Recently, I listened mesmerised in a pew at PCEA St Andrew’s Church Youth Hall as President Kenyatta read the Riot Act to parents who help their children to cheat in national examinations. A schoolchild cannot afford Sh100,000 that is paid to exam fraudsters to facilitate cheating, he said.
I had difficulty suppressing that spontaneous Luyia lukalakala (ululation) in a mutaratara (orderly) gathering that is a PCEA congregation.
Then on Monday, Kenya National Examinations Council chairman George Magoha and Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed delivered what is being touted as the ‘cleanest’ Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam result in decades.
I am, therefore, emboldened to comment on the President’s resolve to stamp out exam cheating.
When Mr Kenyatta spoke, I might not have been the only one sceptical of how he would implement his threat of arresting parents whose children are caught buying exam scripts.
It was only after the exams took off with loud murmurs against a ‘militarised’ exam that it dawned on many that the President meant business about slaying the exam-cheating ogre.
The military means used to stem exam fraud appear to have worked. However, before we celebrate, some questions arise.
First, why has exam-cheating become a culture among us?
The premium laid on an exam-based education system as a ticket to a successful life has been raised many-a-time, yet it bears repeating.
Learners are made to believe that without a decent academic certificate, one has no future.
Yes and no! A good certificate will not necessarily earn one a decent job.
Indeed, many youth today are doing jobs that are totally different from what they studied and they are perfectly happy.
While KCPE cheats will most likely cheat their way to university and use other fraudulent means to get degrees, the crunch comes when they fail to impress prospective employers at interviews or on the job.
It all starts with parental pressure.
Children are psyched into viewing certain jobs as menial; they are pushed into careers that are well beyond their intellectual capacity, or which they simply do not like.
Many parents simply have no time for their children.
If they are not socialising with peers, they are ‘hustling’ — that word that has come into disrepute — to make ends meet.
And, when the same parents who were absent to their children discover that the children are not up to the mark, they resort to fraud to secure their children top grades.
How can an absentee parent instil values in the child?
Sadly, a parent who thinks he or she can buy their child’s way through the education system is already so steeped in corruption that there is nothing else to offer the child.
Exam cheating is the beginning of grand larceny, and all efforts at fighting corruption are going to amount to nil unless we start by telling our children that exam theft is not only wrong, but it does not pay.