Fate of national exams hangs in balance over Corona crisis

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Kenya National Examination Council chief executive officer Nancy Karogo. Photo/PD/FILE

The fate of at least two million candidates scheduled to sit this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams hangs in the balance as the government fights to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Yesterday, the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) spent the better part of the day in a crisis meeting deliberating on the options available.

However, opinion remained divided among education stakeholders on whether the two exams should be postponed until the situation improves.

KNEC chief executive Nancy Karogo was cagey when asked about the fate of at least 700,000 KCSE and more than a million KCPE candidates.

“No decision has been taken yet but let’s cross the bridge when we get there,“ said Karogo and promised to call us later. She did not, however, call back.

But sources at KNEC said the government was considering postponing the exams at the end of the 30 day period that President Uhuru Kenyatta announced when he ordered the closure of schools.

“The government is likely to make a firm decision on April 16 when the 30-day period elapses, ” the source, who did not want to be named, said.

KNEC has already postponed the Early Childhood and Development (ECDE) and Diploma in Special Needs Education examinations scheduled for later this month, a clear indication that both KCSE and KCPE tests could also be rescheduled.

Revise calendar

A letter dated March 30 by Karogo to regional and county directors of education states: “The Kenya National Examination Council wishes to inform you that the 2020 ECDE (proficiency, certificate and diploma) examination scheduled to take place between April 12 and 16 and the diploma in special needs examination scheduled to be done between April 12 and 23 have been postponed until further notice.”

Yesterday, the secretary general of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) Akello Misori, who has been advocating for postponement of exams said the environment was not conducive for the tests.

“We maintain our position that the government should consider revising the school calendar, with a view of having KCSE and KCPE exams postponed. Plenty of time was eaten up by the early closure of schools in the first term, and there is no way we are going to open the schools in good time for the second term,” Misori argued.

He said that should the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise, some schools are likely to be turned into temporary hospitals while others will become quarantine centres.

“This pandemic is unprecedented and is taking a dangerous trend the world over. Kenya is no exception. Learners have not covered the syllabus adequately, hence there is nothing to examine them on,” Misori said.

He noted that the second term was scheduled to begin on May 4, which is less than a month away.

For primary and secondary schools, Knec had already released the exam timetable which shows KCPE was scheduled to start on October 27 while KCSE exam would have kicked off on November 2.

“Looking at the situation, we have just reached a dangerous curve that may not allow us to reopen schools ... candidates don’t have time to prepare well for exams,” Misori said.

Unless the curve is reversed, Heath officials have projected the number of coronavirus cases locally to reach 5,000 by mid this month, and 10,000 by the end of the month.

The trade unionist cited countries such as Chile, China, France, Japan, Spain and Vietnam where national tests have been postponed until normalcy returns.

Premature calls

But the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary general Wilson Sossion and the chairman of the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association Kahi Indimuli are opposed to postponement of exams.

According to Indimuli, those calling for postponement are jumping the gun.

“These are premature calls. Why can’t people wait for the government to make a pronouncement on the way forward? Headteachers will only comment on the matter on April 16 when the government decides whether to extend the closure of schools or re-open them,” he said.

Sossion is against postponement of exams as well as the use of some schools as coronavirus isolation and treatment centres.

“We plead with the government to drop the option of using boarding school facilities in treating victims of Covid-19 due to post-corona stigma that would affect the management of schools,” said Sossion.

The Nominated MP warned that postponement of exams would likely force candidates to repeat classes and wait for longer before they sit final tests.

More on National