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MOKUA: Massive student failure in 2018 KCSE exam signals system crisis

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By ELIAS MOKUA
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Assume a farmer plants maize in a 10-acre piece of land for five successive years. The farmer expects 100 sacks of the grain at harvest time but the piece of land yields 25 sacks. Now, if the farmer laments and continues to plant in the same piece of land expecting the same results, what sense of judgement propels such a person?

Out of the slightly over 600,000 students who sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination this year, less than 15 percent qualify for direct entry to university.

A whole 75 percent will have to find alternative education to shape their future. This is just one way of reading the basic result figures.

More students — 30,840 of them — only managed a grade E (a flat failure) than those who scored a combined A, A-, B+ and B, who total 28,403. What is the conclusion here? One in every two students between the best five percent performers and lowest similar segment is, suggestively, daft!

More than half of the candidates (313,057 to be precise) scored a D or D-. Again, the conclusion is the same as performances in the extreme ends of a continuum. One in every two candidates is, looking at the statistics, ‘daft’.

The permutations from the stats generate chilling feelings about the realities in our education system. First, failure of students does not bother the main education stakeholders.

If more than half the students perform so poorly year in, year out and life goes on without stopping to reflect on what that outcome means to the affected children, it is difficult to convince any critical mind the stakeholders have the interest of children at heart.

Secondly, is it really possible that about 350,000 students who did the exams are, in fact, ‘daft’, only managing either a D, D- or E as the figures suggest?

The results from the stats before us defy even the questionable bell curve in grading, in which most students should have been in the C bracket in these results.

Arguably, the huge low performance is seemingly primarily attributable to the students, who must, henceforth, carry the consequence of their failure.

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If so, then, we land into the troublesome conclusion that about half of our children in Kenya are, indeed, daft. Strange if we were to buy this argument.

Thirdly, for a student to perform well, it takes the community and the conditions in the community, the school teaching team and the conditions therein and a motivated student.

While cheating may have ballooned positive results in the past, it is difficult to see how the practice would have contributed to the past and, especially, current massive failure.

The more compelling explanation must surely be found elsewhere.

Fourth, it won’t make sense to produce results in which students who pass are more than the university slots. The situation is regrettable. We have more universities than we have students seeking admission.

The paradox is that we do have the children for the universities but they are poorly prepared to undertake exams so they can(not) proceed to university.

Lastly, the bitter truth is that one possible major contributing factor to the mass failure is that teachers are reluctant to commit to teaching because of the poor conditions they have unsuccessfully petitioned the government to improve over the past two decades.

This is clear from the figures provided. More and more private schools perform better than public ones.

Even as we rightfully celebrate the little stars and giant schools who performed brilliantly in the exam, it is important to deeply interrogate the stats. Half the students in a country cannot fail exams and we simply empathise with them; that is absolute irresponsibility, particularly on the part of the government.

Let us face it: The teachers-government antagonism over the past two decades is a significant contributor to such a high number of student failures. Students should not bear the entire burden of failure alone.

To improve student learning towards university education, the government should start by motivating teachers but go beyond that to improve conditions of learning in poorly performing schools.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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