How Knec officials beat exam cheats and cartels

The Education ministry released the 2016 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results a day earlier than scheduled to beat corruption cartels that were extorting money from headteachers under the pretext that their schools would be graded favourably, it has emerged.

Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) chairman George Magoha revealed that the agency was forced to act fast and release the results on Thursday after stumbling upon information that the cartels were reaching out to selected principals asking them to part with bribes so that their schools would be awarded higher marks.

“Some information was spreading asking for 'soda' and we had to quickly go and release the examination results,” said Prof Magoha in an interview with NTV on Friday.

The message, seen by the Nation and which was circulating on social media, reads: “Hello, we have gotten 3 calls so far from Knec,” a landline no 020 8004510 registered as Jogoo.

The person is asking to send “soda” to the data people at Knec so that as they input data, they change the situation "in favour of us,” the message goes on. “They say that this is happening to many private schools,” it concludes.

On December 13, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i had hinted the results would be out by the end of the month but he later denied making such an announcement, saying the earliest the results could come out was in January.

Previously, the results were released by late February.

Sources at the Education ministry revealed that the initial plan was to release the results on Friday but word spread that the exercise would take place on Thursday afternoon.

Before officially releasing the results, Dr Matiang’i presented the comprehensive report to President Kenyatta at State House in Mombasa.

The plan was kept secret until 1pm on Thursday when Shimo la Tewa High School Principal Joseph Mwadime was informed about the decision to use the institution as the venue for the function.


Prof Magoha said the council decided to do things differently, including setting new examinations using a small team of trusted ministry and Knec officials.

“We decided to set a new examination, which basically we set offline, and we set the exams using different people. You would not get that examination anywhere online.

"We set it offline because once it is online, you only need an expert to pick it up. And whenever we wanted to carry it, we did it manually to where we wanted to print the examination, we proofread it there and corrections were done there,” he said.

Prof Magoha went on: “We started from the point of not trusting anybody; we asked the managers who were there to leave. This was followed by suitability interviews for those who remained. We made the system to ensure no one was going to see the examination until it is done, we put very secure features on the exams.”

He added that the exams were set and put in pallets that could not be interfered with and exams for the day were checked and opened in the presence of schools heads.

The team that set the examinations, he revealed, comprised a “few selected Knec members and chief executive officers plus one or two teachers, and ‘it was that small team’.”

“Only two
people in the council knew of the examinations. We realised primary examinations had been set two years in advance and some teachers were teaching the examination in schools already,” he disclosed.

He added that teachers who marked the exams completed the work a week earlier than scheduled to enable Knec to cross-check the results.


“We had loopholes at Knec and we established that, originally, any staff could access the system and change anybody’s marks.

"There are many schools which used to get exams in advance and could zero graze around the examination since candidates knew what was coming.

“There were many fake exams that were being sold by principals who we knew, and they were not able to access it this time round,” said Prof Magoha.

He said this year’s examination was set from past exam papers over the last 10 years, noting that the performance means students did not study and were only being prepared for the examinations.

Prof Magoha regretted that a sizeable number of candidates could not answer questions, meaning that they were not taught.

“We should not worry about the A's craze — it’s a big industry. Whoever glorifies the A's is a devil that needs to be dealt with,” he said, adding that some principals were collecting between Sh10,000 and Sh16,000 to bribe examiners and others were being paid by parents for producing A's.

He went on: “Exam is only worth five per cent of learning — the child needs to be all-round. There are lawyers who cannot speak English or argue. We should now start teaching our children. Students in universities are under pressure due to examination cheating.”

In the 2016 KCSE examination, only 141 candidates scored straight A's, compared with last year's 2,685. Only 88,929 candidates had the minimum university entry qualification of C-plus and above.

This represents 15.41 per cent of the total number of candidates, compared with 32.23 per cent in 2015, when 169,492 candidates qualified for university.

“I wish us to answer critical questions: To what extent are our children learning in the right way? Do they cover the syllabus adequately? What lifelong skills are they gaining over the course of their learning? Are we stressing on assessments too much?

"These are indeed critical questions that we must keep asking as we interpret the results we are releasing today,” said Dr Matiang’i.

Sunday Nation - 1st January 2017

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