MT Akelo-Misori: Ongeri, Wasanga should step down over fiasco

Last week, Education minister, Prof Sam Ongeri, released the findings of a task force he had appointed to investigate the results fiasco that has indicted the validity of last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations.

Among the highlights was a finding that more than 40,000 students — not the 4,000 he announced earlier — were affected by the Kenya National Examination Council’s ‘computer error’. Their mean averages, Knec says, were incorrectly calculated.

The findings represent an admission by the authorities that the averaging of the grades for the exams fell below our standards and that colleges, employers and, indeed, all Kenyans will be right to question them.

We at the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers dispute these figures, reject the findings to the extent they do not allot liability and find the minister’s decision to constitute another inquiry as diversionary and wasteful.

While Ongeri is not keen to act on the findings, there is no guarantee another probe will yield better results or be more acceptable since persons in the panels have been clearly selected to conceal the whole truth.

The Prof Olive Mugenda committee was full of religious leaders and other types without expertise on tests and measurements. Their tenacity in investigating this matter was always in doubt, and the chairperson did not personally release her findings. Yet Ongeri hurriedly appointed another mind-boggling inquiry in the aftermath of the report. We are at a loss as to what informed this decision as the Council’s managers remain in office. Knec is a statutory body with a chief executive who should account for all its actions and malfeasance.

Our investigations, based on interviews with Knec officials concerned about this tragedy, show more rot. For instance, thousands of English Paper 3 scripts remained unmarked as at December 24 when examiners broke for Christmas and never resumed in January because of the election crisis.

How and why the students were graded without the paper is a question Ongeri’s probes won’t answer lest it exposes the integrity crisis at the Education ministry.

The computer error theory can blunt the inexplicable re-grading that Knec has executed since last month. But can the theory explain why candidate indexes and names have been swapped in other examinations conducted by the Council or the geographical spread of the schools adversely affected by the KCSE scandal?

Instead of remaining with these issues, Ongeri defends himself with blood as if Knec is an extension of the minister’s office and without officials legally mandated to execute their functions. He absolves himself of liability yet he is barely settling in the ministry.

In the end, he perceives this matter as a political issue and thus swings his age, academic credentials and position in Government to lord over Kenyans who demand fidelity to efficiency and integrity of examinations.

He has mobilised politicians to shield him from inconvenient questions in the subject matter and thereby revealed that, indeed, politics is at the heart of this scandal.

Despite the ministers insistence to the contrary, most schools adversely affected are in Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley. Some schools in other areas seem to have improved drastically. When the minister claims that a computer could work so selectively with great precision, Kenyans demand to know who was feeding which computer with which data as computers do not work alone or execute their own tasks. We have it on authority that KNEC did not deviate from its standard Cobol software in tabulating last year’s results.

By emphasising the computer error theory Ongeri betrays a false belief that people are so naÔve as to buy cheap claims on an important matter as examinations. This country has reached a technological age when technical operations have to be right. The questions over Knec’s conduct and why its CEO remains in office to interfere with investigations is not borne out of hatred, but a patriotic duty by those who want to uphold the highest academic standards.

Yet, in total breach of good practice, Ongeri has singularly acted to cushion Knec of malfeasance and is clearly protecting suspects of a high crime.

It is difficult to imagine of a person in charge of the Education ministry who is more contemptuous of the integrity of examinations. He and the coterie of managers at Knec should resign immediately for a thorough-going inquiry into the fiasco.

The writer is the national chairman of Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers

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