Why exam leaks foreshadows ill for our collective future

“They told us to check out for irregularities in last year’s exams,” my aunt, a deputy centre co-ordinator for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams, said this at a recent family gathering.

“How ironical!” she stated as she served us tea, provoking roaring laughter.

“Why?” I asked, bewildered, frantically trying to understand the irony or the ‘joke’ because clearly there was none. But there had to be if everyone was laughing like that.

“On one hand, they brand us worthless. They say no to our demands without blinking. They disrespect the courts. Then turn and ask us to supervise and mark exams, and ensure there are no irregularities. Makes you wonder how exactly, how that’s supposed to play out,” she said. According to her, the cheating in 2015 was worse than any time in the history of her marking career spanning over 29 years.

“They shouldn’t have asked us to check out for irregularities. They should have asked us to check out for the ‘regularities’ instead as the former was rampant. Only a handful of students didn’t steal exams, a reverse of the norm. Those are the ones we should have reported back, right?” Everyone laughed again.

All of us had since placed our cups down not to miss a point of this juicy story, or ‘not so juicy’ considering the far-reaching consequences. She further explained that teachers in most schools deliberately leaked exams to students by either directly feeding them with answers at night or letting them look up for answers in their note books.

“It also goes without saying that we, at the marking centres, deliberately chose not to report the irregularities. We teachers are disillusioned after being used, abused, and made fools by the same people who expect us to perform,” she concluded.

Now I understood it all. No one laughed anymore. It was sad and disappointing.

In case you’ve just emerged from mars, ‘they’ is the Government of Kenya, and ‘we’ are the Kenyan teachers. I was in shock over the level of apathy among our teachers who are supposed to be the motivators and the moral authority for learners or the society at large. I felt sorry for students who are paying the ultimate price.

I can’t begin to imagine how we, as a culture or a nation, will ever solve the menace of stealing and corruption if our very own teenagers haven’t even experienced even a tinge of the innocence that comes with honesty in the exam room. Good God!

You know what this means? It means that say in the next one or two years, mediocre people (and I say this with all the due respect to all professions) will be studying human anatomy in our universities. After that, they’ll proceed ? through cheating ? to the subsequent classes and several years later, they will be doing open heart surgeries on you and me. Or constructing our buildings. Or being captains of industry. Or whatever!

And you still wonder why we have to be fundraising for treatment in India or why buildings are collapsing every now and then.

It is a sad state of affairs, and it’s only bound to get worse. This is what it translates to besides the obvious loss of lives. And yet you thought that the teachers’ pay crisis was an isolated problem! You better think again.