As the new term opens, primary schools across the country will be celebrating their successes or mourning their failures in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination results that came out just last week.
For me, the story about the 2011 KCPE results was not the usual stories about winning students, top schools or the ever-growing apartheid differentiating those with the money to buy quality education and those who have to make do with the overloaded public education system.
The story is about cheating. A record 7,974 pupils from 334 schools were disgraced because they tried to take shortcuts; a sharp rise from the 1,103 pupils from 68 schools netted at the 2010 exam.
The young boys and girls caught cheating deserve what they get. Or, rather, what they don’t get because without their examination results, they will not gain admission into secondary school.
But before heaping blame on the young cheats, we should really consider whether they are fully responsible for their actions.
We have to consider whether they were enticed into the web by amoral parents happy to buy success for their young ones; or by corrupt school owners and teachers employing crooked means to vault their exam factories atop the education league tables.
These young boys and girls who were caught – and one shudders to think of the numbers who got away – can only be victims of a complete breakdown of societal mores.
They do not have the money and influence to buy leaked papers from corrupt Kenya National Examinations Council officers.
It is their parents and teachers – who ought to be role models and paragons of virtue – who are corrupting and subverting the system.
The parents are willing to cheat, bribe and steal to ensure their young ones pass the exams, and in the process passing on the debased virtues that are the curse of Kenya, and which ultimately lead to the culture that glorifies theft of Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing proportions.
Schools owners, managers and teachers are also willing to cheat, bribe and steal because their own achievements are measured by the number of students they successfully shepherd through the production line.
There is also a direct pecuniary benefit as proved by the fact that private schools are progressively recording the highest number of cheats.
The higher a school is in the KCPE league table at the end of every year, the greater number of students it will attract with parents willing to pay for success; and the higher the fees it can demand.
Trends, actually, might indicate that the level of cheating we are seeing from private schools is just a tip of the iceberg.
It is probable that many of the lucrative businesses that call themselves private schools have over the years routinely engaged in institutionalised exam cheating involving unholy alliances of proprietors, teaching staff, parents and Knec officials.
What that means, probably, is that all those success stories of private schools year-after-year completely dominating the performance lists are based on nothing but theft and fraud.
At the end of the day, however, the standing of the entire education system is compromised.
Do not be surprised to find that in future, exam results for Kenyans wishing to further their education in Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Britain, India, United States, Australia and other favoured destinations might not be recognised because of the entrenched corruption.
Even the schools and the individual students that are being feted for superior results will, however innocent they may be, carry with them the whiff of the cheating scandals.
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Respected lawyer and teacher Githu Muigai was supposed to provide a breath of fresh air on succeeding Mr Amos Wako as Attorney-General.
But it is becoming clear that Prof Muigai approaches the job first and foremost as a legal adviser to the reactionary nabobs around President Kibaki, rather than as a driver for reform as many erroneously expected.
The man is genial and has a sharp legal brain, but the more he lectures on the functions of his office, the more he sounds like one of the biggest disasters to occupy Sheria House, Mr Joseph Kamere.