EXAMINATION SEASON

Exams not life and death affairs

In Summary
  • People are cheating their way through everything: jobs, marriages, social events and even baby showers
  • Honesty has been thrown out of the window to be replaced with cheating
A Standard 8 pupil at Westlands Primary School during a Mathematics test on the first day of the national assessment exam on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
LEARNER: A Standard 8 pupil at Westlands Primary School during a Mathematics test on the first day of the national assessment exam on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Last week, Education CS George Magoha revealed some schools were hiring experts to sit exams on behalf of their students. This rekindled embarrassing memories of institutionalised exam cheating that rocked the education sector during the pre-Matiang’i era, where parents and teachers would pull all stops to see children pass with “flying colours”.

Our love for academic excellence is not in doubt, but the means through which we achieve it is detrimental to our scientific, artistic and cultural progress. Buying exam papers or letting someone sit an exam for you, then after the release of the results you hit the streets in celebration is an absurdity Kenya is accustomed to.

It is the reason genuine top scoring schools and students are today treated as exam cheats. It systemically cast the poor who cannot have access to leakages to the periphery of national development.

Without access to exam papers, no one gets the grade for admission to elite secondary schools, hence no guarantee for lucrative courses at university. This doesn’t mean every student pursuing  a lucrative course is a beneficiary of exam cheating. The point is, the poor in rural schools miss out because their places are taken over by rich cheating schools and students.

As a result we have a country where reputable organisations such as the World Bank dismiss us as a hotbed of half-baked graduates. We have a country where scientific research and innovation is wanting, because people are somehow in disciplines they were not meant for, disciplines they bumped upon due to societal and parental pressure. It has led to a country where finding an honest civil servant or government official is rare, for people have gladly accepted that the end justifies the means.

People are cheating their way through everything: jobs, marriages, social events and even baby showers. Honesty has been thrown out of the window to be replaced with cheating. Why cheat your way through school and end up doing something for which you were not meant? The exam cartels have caused irredeemable damage and deserve long jail terms.

This country does not need national exams. What it needs is an education system premised on an individual’s talent, skills and passion. There is a serious problem with a country where every child wants to be a medical doctor. Such a country cannot attain its goals and aspirations because those missing out on the “prestigious” courses end up viewing themselves as failures, resulting in depression and social crimes.

We must tell our children in no uncertain terms that national exams are not a matter of life and death. Instil in them the virtues of self-belief and cultivate a spirit of honesty.

Freelance journalist and writer