In John 2: 13-16, the Bible explains Jesus’ visit to the temple in Jerusalem. He found livestock, poultry traders and money changers doing business. Jesus made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple. He ejected money changers and overturned tables.
“Do not make my Father’s temple a house of merchandise,” Jesus said to them.
Kenya’s education, especially the examining bit, has been a shameful temple of merchandise for nearly three decades.
The top 10 slots were for sale to the highest bidder. A thick and well-oiled cartel traded in examination papers, influenced grading and scoring of scripts, and had the last word on school ranking. Parents could negotiate grades directly with officials at the Kenya National Examinations Council.
Elite private primary schools, also known as academies, thrived. They charged high fees and invested hugely in cheating, paying for ranking and using multiple registration centres to guarantee high mean scores.
Similarly, elite public secondary schools, also known as national schools, used their high enrollment numbers and financial advantage to purchase examination materials and influence test scores and ranking.
High school principals are minor deities. Officials at Jogoo House and the Knec venerate and have them on speed dial. They worship the ground they walk on.
Education in this country almost ceased to be about teaching and learning and preparing the next generation of citizens.
Education had become a house of exchange of just three things; money, grades and rankings. Students became pawns in the game. Grades and ranking became something like dope, which schools, parents and students got hooked to.
Successive Education ministers and top officials at Jogoo House were inducted into the immoral orgy and baptised in oodles of bribe cash. These individuals were eaten up by their zeal for loot. But not the current Education Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiang’i. CS Matiang’i is consumed by a zeal for our children and the credibility of our education system.
Under his indomitable, and I dare say abrasive and egotistical resolve, confidence is beginning to return to Kenya’s education system and especially to the Knec.
Stringent management and administration of KCPE has paid off hugely. Matiang’i is the man of the moment. He is Kenya’s knight in shining armor.
At a time when our country is staggered by the gales of grand corruption, what Matiang’i has achieved in the education sector should give us hope. He gives us hope that we can vanquish the evil forces of corruption at work in our society. He gives us hope that Kenya’s education sector will not be a house of merchandise.
The CS could have chosen the gravy train like his predecessors, taken the loot and looked the other way as our education system went to the dogs. He chose not to.
Matiang’i gives us hope that there are Kenyans who are willing to risk everything, resist the charm of sleaze and put Kenya first. Can his Cabinet colleagues emulate his example?
Dr. Awiti is the director of the East African Institute at Aga Khan University