Traditional giant schools in shock as parents raise concerns

A somber mood engulfed many top schools as the magnitude of the just released Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam results sunk in.

Yesterday, school principals, some of whom have over the years readily answered their phones and called newsrooms volunteering details of their institutions’ performance, switched off their phones and went underground, leaving queries about the 2016 examinations to be answered by subordinate staff.

Schools, which recorded phenomenal results in the 2015 exams could not match stellar performances from the previous two years that led to many of them being classified as national schools.

As confusion set in, parents with children in these schools were yesterday questioning the drastic decline in this year’s performance, with many wondering why the institutions could not match their 2015 scores.

With the syllabus unchanged, what went wrong for these traditional academic giants this year? Were these schools involved in cheating? Did the wave of student unrest that swept over schools towards the end of the second term affect preparations for the national examinations?

Alliance Girls’ Chief Principal Dorothy Kamwilu said they had in the past been suspicious of the “good” results posted by some schools, which were not always a true reflection of their efforts.

“We have been relying on hard work. During those days when cheating was reported in other schools, we stood our ground and lived by our motto ‘Walking in the Light’. We have been praying to God and He has finally answered our prayers...We are happy with the good results and this has made us feel vindicated and blessed. With God, nothing is impossible and we prayed during tough times,” she said.

Alliance Girls and Kenya High were the only two national schools singled out by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i as being the only ones which posted results consistent with their performance last year.

Alliance Girls managed 25 As in both the 2015 and 2016 examinations. Kenya High School candidates in 2015 managed 21 As in 2015 and 20 As this year.

A comparative analysis of data from the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) shows that apart from these two schools, all others that topped the charts last year have a great variance between results of their top students in 2015 and 2016.

For instance, Alliance Boys which recorded a historic 207 As in 2015 only managed 14 As in the 2016 exams. As their frenemy Alliance Girls broke into dance yesterday to celebrate their results, the boys’ school remained deserted, save for few subordinate staff that could be spotted.

Its Parents Association chairperson and member of the Board of Management, Sammy Muita said he was convinced the students did their best.

“There is no sadness around here. Many Kenyans dream of having their children learn here because this is a school that is always there to lead. We cannot use the results to evaluate the performance, we are competing with thousands of schools and if there could be ranking, we could be at the top,” Muita said when The Standard on Saturday caught up with him yesterday.

He defended the performance of the school saying that in any competition one cannot maintain the top position for long. “It is not natural to see someone at the top all the time. We have no problem with the kind of product that comes out of here because the students enter as boys and go out as men; we teach them to be holistic,” he said.

Moi High School Kabarak, which was second in that year with 202 plain As, only managed two As in the 2016 examinations. Maseno High School was third with 107 As but had no student getting an A in the 2016 exams.

Its principal Paul Otula was not present during the release of the results, with a teacher saying the principal was in Nairobi for an undisclosed engagement. By the time we went to press, Mr Otula, celebrated over the years for a seemingly seamless ability to blend academic programmes and co-curricular activities at the school, was however not available on phone and did not respond to text messages to shed light on his school’s performance.

Fourth in the list of schools with the most As in 2015 was Utumishi Boys Academy that registered 91 As. The Gilgil based school only managed one A in the 2016 exams.

Fifth was Mangu High
which registered 90 As in 2015. In the 2016 examinations, the Thika based school managed just three As.

Others, like the famous Lenana School in Nairobi also recorded a dip in performance in this year’s examination. From posting 60As last year, this school only managed two As this year.

When The Standard on Saturday visited the school yesterday, guards said the institution’s principal had left for lunch and was therefore not available.

The variance was not in the top most grade only. Some schools recorded a drastic reduction in the number of students who got between grades A and B+.

St Francis Rangala Girls Secondary School recorded 58 As, 241 A- and 43B+ in the 2015 KCSE exams. In 2016, the school did not register any student with an A. Those with A- reduced from 240 to seven while those with B+ reduced to 16. Asumbi Girls High School recorded 57 As in 2015 and 94 A-. They had no A in 2016 and the A- numbers reduced to 12. Barding Boys was among the few institutions that seemed to have broken the glass ceiling of a select group of high performing schools, endearing itself to those with a fondness for an underdog story.

In 2015, the school had a mean score of 10.85 points with 30 students scoring As and 107 with A-. The last grade last year was B-. This year, no student got an A. Four got A-, 38 C+, 49 C, 41 C-, 17 D+ and two Ds. With this, the school’s mean has taken a pummeling to hold steady at 6.83.

The school’s principal Victor Makanda maintained that lack of interaction and consultation between teachers and students to aid revision could have been one of the causes of the poor performance.

“The kind of intimidations and monitoring of examination caused fear and panic. The schools would have over five police vehicles and other education officials,” he said.

Traditional academic giant Kisii High School also recorded very different results from last year. With the mood around the school being subdued and without fanfare. The school recorded 34 As, 138 A- and 91 B+ in the 2015 examinations. This year, the school had six As, 23 A- and 38 B+s.

Kisii High School Principal Mr Casper Maina stayed away from school for the better part of yesterday. The school deputy Principal Mr Edwin Nyaboga refused to comment on the results.

Chavakali Boys High School was among the impressive performers in last year’s examinations with 21 As, 172 A- and 203 B+. This year the school did not record any A. It had five A- and 16 B+. Principal Kahi Indimuli, who also doubles up as the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association national chairperson said the results were worrying and blamed student unrest and neglect of the boy child on the dip in performance.

“Over the past years, people have concentrated on the girl child to the extent that the boy child is no longer in the picture. The empowering of the girl has swallowed up the boy who has not been empowered equally,” Indimuli said.

He said time has now come, with the poor performance of boys, to look into what is ailing the boy child.

During the second term, he said, many boys’ schools were burned down, but no one took their time to analyse circumstances under which the institutions were being burned.

“If you compare conditions in many girls’ schools, you realise they are far better than those in many boys’ schools. The government should now look into ways of creating a level learning ground for all,” he said.

St Patrick’s High School Iten, a national school in Elgeyo Marakwet County, managed a mean score of 8.28 compared to last year’s 10.7. The institution posted 28 A-, 31 B+, 33 B, 30 B-, 32 C+, 16 C, 12 C-, 3 D+ and 3 D.

The Standard - Saturday, December 31 - 2016

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