Opposition leader Raila Odinga has demanded a full-fledged investigation into the mysteries surrounding last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).
Raila wants President Uhuru Kenyatta to form a commission of inquiry to audit the 2016 KCSE examination results. He also wants disciplinary action taken against those culpable in perpetrating the mass failure.
“We have to go past performance tables and ensure the students get the qualifications they deserve. The Jubilee government wants Kenyans to believe that of the over 577,000 students who sat KCSE in 2016, only 15 per cent had the brains to take up university courses in Kenya.
This is where we were as a nation almost 30 years ago. Something has gone terribly wrong and we need to get to the bottom of it as a nation,” Raila said.
The former prime minister insisted that the pattern painted by the results as released by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i is abnormal.
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“In any society, intelligence is normally distributed through what one might call a normal curve. The lower level is bound to have a group with D and below in any examination. To have only 141 students from just a handful of schools scoring As while 33,399 score Es is abnormal and requires not a celebration but some serious reflection by education policy makers.
This is the first time we have had such massive failure at the secondary school level since 1963. Eliminating cheating, corruption and mismanagement alone cannot adequately explain this weird outcome,” he said.
This happened even as sharp differences emerged over calls by the Kenya National union of Teachers (Knut) that last year’s KCSE results be audited over marking anomalies.
Education stakeholders, including some Knut branch officials, have differed with Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion on demands that results for the 574,125 candidates be recalled.
Some say this could open a Pandora’s Box at a time when the government is working to introduce reforms in the country’s examination system. Among those who broke ranks with Knut is the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) and the Kenya National Association of Parents, both of whom termed the calls ‘ill-advised.’
“What can be done as a remedial measure is to lower the university cut-off point,” said the parents’ body chairperson Nicholas Maiyo. Mr Maiyo noted that strict surveillance at the exam centres is what led to the poor performance as there was no room for cheating.
The body has blamed the Cabinet Secretary and the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) for presiding over a flawed process that does not reflect the actual performance of students. The body claimed its investigations point to massive flaws, including non-moderation of the examinations, a factor that disadvantaged candidates, leading to an abnormal curve.
The union, among other flaws pointed out a single grading system was used across all subjects and that the marking schemes were not discussed and agreed by the examiners.
“We were shocked at the curve. It is not a normal curve. So we launched investigations as a union and consulted widely, even inside government; the narrative is the same - these results are not a true reflection of the candidates’ performance,” the union said in its letter also copied to the Office of the President, Office of the Deputy President, Education CS, and Knec.
Others who have received the letter are speakers of both Houses of Parliament, Majority leader, Aden Duale and the Chair of the National Assembly Education Committee, Sabina Chege.
Kuppet, through its Secretary General Akelo Misori said it raised similar concerns, but disagreed with the suggestion that the results be discarded.
“We agree there were issues with the exams as many students failed. However, cancelling the entire results and engaging the whole lot of 2016 candidates to another exam will be demeaning the whole process,” said Mr Misori.
Contacted by The Sunday Standard over the issue, Ms Chege said she is yet to receive correspondence from Knut. “I have not seen the letter by Knut to my committee. I will comment when I see it,” she said in a text message.
Among those who threw their weight behind the union’s demands is Meru County Education Chief Officer David Baariu, who said although Kenyans appreciate the CS’ efforts in reforming the education sector, ‘a big mistake’ was done during the examination marking.
“The mistake Matiang’i made was to create wastage.
Having over 33,000 students with grade E was his main undoing. That grade has condemned them to oblivion and it is not right. Moderation should be the standard measure even at university level,” ,” Mr Baariu said.
Knut offices across the country also appeared to be speaking at variance on the matter, with Maragua Knut Executive Secretary John Njata saying Knec should order for a remarking following doubts raised by the teachers’ union. “The gap between A and E is too wide thus need for a remarking,” said Mr Njata.
Knut’s Meru Executive Secretary Julius Taitumu however said the union’s demands do not represent the views of the entire membership.
“The call to have the results cancelled is Sossion’s personal opinion.
He did not seek our opinion. He should prove his claims that the results were not credible,” said Mr Taitumu, who is also a member of the Knut executive council. The Njuri Ncheke council of elders questioned why Knut is raising a red flag on examination marking, yet it had remained mum over the years as the examination system in the country collapsed.
“The top Knut leadership should not play politics with important education issues like examination results. It seems they are unwilling to embrace reforms brought by Matiang’i,” said the Council’s Secretary General, Josphat Murangiri.
But Knut Rift North branches lauded the Education CS for keeping a tight noose on the examination.
“This is the most credible examination. It will be unfair to cancel the examination results that everybody believes were delivered in a transparent manner,” said Keiyo Branch Knut Secretary Musa Busienei. Knut Executive Secretary Wareng branch John Boor noted that most candidates who scored an E ‘did not read’.
In Kakamega, Friends Church asked Knut not to politicise the examination issue. “The many A students we produced in previous years could not sustain the academic heat in the universities they were admitted to. They kept changing courses and universities as they dropped from serous courses to less complex courses.” Sossion should stick to unionism and keep of the good work in the education sector,” the church’s presiding Head Clerk Henry Mukwanja said.
Nyeri Branch Kuppet Executive Secretary Patrick Mwangi dismissed calls for cancellation of the exams despite what he termed as ‘obvious irregularities’. “The 300,000 students who got Ds and Es should be given a chance to sit a supplementary examination so they can have an opportunity to redeem themselves,” he said.