engineers who became who they are by manipulating our systems will only leave us suffering. We must clear the mess in our education system,” said Nabii.
Kitutu Masaba MP Ombane Gisairo echoed the sentiments of the residents calling for the abolition of fun fare in the announcement of national examination results.
“I agree that we need to do away with the celebrations. Before having the fun fare, we need to know whether we are celebrating genuine results or mediocrity,” said Ombane.
Nyamira Woman Rep Prof Jerusha Momanyi said that lack of integrity in KCSE exams was evident once the students were admitted to the universities.
“It is suspect that students with good KCSE grades select great courses but drop by second year applying to defer or inter-faculty transfer,” said Momanyi.