What Kenya National Qualifications Authority is doing to get rid of fake certificates

Juma Mukhwana

Kenya National Qualifications Authority Director-General Juma Mukhwana

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Currently, 10 to 15 per cent of all qualifications in Kenya are fake, fraudulent or falsified.
  • The KNQA is currently developing the National Qualifications Information Management System.

This week, Dr Juma Mukhwana, the director-general of the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA), answers your questions.

What is the role of the KNQA in the Kenyan education sector? John Otoi

The Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) was set up in 2015 as set out in the Kenya National Qualifications Framework (KNQF) Act No. 22 of 2014 (and KNQF Regulations, 2018) to help classify, co-ordinate and harmonise the various levels of education and training in the country. The authority is mandated to create and develop a one-stop database of all Qualifications Awarding Institutions, the qualifications that they award and the learners that they graduate.

The KNQF, which the authority has developed and is now implementing, is part of Kenya’s international commitments to develop an accurate, reliable and robust database of all qualifications in the country that will allow for comparability, recognition, equation and verification as well as promoting information sharing of qualifications globally. We are the custodians of Kenyan qualifications.

Some people think that the role of the KNQA duplicates some of the work of other regulatory agencies within the education sector. What is your take? James Wasike

The KNQA has been established as part of an international growing practice. Currently, 34 countries out of 55 in Africa have established national qualification frameworks. The work of the KNQA is to develop, implement and monitor national policies and standards on accreditation, quality assurance and examinations to ensure that the country produces quality qualifications. It is then the role of the various education sector regulators such as CUE, TVETA and ESQAC to domesticate and implement these policies and standards in the various sub-sectors such as the university, TVET and basic education sectors. So in reality, there is no duplication. We must have national standards for our qualifications, which we did not have for a long time and the KNQA is striving to develop. The role of the other regulators is to implement these standards within the various sectors of our education.

Can a professional association like the Pharmacy and Poisons Board and others decline to recognise an equated certificate from the authority presented to them by an applicant for professional registration or enrolment? Dan Kayanda, Malindi

The KNQA is nationally mandated to recognise, equate and verify qualifications obtained within Kenya and internationally. We have established a robust system and policies for carrying out recognition, equation and verification of national and foreign qualifications. All stakeholders accept and abide by the certificates that we recognise.

To ensure harmonious working with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, all professional bodies are represented on our council and Board. Hence the decisions that we make comply with the requirements of all professional bodies (lawyers, engineers, doctors, veterinarians etc) in Kenya.

How is the KNQA ensuring that the country gets rid of fake and fraudulent certificates which seem to be rampant? Ahmed Mohammed

Currently, 10 to 15 per cent of all qualifications in Kenya are fake, fraudulent or falsified. This is because we have no central repository of all our qualifications where one can check and query easily. The KNQA is currently developing the National Qualifications Information Management System (NAQMIS) which is going to be a one-stop database of all our qualifications from the basic, TVET and university sectors. This will help improve checking of fake certificates using information technology and mobile technology.

We have also established a department that has developed national policies and standards for managing fake and fraudulent qualifications in the country. The authority currently runs a service of verifying qualifications for employers, training institutions and other stakeholders.

How is KNQA ensuring that there is quality education during the Covid-19 pandemic? Mary Omolo

The KNQA has developed a National Quality Assurance policy which various sector regulators are domesticating into the various education sectors (university, TVET and basic) in Kenya. With the coming of Covid-19, the authority is in the process of revising our quality assurance policies to promote online teaching, learning and examinations. The authority would like to ensure that the country continues to produce high quality qualifications even as we implement protocols to protect learners, teachers, and trainers from the Covid-19 disease. Since online teaching and examinations are a relatively new phenomenon in Kenya, the authority is working with many stakeholders to ensure that online teaching and examinations do not compromise the quality of our qualifications.

Kenya is rated as a human resource powerhouse in the continent. However, there have been numerous studies which have shown that skills mismatch is rampant, hindering the acceleration of our development agenda. What role does your authority play in actualising development goals such as Vision 2030? What challenges stand your way? Komen Moris, Eldoret

Kenya is a powerhouse for producing human resources for the region and the world. Currently, there are many Kenyans working in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Australia, UK, and the USA among other places. This is because the quality of our qualifications meets international standards. We have had challenges of funding, lack of relevance and lack of teaching equipment in the recent past which may affect the quality of our qualifications.

The KNQA is working with all players (employers, NGOs, government, industries, etc) to ensure the continued relevance and quality of our qualifications. We have developed national policies to guide development of curricular to ensure that our graduates are of high quality, meet national standards and employer’s needs. And, in the wake of the start of the African Continental Free trade area (AFCTA), the KNQA is working overtime to ensure that Kenya becomes the training hub for Africa. The AFCTA is promoting free movement of goods and services as well as people across the continent. Trade cannot work without relevant skills. This is an area that Kenya can invest in and it will pay handsomely, but there is need to move and grab this opportunity.

