A Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) high school certificate is important.
Without it, your academic and work journeys could easily come to a screeching halt.
So what happens when you lose it, or it gets defaced? Is there a way to replace it? The short answer is no.
If you are among the thousands of Kenyans who have lost or had their Knec certificate damaged, then you are familiar with the hassle and suffering involved in the quest to replace it.
Ms Cheryl Odipo, 26, knows this only too well. She has been trying to have her certificate replaced for the last three years.
“It is a very expensive affair, especially for someone without a job. It is so expensive because each time you need your academic credentials certified, you have to go through this costly process with these people (Knec) for a certification letter. So if I am applying to 10 institutions, for example, I have to pay for each letter, which means spending more money,” Ms Odipo says.
Certification attracts a fee of Sh2,320. After paying the amount through the National Bank of Kenya, Knec officials send out communication to your potential employer or learning institution.
Notably, no document is issued to you when you ask to have your documents certified, a Knec official explained.
Communication, in whichever form it takes, is strictly between the organisation that requires your certified documents and Knec.
Confirmation, on the other hand, is done through a letter that you can keep and duplicate if you so wish. From the printout given to the Nation team at the New Mitihani House offices, this confirmation costs Sh5,000.
Mr Jonathan Maranga, a young man we met at the South C Knec offices, says loss of his certificates has brought him untold suffering, including losing job opportunities, since his former secondary school’s documents registry burnt down in 2007.
“I am 35 and feel that I could have done more with my life. Lack of this certificate has set me back in comparison to my peers. I don’t understand why this document can’t be made available online for each citizen to download from their own e-citizen or other portal account,” said a clearly frustrated Mr Maranga.
According to Section 10 of Knec Act No. 29 of 2012, such certificates or diplomas, shall not be withheld from the candidate by any person or institution.
What then is the rationale behind denying Kenyans a replacement certificate? Efforts to get the official position from Knec were futile despite several emails and visits to their offices.
An official who would not go on record, explained that replacement of certificates had been allowed for a short period of time by former President Mwai Kibaki following the post-election violence.
The decision to cease issuance of replacement certificates in 2016, she said, was due to fraud and abuse of the process through impersonation and misrepresentation of identity.
Following the decision to stop replacing the documents in 2016, five Kenyans moved to court the same year to challenge it.
Zacharia Mwangi, Miriam Kariuki, Samwel Chege, Stephen Wanyoike and Hannah Nyutu stated that Knec’s decision was an infringement of their right to access public documents.
Ms Melissa Machua, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, agrees with them: “Article 35 of the Constitution clearly states that every Kenyan citizen has the right of access to information held by the State. Denying thousands of citizens’ access to a document as important as a high school certificate is a blatant infringement of their rights.”