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Monday, May 10, 2021

National exams set to begin amidst COVID-19 pandemic

By The Frontier Post Reporter

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The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education is set to begin on Monday under the prescribed Ministry of Health COVID-19 regulations.

Already, examination papers for the 1.9 million KCPE and KCSE candidates have been secured in the sub-counties.

Some 1,187,517 candidates who rehearsed on Friday, will sit the exam starting Monday morning and end on Wednesday.

Some 751,150 KCSE candidates will have their rehearsals on Thursday before sitting the exam from Friday to April 21.

But even as the exams are set to begin, parts of Migori and Kisii counties have been flagged as cheating hotspots following cases that were reported previously.

In 2019—the last time the KCPE and KCSE exams were conducted—the examination council identified at least 16 counties that had been flagged for possible cheating.

They include Machakos, Garissa, Kisumu, Kisii, Meru, Isiolo, Turkana, West Pokot, Kericho, Narok, Elgeyo Marakwet, Wajir, Mandera, Bungoma, Homa Bay and Migori.

Details from Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) indicate the tests are already secured in 479 safety containers that are under 24-hour protection by the police at sub-county headquarters where the examination papers will be housed.

The containers have a double locking system and the sub-county directors of education and the deputy county commissioners will be the only ones authorized to open and close them.

However, school heads have warned of possible hitches in the running of the exams following the depletion of school funds.

The examination council says it has identified, through security assessment, and prepared for possible threats that might compromise the exams.

This year’s test will be the fifth to be administered under stringent rules since the introduction of measures to weed out rampant cheating that had undermined the integrity of the exam prior to 2016.

The measures were introduced by CS Fred Matiang’i, who was then heading the Education docket.

The exams had been lined up for the traditional November-December period but were disrupted by the pandemic.

Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) records indicate that since the adoption of the measures, some 160 teachers involved in exam malpractices have been flagged, investigated and punished.

According to the KNEC, 286,901 field officers—supervisors and invigilators—will be contracted for exam administration.

Education CS George Magoha on Wednesday said in Mombasa that intelligence reports also indicate that some students plan to write material they will use in the exam room on their face masks.

The CS said the learners will have to remove their masks for inspection before they begin the test. He also warned that some people were trying to make a quick buck by selling fake exam papers to willing buyers. 

Teachers who in the past have been involved in cases of examination malpractice have also been barred from administering the exams going forward. TSC chief executive officer Nancy Macharia, in a briefing this month, said the decision was taken to combat cheating.

Since the introduction of strict examination rules, headteachers are responsible for the collection and return of examination papers. Knec says they will strictly be required to adhere to the set start-and-stop time indicated in the examination timetable.

Knec chief executive Mercy Karogo said this is meant to weed out any case of early exposure of examination material through collusion between schools and examination officials.

In particular, the council is concerned about security in some areas that could lead to the displacement of learners. They include Lamu and Kapedo.

Karogo, however, said this has been addressed as the candidates have been transferred to other institutions.

Adverse weather effects such as heavy rains or floods are also part of the ministry’s concerns.

CS Magoha said the government will airlift examination materials to any areas that will be affected.

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