KCSE candidates see science practical apparatus for the first time hours to exams

s Kenya Certificate Secondary Education exams kick off on Tuesday, some candidates for the first time will be coming into contact with science practical equipment since they embarked on their secondary education.

And some schools this last week have been racing against time to expose their candidates with the science practical equipment which they have been forced to only theorize for the last four years for lack of science laboratories and equipment.

When Standard on Sunday visited Sagasagik secondary school in Baringo County on Saturday, it found teachers doing all they can to introduce the apparatus to the bewildered candidates, some of them too afraid to hold fragile apparatus like pipettes, burets and measuring cylinders for fear of breaking them.

A candidate Sharon Kigen examined the apparatus delivered in carton boxes with clinical look, more puzzled at how fragile they are than how she will put into practical use during the science practicals during the examinations. "It was only this week that the apparatus were brought here in cartons and today we were allowed to have a feel of them," she said.

The school has no single laboratory room and the handful equipments were leased from a private lab technician for sh70, 000, an amount the school Principal Charles Chemoiwa says they have not even completed paying for. See also: How top performers prepare for crucial national exams

This is despite practical work playing an important role in the teaching and learning of science, and chemistry in particular.

Apart from helping students to gain insight into scientific knowledge, it also helps them to acquire a number of scientific skills, namely manipulative and cognitive, not to mention the motivational factors it creates in the students.

For the last four years, the candidates have been relying on kitchen fire to heat chemicals in Bunsen burners with rain water direct from their roof tops replacing the recommended distilled water. On Saturday the school had special lesson as the candidates were exposed for the first time with hired burners, droppers, beakers, funnels, test tubes and 13kg K-gas that were set up in one of the classrooms with teachers tables converted into lab tables.

"It is the first time I am coming across buret and how to read it. Theory has been the order of the day and when we entered this place on Friday i thought it was a hospital facility, it was a difficult situation for all of us," said Nancy Chebii another candidate.

Although labs use significant amount of water, the entire 2.30 hour extensive exercise saw candidates rely on 50litre rained water placed on top of old stool next to an exit door.

Strange enough, none of the candidates has seen a gas cylinder given that most of them are from rural set up and are yet to be explained on how the strange
item produce blue flame.

Electronic balance is another strange machine they have never seen or heard of it and none of them had courage to attempt to describe.

"We were told this one is called a volumetric flask but we are yet to understand it better and its usage", posed Moses Cheruiyot.

Cheruiyot revealed that most of them came across a thermometer during the practicals for the first time and reading it was a challenge saying same of them placed it upside down while taking measurements.

Chemoiwa lamented that secondary schools in rural areas are unfairly equipped saying such schools although ignored by the Government are expected to fight with giant institutions for the few places in the University.

"The playing field is not leveled, I have been into most of the respected schools in this country that can conduct real practical to form one students, but others do it a week to final exams surely that is not justice," said Chemoiwa.

He said because of such problems, the school insists on candidates not taking more than two science subjects.

Standard - Sunday October 19th, 2014.

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