We have witnessed politicians being accused of presenting questionable qualifications to the IEBC months or even years into their term. Does it mean the authority does not collaborate with other statutory bodies for the verification of academic papers? Samuel Wairugih

To weed out fake, falsified and fraudulent certificates requires the co-operation of many people. The KNQA is forging close working relationships with the DCI, EACC, IEBC, employers and training institutions in order to weed out fake certificates. To effectively do this, there is need for a centralised repository of all our qualifications which the authority is working on. But there is also need to prosecute more rigorously those who present fake certificates. This has not been the case in the past. The Authority is now working more closely with the DCI and EACC to ensure prosecution of offenders.

How is the KNQA promoting internationalisation of Kenya’s education? Irene Wanjala, Kitale

Kenya is a popular choice for regional and international students wishing to study away from their countries. Every day we get many applications of students from Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC Congo, Tanzania etc that wish to study in the country. In the past, these students had very many difficulties in accessing education in Kenya since we did not have a centralised place to convert and translate their qualifications to the Kenyan system and to advise them at which level to enrol. Many ended up enrolling in wrong courses and at wrong levels, something that led us into invalidating their qualifications on completion of their studies.

The KNQA has now established a dedicated department to support these students with translation and recognition of their qualifications to the Kenyan ones. This has increased the confidence and number of students that enrol at our institutions. We have developed an online system for processing applications from such students (visit www.rev.knqa.go.ke) and are working closely with the immigration Department to support their legal stay in Kenya.

You recently launched a national skills development policy. How is it going to help the country? Peter Kanampiu

As a country we have not had a policy to link our training to labour market needs. In many cases we do not even know how many plumbers, electricians, or mechanics (and indeed other professions) that we have and need. Hence our training system wastes a lot of resources training people that are not needed. We have ended up with a situation where there are “jobs without people and people without jobs in our country”. 

The KNQA is working with the State Department for Post Training and Skills Development (Ministry of Education), Ministry of Labour, the International Labour Organisation, the private sector, KEPSA, COTU etc has recently developed the National skills development policy for Kenya. The policy has laid out labour market needs and the involvement of stakeholders (sector skills councils) in the development of curricular, training, assessment, and certification. There is also need for rigorous involvement of employers in the training of our graduates (dual training) where students learn both in class and in the workplace. This will improve the levels of skills acquired by the graduates and make them more employment ready.

 I have been unable to enrol for a degree in a learning institution for not meeting an entry requirement in a unit subject. My mean score qualifies me to join the University. I have been working in the related career field for over a decade and feel stagnated as I cannot advance in my workplace for lack of a degree. KNEC does not allow for re-sit of a unit subject and requires that I resit the whole KCSE exam. Kindly guide me if I qualify for RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) offered by KNQA, and whether the certificate issued by KNQA for RPL can secure me university admission. Andrew Mwase, Taita Taveta

The authority has developed and gazetted minimum entry requirements (KNQF Regulations, 2018) into various levels of our education system in various fields. We have also developed national policies for credit accumulation and transfer (Kenya Credit Accumulation and Transfer System, KCATS). We also have in place a framework for recognition of prior learning (RPL). All these policies promote the concept of lifelong learning and the appreciation that not all learners are the same and need not start at the same place when being enrolled for training (see details at www.knqa.go.ke). Feel free to consult us for an opinion on where you can begin your studies. Our role is to advise training institutions on how to handle admissions of students like yourself.

How easy or hard is the task of verifying varied qualifications from varied countries and which are mostly the “problem” countries? Githuku Mungai

We verify qualifications from across the globe. We find it allot easier to verify qualifications that have online databases that we subscribe to (such as UK, South Africa, USA, Canada, West African examination council etc). It is very difficult to verify qualifications from Kenya, East Africa, and other places where data is domiciled at thousands of training institutions, each trying to protect them. But we realise that all these institutions require data from each other for easy of admission and progression of students; and, to find out if they are genuine or not.

Therefore, the authority is working hard to develop a national and centralised database of all our qualifications as set out in the KNQF Act. We also find it difficult to recognise qualifications from countries that do not have good national structures and institutions for accreditation and quality assurance such as Somalia, Mali, Niger, Chad, Togo and Central Africa among others.

We must also note that there are continental initiatives such as Pan African Quality Assurance Framework (PAQAF) and the African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF) that are working to improve mutual understanding on transparency and comparability of qualifications within the continent. This will go a long way in supporting our recognition and verification work in Kenya.

Kindly clarify if KNQA can downgrade a diploma to a certificate retrospectively. Take an example of a diploma done in year 2001 for three years. KNQA can do an assessment and validation on that 2001 programme then revise its duration to one and half years (probably with slight change of content) and KNQA can further declare that the revised diploma is downgraded to a certificate. Does this verdict affect diplomas issued in earlier years when KNQA was not even in existence? Peterson Ngari, Nairobi

The KNQA regulates all qualifications obtained in Kenya and those that are being brought into the country from other jurisdictions. In carrying out this work, we have set out minimum requirements for all levels of our qualifications.

In other words, we have defined what a Kenyan Diploma (and what goes into it) should look like and any diploma that is found not to meet this standard will be downgraded or even rejected. This applies to all other qualifications from KCPE to PhD. However, our law came into force in 2014.

So, only qualifications obtained after this period are affected. It is important that all training providers ensure that they only train and award qualifications that meet standards that have been set by the KNQA. Students going out of the country should also seek advice from the KNQA on the suitability and acceptability of the qualifications that they wish to obtain.