Last week, the Kenya National Examinations Council released the 2015 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results. There was jubilation all round as many candidates performed well beyond their own expectations and those of their relatives and friends.
The media went round scouting for the best performing candidates and schools, and highlighted them, asking them how they did it. Many attributed their success to their own hard work, prayer, and support from family and friends.
In this part of the world, it is taboo to rain on another person’s parade. However, like the late George Saitoti said, there comes a time when the interests of the nation override those of an individual.
It is important to point out a few matters of concern so that when the inevitable future comes and we have to face the consequences of our actions today, we shall have no recourse to feigning ignorance.
Last year’s KCSE exams were marred by irregularities on a scale that literally boggled the mind. Exam papers were available to candidates, teachers and members of the public well in advance of the exam, and the only surprising finding, in my opinion, is that more candidates did not get perfect scores than was the case in previous exams. As has been pointed out by other commentators, several candidates whose performance had been below average surprised everyone, perhaps including themselves, with very high grades.
It is obvious that very many of the top performing candidates worked really hard to earn the grades they scored in the exam. We must not detract from this fact.
Unfortunately, the few who took advantage of the leaked examinations will obviously taint the achievement of those that worked hard. Beyond the suspicions about exam results not reflecting individual performance, this issue raises more fundamental problems for this country.
CONTINUE TO UNIVERSITY
The tradition in this country dictates that the top performers continue to university to pursue courses considered more technical, difficult or lucrative. Most commonly, these top candidates will want to pursue a career in medicine or engineering. Let us for a moment consider the implications of this.
Candidates who cheated in the KCSE exam may experience difficulty progressing in their chosen professional training and many may end up leaving to pursue other interests.
However, a good number may actually manage to complete training and be registered to practise. In actual fact, these individuals may turn out to be very brilliant medical practitioners. The only sad thing is that these professions, by their very nature, depend on certain assumptions about the attitudes of the individual, which may be at great odds with their knowledge and skills.
Kenyans have become intensely focused on knowledge and the appearance of knowledge, to the detriment of the more difficult to measure parameter of attitude. This obviously results in very learned but totally unethical professionals. Let us take examples in the different professions.
Take the example of a doctor who achieved success in the KCSE exam through irregular means. While he is very clever and knows exactly what needs to be done under several circumstances, his attitude to work might be disastrous. This doctor will be very likely to take shortcuts when presented with the opportunity to do so. This doctor may also be less likely to admit when they have difficulties in managing patients, resulting in mismanagement.
This applies to other professions, such as engineering. Does anyone wonder why houses keep collapsing shortly after construction, or why roads have such a short lifespan in this country despite being constructed under supervision by licensed professionals? Such errors by rogue engineers may only become evident after several years when they result in catastrophic disability and loss of life.
The terrible news is that as long as we continue helping our children cheat in national exams the future is completely bleak.
Atwoli is associate professor of psychiatry and dean, School of Medicine, Moi University; firstname.lastname@example.org