CS Fred Matiang’i reads riot act to education chiefs

A combative Dr Fred Matiang’i yesterday sent a clear signal that it would not be business as usual under his tenure as the Cabinet Secretary for Education.

Dr Matiang’i set the tone when he criticised the Kenya National Examination Chief Executive for “taking half an hour” delivering his address.

He said he would not read his speech because he did not want the release of the KCPE results to be just another ritual during which officials give each other high fives.

Earlier, the chairman of the KNEC board, Prof Kabiru Kinyanjui, had invited the CS to visit the council’s headquarters but when he rose to speak, Dr Matiang’i said he had already made two impromptu visits and had had candid conversations with some of the staff there in Prof Kinyanjui’s absence.

As a rule, a board chairman’s position is not a day job.

Dr Matiang’i also told Prof Kinyanjui that he would hold him accountable to the promises he had made in his introductory remarks, including a pledge to ensure that KNEC staff are moved to the new premises under construction. The chairman had said that the move had been delayed by lack of funds to complete one of the towers.

When he rose to welcome the CS, the Principal Secretary for Education, Mr Bellio Kipsang, said that he would not be making a speech because the CS had asked him to make his remarks brief to ease anxiety for the candidates waiting to receive their results.

Dr Matiang’i said the results were not just meant for the 937,467 candidates who sat the examination last month but for all players in the education sector, from policy makers like himself to county directors of education and teachers.

“These results must mean something,” he said. “They also measure us and our work.”


He put teachers’ union on the spot, warning the teacher absenteeism had become a serious problem that must be tackled immediately. According to him, in some counties, absenteeism of teachers stood at 70 per cent and this has had a direct impact on performance of public schools in those regions.

“Teacher absenteeism is something we have to deal with,” the CS warned.

He also warned ministry staff that promotions would no longer be based on how many years particular officials had stayed in one job group as is the usual practice in the civil service.

“Performance, not presence, will determine mobility,” he said, and criticised education officials who he said he had met earlier in the month and had recommended promotions for their colleagues who had stagnated in the same job group.

While describing cheating in examinations as “the lowest form of intellectual dishonesty”, Dr Matiang’i directed that county directors of
education take responsibility for cheating in their regions. Only 12 out of the 47 counties were free of cheating cases.

The CS ordered that the full results of the examinations — complete with the cases of cheating — be given to the county officials so that they can deal with problems affecting their counties. He said he would personally supervise the county directors of education.

During this year’s examination, 2,709 irregularities were reported and Dr Matiang’i said it was time to deal with this “nonsense of cheating”.

He directed that all data on KCPE results over the last three years be made public so that the regions can embark on candid conversations and review the trends in their performance.

He said it was time for candid conversations and asked all players in the education sector, including teachers’ unions, to be honest with themselves when invited for talks with the Teachers Service Commission, which employs teachers.

The CS also noted that the performance of public schools had dropped by seven points compared to last year while that of private schools had improved but made it clear that admission to Form One places in public secondary schools will be based on equity and the need to improve access to education for all.

He said he would be meeting representatives from the Kenya Private Schools Association on January 5 but made it clear that Form One admission would not be politicised and not everyone will get their way, saying there was need “to build consensus and find solutions that benefit everyone”.

The CS also pledged to issue new guidelines on school fees and revealed that next month, President Uhuru Kenyatta would launch the process of reviewing the country’s curriculum.


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