By Dikembe Disembe
Forgive me, folks. Do schools in Central Kenya report cheating in national examinations? Remember, my question is on ‘report’. I put it as a fact that cheating goes on, even in central Kenya.
I have chosen Central because in today’s nation newspaper, that’s the only region with no ‘cancelled’ results in top schools. The other question would be: Does KNEC cancel results of cheating in Central Kenya?
Either of the two happened in last year’s KCSE. In certain regions, schools didn’t report cheating or KNEC didn’t cancel results. Or, imaginatively, there was ‘no cheating’.
Because we are currently having ‘national dialogues’ over a host of issues with the wage bill being top on the conversation, Nation newspaper has carried a story about ‘schools of shame’. In the list are national and county schools whose results were cancelled due to irregularities.
Of the 14 counties listed; Luo Nyanza had its 4 counties registering the highest number of cancelled results. Siaya County, where Maranda High School has embodied the collective shame of the region and the country, had six other top schools having their results cancelled. These are Bishop Okoth Girls-Mbaga secondary school,Ng’iya Girls High school, Nyamonye Girls Secondary, Ukwala Secondary School, and Sawagongo High School.
Migori County had such schools as Pe-Hil High School, St Pius Uriri, Kameji Mixed and
Oyugi Ogango Girls cancelled. Other top schools from that region cancelled included Nyakach Girls (Kisumu) and Obera Boys (Homa Bay) among many others. If you add to cancelled schools in Kisii Nyanza, we from that region ‘stole’ the examinations more than other regions.
Yet at the university, we from Nyanza know we are amateurs in cheating in examinations. Professional exam robbers are known. Paradoxically, most of our cheating classmates come from high altitude areas.
Take Maranda High School results, unknown to many, most of the 23 students whose results were cancelled because of one paper – computer studies – had scored straight As in all other subjects.
If I can recall, when I was in High School, computer studies was a ‘preserve’ of very bright boys. Those who dreamt to be computer scientists or telecommunication scientists. In fact, the computer lab (yes lab, not classroom) was a no-go zone for academic hustlers like yours truly. The computer teacher was no ordinary CRE or English Lit. teacher.
And in my particular school, he was a man of personal self-worth, the guy whom, in another world, would be deep in aerospace science or some buzz-thing in the computer world. The computer subject itself was optional, it attracted the best and retained the very best. So it couldn’t be for every holoi poloi.
The Maranda cancelled results belonged to top boys.
Our problem in Nyanza, both in politics and academics, is dishonest honesty. We think the playing field is levelled. There exists an inter-school academic competition in Nyanza which is just sickening.
When I finished high school, like many others who went to top schools in the region, we took up teaching positions in ‘decimal’ schools in the region. I was a jack-of-all-subjects juggling English in form 1, Biology in form 2, history in form 3 and all the three in form 4!
My former classmates became staff-mates. We taught everything. We were on the road to the university so more than just teaching, we also inspired our students (majority who were our age-mates) to work hard and aim high.
We filled the voids occasioned by lack of government teachers. We used our former exercise books and text books.
Then slowly, we were sent to go for joint exam marking. That’s when we begun to see the contradictions in the teaching world. That’s where we noticed the fierce war between teachers competing to outdo each other.
I remember one of my students had done well in this particular subject and this teacher (from the so called ‘big schools’) just couldn’t believe it. He kept on asking, “how can this happen? Such a decimal school can’t produce such high marks”. Some of the teachers we were sitting with on the same table were months ago our own teachers and while they felt proud of us, they did not welcome us ‘as equals’.
This phenomenon is uniquely among the Luo, Kisii and Luhya teachers. At least, it is where I first observed it. Teachers compete to outdo each other, sometimes, by ensuring students from rival schools are cancelled! In 2007,then form threes, we watched as this teacher from one of the ‘rival schools’ ejected a student from the examination hall. It turns out he had in the previous year said he will teach our school a lesson. This boy, who had been ejected, just packed up and left the school. So when the 2007 results were announced, my school was not ranked. Four years of money and time had been wasted….just like that!
I do not know what went wrong in Maranda and most of the cancelled Nyanza schools. One thing though stands out: teacher rivalry may have led to so many students losing out in man’s only equalizer of conditions – education.
Due to teacher rivalry and pride, some schools are not allowed to do some ‘joint exams’ with others. Three or five top schools can decide to set a joint exam but refuse entry to the small ‘decimal’ school in the neighbourhood. In other instances, students are warned not to ‘discuss or share’ these exams with other students from the rival schools. It is capitalism with a monster face. It is bad competition.
Because exams are manned by teachers from other competing schools, the motivation is to do everything possible to make their schools succeed, not the students they are invigilating. Small things as putting a full-stop or finishing a sentence when the time is up can put you in trouble.
Dishonest honesty: I succeed because I have failed you.
Exam cheating is not a new phenomenon. In fact, at the university, what I observed was that students from Nyanza would more hurriedly report their cheating fellows to the examiner. As we moved to second year, the Nyanza group realized it is shameful to report your ‘friend’ so they try to remain ‘honest’ in their own work. At year three, they see their fellows earning higher marks. They also realize so long as you are not caught, yours will be the upper class hons. Degree ni paper. So they wake up. Because they do not have the tactics, many look suspicious while cheating and in the process making their exam watcher curious. One gets caught and the others get chilled by fear. They lose the plot and become pitier. Their friends just smile by….
Mark me wrong not; I do not mean that only Nyanza tries to play by the rules. However, I do know, from experience, that its only Nyanza which get nabbed more by the rules! Whether its exam rules or election rules, Nyanza often loses out. Reminds of the 2007 elections when this returning officer turned away voters because ‘time was up’. He was my neighbour. He cries to date. Ahem.
Exam cheating is an interesting phenomenon.