KCSE results queried as MPs, experts demand probe

They question how grades could have improved astronomically, without irregular intervention.

In Summary

Could this be the biggest scam in exam history in Kenya by disgruntled teachers?

Was everybody in on what was hailed pre-exam by officials as foolproof and without irregularities? 

Education CS Ezekiel Machogu during the release of the 2022 KCSE results at Mitihani House in Kilimani, Nairobi, on January 20.
NO IRREGULARITIES? Education CS Ezekiel Machogu during the release of the 2022 KCSE results at Mitihani House in Kilimani, Nairobi, on January 20.

The 2022 KCSE exam results have elicited mixed reactions with alarm of massive irregularities emerging despite the Education ministry's assurance the marks accurately reflect performance.

Experts have questioned the uncharacteristically high number of A grades from unfamiliar institutions to little-known schools, trouncing established academic giants.

And now, the Star's reporter has established a very painstaking and utterly secret plan that brought together teachers, parents, students, examiners in collusion with IT experts and rogue examination officials to aid cheating.

The reporter has talked to teachers, principals, lecturers, examiners and union officials.

In some cases, parents were asked to pay between Sh5,000 and Sh20,000 for the exams. The students were then given the questions before entering the exam room.

One teacher told the Star that at their school, all non-teaching staff were sent on leave a week before the exam and their positions temporarily taken up by teachers.

The idea was to let the teachers take charge of security guard duties and others tasks so students could only be interacting with their teachers at all times.

"Teachers who managed departments were called back to school and given aprons. So an examiner would think it was a watchman talking to the candidate, yet it was the teacher explaining an exam question,” he said.

He said teachers were allowed access to the papers even as the candidates took the exam so they were able to tackle the questions and pass information to students whenever they sought to relieve themselves.

In another school, the staffroom was converted into a washroom and labelled 'Toilet'.

"Many candidates seeking invigilators' permission to go to the toilet were actually ending up in the staffroom where teachers helped them with difficult questions in the midst of the exam," a teacher who sought anonymity said.

A senior principal from Rift Valley  said cheating was widespread and that some schools got the exams very early, "like a week before candidates sat for the paper."

"And the schools were not just getting the question papers, they would even get the Knec marking schemes. That's why we have schools that used to get three points shooting to nine points. It can't just happen," the teacher said.

He said the results have shown there was something "fishy" and that the ministry should come out and talk about it.

While releasing the results in Nairobi on Friday, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said no cheating occurred and that the administration and marking of the exam was clean.

He said on Friday and repeated that there were no irregularities.

“We did come up with a mechanism that accountability was transferred to the personal level. We said the centre manager will be personally accountable for any irregularities and designed a form for security personnel to sign how things went," the CS said as he maintained no irregularities were witnessed.

Examiners who mark the sheets often help with detecting if cheating occurred at an exam centre or otherwise. This is detected from the sheets they mark.

Some of those who spoke to the Star admitted noticing irregularities but opted to keep quiet. The examiners were angry with the Kenya National Examinations Council over rates which they claimed were underpayment for their work.

"So most teachers felt there was no need to expose such case because they felt underpaid. It is also cumbersome raising an alarm because you are often asked to write many statements. They will question you as if you made a mistake raising the alarm,” the examiner said.

Knec chief executive David Njengere defended his council from the allegations.

“Examiners are trained on procedures to follow. Those procedures have to be followed because, for example, if you find an anomaly how well do we verify if the procedures are not followed,” Njengere told the Star on the phone.

Another examiner said it was not common for students to pick the same question in Literature given there are options. “I have marked Literature for years and it has never happened that students pick the same questions and even give similar answers," he said.

Asked why they did not bring such an issue to the attention of examination officials, the woman said, “You can take the whole day writing reports. As you do that the other teams are still working.”

She added, “We had almost 450 students from the same region writing the same composition, even with the same character. That is not normal.”

Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers national secretary Edward Obwocha urged Knec to properly take care of examiners.

"We all know CRE had challenges and we are not even sure how they got results because the examiners went away without finishing the work. The fact that others never went on strike does not mean they were not aggrieved, those issues cut across," he said.

In the results, Nyambaria High from Nyamira county and Cardinal Otunga from Kisii shocked giants by posting means cores of 10.89 and 10.76 respectively.

But it was Mobamba High School also in Nyamira raised more eyebrows after improving from a mean score of 5.1 in 2021 to 9.2 in the 2022 exam, a deviation of plus 4.1.

"Those schools that are receiving such improvements from. let's say, a mean score of three points to nine points need to be investigated.

And we should not just look at the comparison between their performance last year and this year, we need the tradition, trends that go to as far as even four years ago," education expert Janet Ouko told the Star.

In the 2021 exam, Nyambaria had four A plain grades and 79 students scoring A- (minus). Those figures more than doubled in 2022 with A plain grades jumping to 28 and students scoring A- (minus) increasing to 383. The mean score also jumped from 9.3 in 2021 to 10.9 in 2022.

Nyabite D.O.K in nearby Kisii county posted a jump of 3.5 in its means core from 5.1 in 2021 to 8.6 in 2022.

"For example, what I have seen at Starehe Boys is a very realistic trend because in a year they are likely to either lose or gain between six and eight A grades. But a school that moves from three points to nine points should tell us what miracle it is they have done because that's not possible," Ouko added.

She called for a probe saying "some investigation needs to be done because we don't want to go back to where we come where certain schools get exams before time."

National Assembly Education Committee chairman Julius Melly said MPs were keenly following the matter. 

He said the lawmakers will undertake a complete analysis of the results and the whole process, starting with the setting, where the papers were kept, the security, invigilation, marking and even release.

"We will also find out from the schools how their results have been including previous internal exams and mock exams. We have been teachers at one point and so we know and understand these things," the Tinderet MP said.

"We want to tell the public there is no cause for alarm because we will get to the bottom of this.

Teachers unions have also questioned the integrity of the results, saying it is suspicious for a school to post such a huge deviation.

"As a union, we are asking the ministry and Knec to seriously look into these issues," Kuppet's Obwocha said.

In 2016 when then Education CS Fred Matiang'i first introduced tough measures to curb cheating in exams, only 141 candidates got A plain grades. In 2022, that number rose to 1,146. 

Curiously, some schools did not have students scoring C grades or below, something Universities Academic Staff Union organising secretary Onesmus Mutio finds very abnormal.

"Schools having their least grade as a B plain or B minus is very suspicious. In a normal situation, even if all students are bright there are those who will be distracted by other things so they lose focus.

Those things are likely to interrupt the students concentration, even if the least gets at least C, or even D that's more realistic," Mutio said.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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