More than 20 private schools risk closure over dirty tricks they used to obtain top rankings in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams.
The Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) warned on Friday that the schools’ popularly known as academies might be punished after many parents lodged complaints of unethical practices with the association.
Some of the schools reportedly registered their weak candidates in separate examination centres, called satellite stations, to ensure their performance did not lower the mean grade.
Only the bright candidates are registered in the schools’ names to ensure high mean grades.
“Many academies have established satellite schools where they register their weak candidates, including some in public schools,” said KPSA in a report titled ‘Survey on Private Schools Candidature’.
Two Nairobi schools, ranked among the top 10 best performers, officially enrolled less than 40 candidates for the examination while more than 100 others registered in other centres.
In Mombasa, one school registered about 20 candidates for the examination in its name while many others were enrolled in another centre.
Others are a school in Tana River that registered only 30 candidates, a Nyandarua school that presented less than 25, a Kiambu school with less than 25 and a Kitui school with less than 30. All the schools had more than 100 candidates.
On Friday, KPSA chief executive officer Peter Ndoro admitted some of its members engaged in unethical practices.
“It is true we have received complaints from many parents and are very concerned as an association,” he said.
He went on: “We are working with the Education ministry and if we establish that some schools have satellite schools for the purposes of examinations results only, we will have them deregistered as examination centres.”
He said private schools must know they exist to offer education, and not for commercial purposes.
Mr Ndoro noted that the association would not condone any examination malpractices in schools. “They must uphold integrity at all times and to those who will not toe the line then their days are rather numbered,” he said.
All pupils, whether in public or private schools, must be given equal treatment, he said.
Kenya National Examinations Council boss Paul Wasanga said such cases of examination malpractices existed but blamed parents for abetting them.
“They [the parents] should be the ones pointing out the malpractices,” he said. “They know where they enrol their candidates and must not allow such discrimination.”
Mr Wasanga said the council could not detect the practices because “we only deal with index numbers and names of centres as presented to us from registered schools”.
Interviews with affected parents in Nairobi this week showed that some candidates scored very low marks in schools that were ranked top in the exams. Two schools that were listed among the top 10 performers are set to be investigated.
Early this week, some parents in one of the schools located in the Nairobi’s Southlands complained of the existence of more than two examination centres.
The Saturday Nation found that whereas the worst performing candidate in the better ranked centre scored 394 marks, its sister centre had the worst performing candidate scoring 290 marks.
The survey showed that most schools normally rated top get their way to such positions by using unscrupulous means that include denying weak students registration at their centres.
This is not the first time the academies are being linked to unscrupulous practices in the national examination.
Details of how some of the schools cut corners to gain top rankings have been captured in past officials reports.
They include cases of weak pupils being advised to quietly repeat classes or enrol for the exams elsewhere.
While some parents accept to go by the wishes of the schools’ management, others opt to move to other schools. Other pupils simply drop out of school.
A parent who spoke to the Saturday Nation but asked not to be named because he has another child at a Nairobi school, said the institution had seven streams but one of them was registered as a separate centre.
Only bright pupils are registered at the centre which was ranked among the top 10.
The aim is to ensure the centre with bright candidates performs well to attract many pupils.
The story is the same in other parts of the country where well-established institutions claim to register less than 50 candidates when they have more than 100.
Some schools that register many pupils end up getting lower averages, although most of their candidates score highly.
One such school is Moi Educational Centre, Nairobi, which presented all its 117 candidates as one centre.
The school emerged fifth in Nairobi County, the only one with candidates above 115 among the top five.
But questions hang over the Education Ministry’s quality assurance department, which has been aware of the practice but failed to stop it.
A few years ago, the department which was then headed by Mr Enos Oyaya conducted an audit that exposed some unethical conduct among the private schools. It revealed, for instance, flaws in the registration of schools either as learning or examination centres.
Some private school owners registered only one institution yet they had more than one.
“The other unregistered schools operated on the certificate of the pioneer school with a view to avoiding taxation and offloading weak pupils.
Many academies have established satellite schools where they register their weak candidates, including some in public schools,” said the report, Survey on Private Schools Candidature.
On Friday, Kenya National Parents Association secretary general Musau Ndunda condemned the unethical practices.
“This is outright theft and we are not going to allow this kind of thing to continue being practised in our education sector,” he said.