Rift Valley KCPE candidates to hog national schools

Saturday January 2 2010


Rift Valley Province is expected to take the highest number of primary school graduates to national schools. The province has the highest number of candidates in the top 1,000 performers, according to a results sheet prepared by the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec).

The region has 256 candidates among the top cream while its nearest challenger, Nairobi Province, has 232 candidates. Central Province follows with 209 candidates in the listing. Western Province had 109 candidates in the ranking followed by Eastern Province with 105.

Nyanza Province, whose performance has been heading to the wilderness over the years, had 82 candidates among the top 1,000 performers followed by the equally low performing Coast Province that had 10 less on the list.

Top candidates

Although Nyanza failed to compete with others in posting candidates among the top candidates, it had 116,923 candidates, compared with Western Province, which had 91,629 but still posted 26 more candidates to the top 1,000 list. Central had 101,881 candidates but had 100 more candidates to the listing.

Rift Valley had 186,157 candidates in the examination, perhaps justifying its big representation among the best performers. There were 128,270 candidates from Eastern Province while North Eastern had the least number of pupils at 10,398.

North Eastern Province did not have a candidate among the top 100, boding badly for the region in terms of sending pupils to national schools. The candidate ranked 1,000, Brian Gitau Njenga, had 412 marks out of the possible 500. Gitau was better than the top candidate from North Eastern Province by two marks.

The province is still likely to send candidates to the 15 national schools, thanks to the affirmative action policy dubbed quota system. Under the system, national schools enrol pupils from each part of the country so they portray a national face.

Because of the system, the schools determine cut-off points varying from district to district with the aim of ensuring parity in the selection. It is, therefore, possible that a candidate in Nairobi with 410 marks will be left out of admission to a national school while one from North Eastern with 360 gets picked.

The same system has been touted by teachers and lobby groups to ensure parity between pupils from public schools and those from private schools when Form One selection begins on January 8. Their argument is that since the free primary education programme was introduced, the performance of public schools has gone down due to large class sizes.

The situation was worsened last year when the government failed to recruit teachers as was the tradition over the previous eight years. Teachers who retired, died or resigned from June 2008 were not replaced, something that heavily strained the remaining teachers.

About 180,000 teachers are handling 8.6 million pupils in primary schools. Coupled with lack of learning and teaching materials, the quality of education has gone down, affecting performance in national examinations, especially in schools where classes have up to 100 pupils.

Most of the candidates in the top 1,000 positions in last year’s KCPE were from private schools, meaning majority of them are destined to national schools. And among the top 100 candidates nationally, private schools took 81 slots. The national schools are expected to admit about 3,000 candidates.

Kenya Primary School Heads Association chairman Joseph Karuga is concerned about the fall of former giants such as Olympic and Nairobi primary schools in Nairobi Province, which did not feature on the top 100 candidates’ list. Before the free learning programme, he said, primary schools such as Nyeri primary, Hill School in Eldoret and Nairobi’s Utawala and Westlands were all top performers.

“We must have a method of admission to Form One which does not disadvantage candidates from public schools who learn under difficult circumstances,” he said. He added that private schools were poaching bright pupils from public schools by offering them scholarships and bursaries so they can put these schools in top positions.

The private schools also vet the students so they enrol only a few bright candidates for the exams, making sure their mean scores remain high. Despite the challenges facing public primary schools, Education minister Sam Ongeri did not acknowledge them when he released the KCPE results. All he did was list the “significant investments and interventions in the primary education sector”.

“Some of the benefits accruing from the interventions are sustainability of the free primary education programme, which has led to significant increases in enrolment,” he said.

Corruption allegations

Smarting from the storm at his ministry touched off by allegations of corruption that many people think will derail the FPE, Prof Ongeri said the programme was “safe and on course”. In North Eastern Province, for example, enrolment increased from 3,889 in 2002 to 10,398 last year and in Coast Province, from 29,031 in 2002 to 53,005 last year.

The minister said the increased enrolment in the two provinces reflected significant strides towards equal access to primary education. Of the 80 schools where candidates cheated, 33 were private. Candidates from 3,168 private schools and 17,669 public schools countrywide sat the exam.

The results of 1,905 candidates were cancelled over irregularities, an increase from the previous year when there were 1,835 cheats. Prof Ongeri said candidates who cheat would be barred from taking any Knec tests for two years beginning 2010.

He also blamed private schools for unethical exam registration practices, including double registration of candidates. To address the challenge of double registration of candidates in different centres and impersonation, Knec will introduce the use of birth certificate numbers for candidates in order to track the movement of each one of them.