By: SAMUEL KARANJA
Fourteen teachers, 79 students and two police officers have been arrested for allegedly leaking the ongoing KCSE examinations.
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi Tuesday said some of those arrested in the crackdown against cheating have been charged with various offences related to examination malpractices.
When Prof Kaimenyi appeared before the parliamentary Education Committee on Tuesday, he defended his ministry from accusations that it had failed to stem exam cheating.
He accused unscrupulous police officers of opening examination papers and taking photographs of the questions using mobile phones, which are then used to send questions to candidates and their parents through WhatsApp.
“One parent has also been arrested for sending questions to his son,” said Prof Kaimenyi, who defended the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) from accusations that it had failed in its mandate.
Ms Sabina Chege, the chairman of the House committee on education, had on Monday blamed the police for the massive leaking of the national examinations.
However, police spokesman Charles Owino denied the accusations.
On Tuesday, Prof Kaimenyi told the committee that the ministry was doing its best to tame any attempted fraud in the examinations.
“Any invigilator who will be found colluding will be punished,” he told the MPs. “Parents and everybody else should also know that it is criminal to engage in such an activity.”
He also blamed the media, which he accused of “exaggerating” the cheating scandal.
Kibra MP Ken Okoth wondered why the ministry or the examination council could not provide any documents to the committee detailing the punishment meted against those involved in cheating in the past.
“The minister did appear before this committee sometime back and assured us that they were capable of handling this examination process. They have failed,” said the MP.
He also demanded that invigilators who have aided students to cheat in the past should be struck off the Teachers Service Commission register.
He also asked the examination council to consider hiring private security firms to carry examination papers.
According to him, with the Sh4 billion given to the examination council, there was no sufficient reason why Knec should fail to stop the cheating.
Ms Chege wondered why Knec had not asked for help from the cybercrime unit, seeing as the leaked exam questions were being shared through social media.
“I want to know the extent to which you have gone to establish the source of the WhatsApp messages,” she said while ordering the exam council to present a detailed report on the alleged cheating in two days.
A Knec official, Ms Catherine Maina, who also appeared before the committee, defended the institution, saying it had done its best to curb cheating.
She said the packaging of the examination is usually done by a team of at least 10 people, while students are among the witnesses when the question papers are unsealed at various examination centres.
Meanwhile, an opposition MP has filed a Motion seeking to disband Knec.
Mbooni MP Kisoi Munyao said the council had failed in its mandate and that exams irregularities have been increasing by the year.
He now wants the current team sent home and a new one appointed.
“It’s very clear that Knec has failed Kenyans quiet terribly and we have moved a Motion and the National Assembly, now for the first time, is going to pronounce itself on this matter of gross incompetence by officers entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the set standards of examination,” he told journalists.
The MP, a member of the Education committee, said it was time those responsible for managing examinations took responsibility for rampant cases of exam cheating.
“If Knec has completely failed, we will seek alternative measures within the law,” he said.
The Motion is, however, yet to be approved for debate although it is already in the Speaker’s office. Should it be approved, it could be debated Thursday.
Knec was created under an Act of Parliament and if the Motion sails through, MPs will have to repeal the Act for the board to be disbanded.
“We want a new Knec instituted with serious Kenyans managing it. They must give us credible examinations for the sake of the future of the children,” said Mr Munyao.