Exam centre

Candidates writing an exam.

| File | Nation Media Group

School heads oppose Knec’s order on merging exam centres

Headteachers have opposed a directive by the national exams agency that requires schools with less than 40 candidates to register them in neighbouring centres.

Private and public school heads Wednesdayy asked the Ministry of Education to direct the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) to revoke the directive before registration for Standard Eight and Form Four national exams ends on July 31. 

The registration for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams began on June 2.

The headteachers said the directive has sown confusion, as thousands of schools have less than 40 candidates scheduled to sit the 2021 KCPE and KCSE examinations.

Enormous stress

Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) chairperson Johnson Nzioka said the directive is causing enormous stress to headteachers, terming those in arid and semi-arid lands (Asal) and hundreds of rural schools as the worst affected.

“Headteachers are wondering how children will manage to cover long distances to go sit the exams in other schools,” said Mr Nzioka.

He said schools in rural parts of the country are far apart, while others are in insecure regions and thus merging the centres may endanger both learners and teachers. 

Mr Nzioka said headteachers are also wondering why such a drastic decision was made without consulting school administrators.

Collecting data

He said Kepsha had begun collecting data on the affected schools to enable them to engage the Ministry of Education.

Mr Nzioka added that school heads were also unsure which headteacher would be the exam centre manager should schools be merged as per Knec’s directive.

Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) Chief Executive Officer Peter Ndoro said the directive affects a total of 3,800 primary and secondary schools and 122,000 candidates.

Protest letter

“We have written a protest letter to Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and Knec as the directive was made without consultations,” said Mr Ndoro.

Kenya Special Needs Heads Association Chairman Peter Sitienei said nearly all Special Needs Education (SNE) schools have less than 40 candidates and urged the ministry to consider revoking the circular.

“The number is not applicable to SNE schools. It would be very expensive to transport candidates to neighbouring schools every day to sit an exam,” argued Mr Sitienei.

Court petition

On Monday, a private citizen, Mr David Wanyeki Kago, moved to the High Court seeking to have the circular revoked.

According to the petitioner, a majority of private schools have less than 40 candidates and would, therefore, be adversely affected.

“This is because private schools, like any other private centres, are going through hard economic times occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and the move will eventually injure the confidence of parents in the affected schools and that can only worsen the situation,” reads the petition.

The petitioner argues the directive requiring merging of exam centres was issued without proper consultation with private school owners and other sector players, including parents through their umbrella body.

Mr Kago further contends that the decision to raise the number of candidates in an exam centre amounts to formulation of a public policy, which would require full public participation as demanded in Article 10 of the Constitution.

On June 11, Knec issued a circular that quashed a May 18 notice on requirements for registration of examination centres.

In the June 11 circular, Knec directed that schools with less than 40 candidates be hosted by neighbouring institutions of learning with more than 40 candidates.

Knec had earlier directed that any school with between five and 14 candidates should be hosted by another centre, which was to be determined by the respective sub-county director of education.

In the letter signed by Knec’s acting chief executive Mercy Karogo, the new directives are said to have been authorised by the Ministry of Education.

“As guided by the Ministry of Education, all headteachers of primary schools and principals of secondary schools from private and public schools with less than 40 candidates will be hosted by an examination centre with more than 40 candidates during the KCSE and KCPE examinations,” the circular signed by Dr Karogo read.

List of host centres

The circular required all sub-county directors of education to submit a list of host examination centres and the institutions to be hosted for the 2021 KCPE and KCSE exams by August 15.

In the matter filed at the High Court, the petitioner argues that if the June 11 circular is not revoked, it would have a huge negative impact on private schools.

Mr Kago says candidates risk being disoriented by movement and relocation if Knec’s directives are not rescinded, adding that parents may lose faith in the schools affected and withdraw their children, thus jeopardising the existence and growth of private schools.

The petitioner further argues that the move is akin to closing schools through the backdoor and may lead to loss of jobs and untold suffering among affected families. The case was filed on June 21 and is scheduled for mention on June 7.


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