By Boniface Mwangi:
18 years after l was unfairly expelled from high school, l sat for my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Exams. I was kicked out of school when l was barely 15 years old after documenting child abuse and presenting the evidence to a cabinet Minister Shariff Nassir, in 1998. My mother could not afford private school, so l ended up in the streets of Nairobi as a hawker.
My experience during the KCSE examination period was out of this world. Before you get into the exam room, they take away your watch, hat and anything that you might use to smuggle in answers. They check everywhere; it’s a security check for cheats. I had zero intentions to cheat and so l had no problems with the scrutiny. I even spread out my handkerchief for a closer check upon request and handed over my phone and wallet. I think everyone in public office should be ready to make their wealth and tax returns public, because only thieves and tax cheats fear scrutiny.
After a student in another exam centre was caught with a phone in his shoe, we were made to remove even our shoes as part of the search. If you visited the bathroom during the exam, you were searched again. There were armed police even in the exam hall. When you were done with your paper, you couldn’t leave the room until the stipulated time was up. There were hawk-eyed invigilators checking on everyone. One had a sign-in sheet while another had a book with pictures to countercheck with the one pasted on the candidate’s desk. If you are sitting The Kenya National Examinations Council exams under Matiang’i, expect to be under thorough surveillance.
During the period I sat for the exams, l had a lot of time to think. I thought of ways with which the scrutiny should apply to anyone occupying public office. Their business should be our business because they are handling our affairs. The thorough inspection is a good thing, it keeps people straight.
However, something is wrong with all the emphases put in this one final exam. A student should be graded by how they perform during their four years in high school. Continuous testing should be introduced and the results form part of their final grades. I wish the curriculum considered those of us who love the arts.
KCSE exams should be tailor made to students’ passions. Lets nurture talents and skills early so that, photographers, doctors, painters, pilots, musician, entrepreneurs, ballet dancers, athletes, etc, can start mastering their career choices in high school. If this country is going to develop we cannot have one exam fits all, we need specialized or tailor made exams. As the great physicist Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I feel sorry for my three children, who are doing 8-4-4, yet very artistically inclined. I promise to contribute to education reforms.
Congrats to Fred Matiang’i, judging by the complaints from the students who wanted to cheat but could not, you have done a fantastic job. Now apply education reforms so that KCSE stops being a life and death exam. Make our curriculum relevant and current with the changing times.