Resolve KCPE issues to save Kenyan pupils

 Ezekiel Machogu

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu speaks during the release of the 2023 KCPE exam results on November 23, 2023, at the Kenya National Examination Council Headquarters, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

The Ministry of Education is doing an injustice to a generation of children by proceeding with Form One placement before addressing the grievances raised. This is despite the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) admitting to ‘computer errors’ in the marking process.

Perhaps as the curtain falls on the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations, KNEC should also have been folded. Both mainstream and social media have been awash with reports of KNEC’s inefficiencies.

The problems started with delayed access to results through the Short Message Service (SMS). Each SMS cost Sh25. When it finally worked and the results came in, some schools, parents and learners across the country were up in arms.

Some candidates had marks for subjects which they had not sat. Others had mismatched marks. In addition, some learners or schools received extremely low marks. It is also not clear how all learners in some schools received the same mark in a particular subject. National exams are a matter of life and death in this country.

Any errors, whether deliberate or computer-generated, will have a serious impact on a child’s life, sometimes forever. A child with undeserved marks will undoubtedly have a negative impact on his or her life.

In 2022, concerns were raised about the credibility of the KCSE results. Although Mr Ezekiel Machogu, the Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Education, denied that the results had been manipulated, it is evident that we are witnessing a resurgence of such examination malpractices today.

For justice to be served, or to be seen to be served, there should be an audit of the entire process, from marking, to entering the marks, to releasing the results.

If there has been any moderation, the public should be made aware of the modalities of the whole exercise. In the future, the examination body should own up to its mistakes.

Needless to say, there is widespread anxiety among parents of the 2023 KCPE class about the Form One selection. It is hoped that the process will be honest, fair and equitable to all concerned. One of the criteria for placement is whether a child has attended a public or private primary school.

According to the Children Act 2001, as amended in 2022, no child may be discriminated against on any grounds. In the past, children have been placed in schools not of their choice, some in far-flung areas.

While it is possible for a pupil to request a transfer from one school to another, the public needs to be educated to avoid irrational requests.

Schools are categorised as national, extra-county, county and sub-county. School boards and education officials from national, regional and county offices should refrain from pressuring headteachers to accept marks below the school's cut-off.

This will ensure that schools with a history of excellence maintain good grades.

Wanjohi Githinji, Nairobi