Poor performance haunts academic giant, management to blame

Monday, May 10th, 2021 00:00 |
Education CS Prof George Magoha.

Kakamega School was last week in the news for all the wrong reasons after a leaked academic report for continuing students revealed almost half the pre-candidate Form Three class scored the basement grade E that is consistent with ebbing academic fortunes.

The end of last term results uploaded into the Form Three class parents WhatsApp group and then pulled down by the administrator shortly after parents complained showed 182 out of the 476 Form Three students scored Es as mean grade in the internal assessment exams.

Last week, local publications reported about the mass failures at the school attracting the school principal Gerald Orina, who dismissed the report as malicious and allegedly intended to instigate his removal for standing against the ‘Green Commandos’.

For a school that has earned an enviable name as centre of academic excellence and talent centre, the Form Three report card stoked fears of imminent ‘death’ of the last pillar remaining in the school after the death of the Green Commandos-the school soccer team, the rugby team, drama and performing arts two years ago.  

Scholar sought to establish whether the E grade had become regular in the school rank and file.

A scrutiny of the analysed exam report shows the Form Two class was not spared the vagaries of that end of second term exam.

There were 27 students scoring Es and more than half (270) of the 514 students scoring Es in the English subject.

For the Form Three parents, the agony is that they’ve less than one year to address the gaps and bridge the gulf between the Es and As in key subjects -English, Kiswahili, Maths, Biology and Chemistry treated as compulsory at Kenya Certificate of Secndary Education (KCSE).  

The class had a cumulative 112 As in the five subjects against 477 Es. A total of 194 boys scored Es in Chemistry, 138 Es in Biology and 102 Es in Maths.

A-(minus) was the top grade in English with two students against 6 Es while Kiswahili had 18 As against 37 Es.

 A defiant Orina confirmed the low grades, but blamed it on the nine-month Covid-19 holiday that crippled education activities, laxity among students, a rigid exam grading system adopted by the school and the quality of internal examinations administered in the school.

“What is the big deal? This is just an internal test. In fact, the quality of our exams and grading system is so high above the KCSE grading system that an E grade here is the equivalent of B+ (plus) in KCSE,” Orina responded when reached for comment by this reporter.

“We encourage the students to push them to work hard. The grades have no bearing on the KCSE results.

In fact, this school has improved since I arrived here. And if anyone is in doubt, let them wait for KCSE results,” he added.

Some parents who spoke to Scholar on condition of concealed identity disagreed with the principal’s assurance insisting the Es are a precursor to a big fall. 

They argue that for a school of a national stature that admits students whose Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE)  entry behaviour is A-(minus), to drop to Es is no mean fall.

“In just two years, since the school head teacher’s arrival to this school, the soccer, rugby and drama performances have taken a knock. Now its academics-the Es are a warning,” one parent grieved.

Scholar conducted multiple covert interviews with sections of students, teachers and the subordinate staff to establish whether political interference as suggested by the principal exists, a year after Kakamega county senator Cleophas Malala raised a red flag over the imminent fall of the school. 

“This school is so big, but the administration is not up to the task. We are not preparing students as we should.

The headteacher believes if you keep pumping academic content in the student’s head the results would come, but that’s not true,” one teacher claimed.

He said the students are forced to operate under a rigid pro-academic timetable after games hours were reduced and weekend entertainment scrapped off.

The result is that students have no time to revise what they were taught as every moment, it is either teaching or exam time.

A Form Four student, who is currently awaiting his KCSE results complained of a high turnover of teachers at the school.

“No sooner had we settled down with a certain subject teacher, than a replacement had been brought. These disruptions compromised our preparations,” he said.

Pandemic impaired activities  

Another teacher claimed more teachers were seeking for transfers due to hostility of the administration.

“Yes, we are doing many exams, but there are no scheduled meetings to review the exams performance and progress,” he said.

 The school Parent’s Association chairman Alfred Ongaya Ambundo claimed no parent has channelled a complaint to him on the issue.

Asked about the last time the Board of Management (BoM) met to review students academic progress, Ambundo claimed Covid-19 pandemic had impaired the association’s activities.

“We need an honest discussion as parents. We’ve not had meetings as parents for a long time. These WhatsApp forums are just talk shops,” he said. 

The school Board of Management (BoM) are allowed four meetings a year, but can convene to discuss serious matters.

Asked whether the dismall grades had come to the board’s attention, the school BoM chairman Prof Igara Kabaji said they would meet in two weeks.

“I cannot respond on the issue because the day to day operations are done by the principal and his team and we don’t have that report.

Give us two weeks and we will respond appropriately” he said on phone.

 Prof Kabaji said the termly evaluation test results though not applied in the final KCSE results are an important yardstick to gauge student academic progression.

“But as an educationist, I can tell you the Es are partly a product of the long period students were kept away from school as a result of Covid-19,” he said. 

Kakamega central sub-county director of education Mwangi Kabora, who is also executive member at the school BoM and the Kakamega county Teachers’ Service Commission director John Nzioki, key quality assurance and standards officers claimed they are unaware of poor performance.

The school emerged top in Kakamega in the 2019 KCSE with a performance index of 7.6.

More on News