The Grand Heist: How Kenya’s Examination Rankin System is creating Second Class Citizens

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By Kefa Mongare

December 22, 2017

This week, our country was treated to yet another fallacy in the colonial narrative of ranking students and schools by performance and aggregate marks scored. The archaic practice of  classifying schools and students and categorizing the “TOP” school in Kenya and the “LAST” school in Kenya based on average test result scores has come to create anguish to hard working parents and students.

Then we have the “TOP” Male Performer and the “TOP” Female Performer creating the false illusion that those students are better than their peers. My fellow Kenyans, let us examine a few salient facts that continue to inform the national educational  dialogue based on this asinine ranking system that should have been relegated to the trash heaps of yesteryear’s castoffs.

It loudly exposes our ignorance that 54 years after independence, we are still beholden to ideas that have contributed to some of the conflicts we experience today. Below are my thoughts about national ranking of schools and students based on the examination performance.

First, by ranking schools based on aggregate results from Top to Bottom, we are acknowledging the failures in our system of education. In a level playing field, we should NOT be putting students from Alliance or Maseno on an equal footing with kids from Nyachogochogo Secondary or Bureti High School where Science labs are ill-equipped, lack electricity and are not large enough to conduct intelligent inquiry into scientific phenomena. No criteria has been establishes to give credit to those schools that lack adequate learning facilities yet ALL students, regardless of educational resources at their disposal, are expected to compete on an even keel. Gimme a break! Of course, some of the best minds in our country across most disciplines are products of these mud walled – grass thatched leaking high school labs. For that we salute you all.

Second, ranking students and splashing their pictures in media should be treated as a violation of privacy. One’s educational achievement should be a private matter that should not be dragged into the national dialogue. Did Matiang’i get signed consents from these students; or their parents for that matter, since their age does not grant them contracting capacity? I beg to disagree with the Kenyan educational system that portrays the “TOP” scoring student as more studious than his/her counterpart who scored lower marks. There are subjects that have objective questions and we do not have a yardstick for measuring how well one scores in those questions.  Again, what message are we sending those peers who have been caught in the vortex that threatens their future? Is this, clearly, NOT the continuation of class warfare where some institutions of learning are made to feel superior to others? I posit here that some of those “TOP” scorers may end up faring worse when they join institutions of higher learning due to pressure of societal expectations and fear of failure. A survey ought to be done to determine the fate of these TOP students.

Third, the ranking system has recently skewed educational opportunities against certain geographic areas. Lately, the norm has been to select students from Jubilee leaning zones and admitting them to promising degree courses in some of the established universities. To the contrary, students from NASA leaning communities are being admitted to inferior universities to study substandard subjects that will never guarantee them employment once they graduate. Clearly, war against the NASA “Boy child” or “Girl child” (in Nyakundi’s words), is being waged from all fronts where they will never compete on an even playing field in their own country. NASARITES are seen as second class citizens who have no right to enjoy matunda ya uhuru. They have raped and plundered the brains and souls of NASA kids and now even “TOP” performing schools like Cardinal Otunga, St Mary’s Yala and belatedly, Maranda do NOT feature among the “TOP” schools in our country. They give us the illusion that we are sending students who are ill-prepared to continue established traditions in those schools. This is wrong, it is discriminatory and a violation of basic human rights.

I will beg to stop here beseeching my people that we need to continue pushing for inclusion at the table where national resources are being divide and we deserve our share based on merit and not hand-outs.

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