We need to create a self-perpetuating system for when the likes of Matiang’i are long gone

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BY PHOEBE NADUPOI

2016 KCPE and KCSE results will be highly anticipated. In the past, the credibility of the final examinations at both the primary and secondary school levels has not been guaranteed, and it has been an open secret that good grades were not a preserve of intellectually endowed students. Parents, teachers and students bought examination papers, and God knows what else might have gone on at Mtihani House. It is a shame how low we had sunk.

Educationists had time and again queried how possible it was for, say, an entire class can get straight “A”s in total negation of a normal curve, but it appears they were preaching to deaf ears. And this is not the only challenge that faced the sector: poor wages that triggered industrial action by teachers’ unions, illegal tuition and poor learning conditions for some of learners are just but some of the real issues that stakeholders have mulled over for a while. Further, the curriculum has received enough criticism and is set to undergo review to make education more relevant.

Against this backdrop, enter CS Education Dr Fred Matiang’i, and the story begins to change for the better.

Demonstrated real leadership

Matiang’i swung into action and delivered results in record time. It began with the disbandment of the Kenya National Examination Council board and the installation of a new one to restore credibility of exams. Then followed the famous (or infamous, in some quarters) impromptu visits to schools. Further, the CS put in place stringent examinations rules, and saw to the enforcement of the same, and we have seen swift action against those who have so far attempted to engage in malpractices.

Matiang’i has demonstrated that leadership is everything. He stands out because he is not only giving instructions but he is walking the talk. He recently remarked that he has no business sleeping while our head teachers are waking up at 5 a.m. to administer examinations. He has, therefore, demonstrated that we can have the Kenya we want if we just get the right men and women to head our institutions.

Matiang’i is the leader the country has been aching for, to redeem its education sector. He has defied all odds – including the school fires, which we have now forgotten – to reclaim the integrity of examinations. On administration, he stuck to his guns despite the deafening noise demanding installation of a “local” as vice chancellor in acting capacity from the dominant tribe where the institution is situated.

Since he began his spontaneous visits to schools, teachers are in class doing what they ought to do; the school managers (head teachers) are diligently keeping their books of accounts and a few cheeky ones have been found out. When history is written, it shall be said he acted with precision to save the future of our country. There have been a few cases of (attempted) malpractices but they have been nipped in the bud, as the case ought to be.

It is because of all this that the country is hopeful the results of the just-concluded examinations will be authentic, and hence the anticipation. Finally, we may have students admitted to pursue courses they are actually qualified for! And we will not hear of mass transfers or dropouts at university because courses proved to be too tough for a majority of students!

Beyond Matiang’i

The country should ensure we do not lose on the gains made as we did with the Michuki rules on public transport. There is need to think through on how to build on the foundation Matiang’i has laid to realise long-term success. How do we institutionalise this good practice so that we do not regress to the mess we were in, when Matiang’i finally exits the stage?

While the CS has done a good job, there is still a lot more to be done. It’s high time the Ministry, for instance, revamped the Quality Assurance and Standards Directorate to robustly deliver its mandate. We need to see school inspectors do what Matiang’i is doing. We need to have in place a self-perpetuating system.^

Writer is an advocacy and communications practitioner; Email: pnadupoi@gmail.com

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