The dissolution of the Kenya National Examinations Council board and subsequent interrogation of its top officials over the massive cheating in last year’s exams was long overdue.
Kenyans have been dismayed by the increase in the cases of exam cheating each year but which have not been acted upon.
It appears that last year’s case, where the exam results of 5,100 Form Four and 2,709 Standard Eight candidates were cancelled was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Something had to give, drastic action had to be taken.
The public was fed up with the council officials’ tendency to talk too much and shadowbox instead of tackling the mess in its backyard.
Having failed to deliver on its mandate, it follows that the board and the management of Knec had no business being in office.
In fact, those found culpable should be herded to the courts.
Announcing the board’s dissolution, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i was categorical that Knec was fundamentally and systematically dysfunctional and hence could not be relied upon to manage and deliver credible exams.
We cannot agree more. The problems bedevilling the council started many years ago but nobody had the courage to confront them.
When former chief executive officer Paul Wasanga and two others, Ephraim Wanderi and Michael Ndua, were adversely mentioned in the exam printing bribery scandal involving British printer, Smith & Ouzman, in what has been christened “Chickengate”, nothing was done.
It is instructive that Mr Ndua is one of the nine officials who have now been taken in for interrogation.
When reports started filtering in last year that exams were being leaked, Knec’s chief executive officer, Mr Joseph Kivilu, stubbornly denied that there was anything wrong, even when presented with evidence.
The standard response was that the papers in circulation were fake or even ridiculously, that if they had been leaked, it happened a few minutes before the papers were done, hence would not favour those holding them.
He argued that those who may have cheated would be caught during marking, implying that stealing was not wrong because the culprits would be caught anyway.
As we have argued in the past, exam cheating is a cardinal sin.
It demolishes the credibility of a country’s education and examination system and renders the graduates unacceptable in higher education and the job market.
Internationally, Kenya’s graduates risked being isolated for holding fake qualifications.
This is why we call for urgent steps to pull the council out of its current mess.
A lot of hope rests in Prof George Magoha, a former University of Nairobi vice-chancellor, who has been appointed chairman of the board and given the onerous task of cleaning up the mess at the council.
Prof Magoha has solid credentials, having steered the transformation of the University of Nairobi from a once strike-prone institution to a calm, stable, financially sound, and focused centre of learning.
As a start, the council’s management must change and a fresh team brought on board.
A new and competent board must be appointed quickly.
This must be followed by structural and systemic transformation to revitalise and secure the processes of setting, printing, distribution, marking, and delivering credible examinations and qualifications.