The Ministry of Education has dismissed as cheap and diversionary, claims that the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) had settled on hazardous chemicals for the Chemistry practicals’ tests in the ongoing Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams.
The Education Principal Secretary (PS), Dr. Belio Kipsang said Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) always draws up clear measures to ensure the health of the teachers and the candidates is not threatened.
Speaking in Nakuru when he witnessed the opening of examination containers at the County Commissioner’s grounds on Monday , Dr. Kipsang said it was unethical for stakeholders in the education sector to discuss an examination that was ongoing, and warned that such behaviour amounted to ‘interference’ with the exercise where one could be held criminally liable.
“The Ministry has held consultations with Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KSSHA) and Chemistry teachers in all 10,200 examination centers. We have not documented any instances where the chemicals used have led to health complications.
All chemicals used in schools during lessons and national examinations are subjected to very rigorous checks and analyses to ensure that they are safe to humans and at the same time environmentally friendly. Further, all the chemicals and reagents used in the examinations are not new to both teachers and candidates as they have been using them in practical lessons for years,” said Dr. Kipsang.
He said the misleading claims were being sponsored by individuals intent on diverting the government’s focus to deliver credible examinations and that those spreading what he termed as ‘false and alarming’ reports would be held personally liable
Last Friday, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) Taita Taveta Branch Executive Secretary, Shedrack Mutungi, had claimed that the choice of Xylene and Bromine over other equivalents, which are less toxic, has led to health complaints from the science teachers, supervisors, invigilators and candidates.
He said the teachers’ union had received several complaints of depression of the central nervous system with symptoms such as acute headache and Organic Solvent Syndrome.
Mutungi claimed some students and supervisors had shown signs of dizziness, nausea, extreme tiredness, vomiting among other ailments.
The Chemistry Practical Paper 3 examinations were administered last Friday.
Dr. Kipsang expressed concern that incidences of exam malpractices were going up in private examination centers and private schools and that a new frame work will be put in place to govern administration of KCPE and KCSE in these centers.
“We have handed over to Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe cases of impersonation in some private centers. At least 11 suspects are in custody over the same in Kisii.
In Nairobi 26 people were arrested at a private examination center and 35 mobile phones confiscated,” said Dr Kipsang.
The PS revealed that most private schools could not carry out practical examinations properly as they lacked adequate equipment.
He called on such institutions to prepare early and ensure that they do not compromise the quality of the examinations.
Dr. Kipsang said such schools had an option of turning to School Equipment Production Unit (SEPU), which could easily equip the institutions with mobile laboratories during learning sessions and national examinations period.
He however, assured that credibility of the examinations will not be affected as the government had put in place a system that will detect anomalies right from distributing the examinations, writing the papers and marking the scripts.
“The Ministry of Interior and other partners have gone out of their way to ensure that the examinations were successfully administered. Combined contingents of security personnel and school heads have done a very commendable job. The Ministry is very upbeat that KCSE results will be highly credible,” noted Dr. Kipsang.
By Anne Mwale