Saturday, March 05, 2005

Who are the Real Academic Swindlers in Kenya?

Onyango Gives a FAILING GRADE to the TRIBAL BASHING Of the Abagusii

I say:


Enough of the yakety yak yakety yak yakety yak yakety yakety yak yakety yak online tribal festival of rabid scorn showered on millions of Kenyans whose only crime it appears, is to be members of the Abagusii ethnic group hailing from the

Kisii and Nyamira districts of Nyanza Province in the western part of this east African country.

I say:


ENOUGH of the sadistic stompfest of a hypocritical racket against millions of Kenyan youth whose only crime was to dutifully and punctually show up in exam rooms across the country and sit for those cut throat competitive exams which consigns the bulk of these students eventually at the bottom of the elitist academic pyramid.

Let us GET REAL.

Exam cheating is a GLOBAL phenomenon.

I work for a small social justice group based here at

McGill University in Montreal. Is cheating a problem at this august institution, often called "Harvard of the North" by some of its exuberant devotees and boosters?

You bet.

Check this out.

The issue is serious enough to have propelled McGill professors to direct their students to submit their essays to a special anti-plagiarism site called which in turn, spurred a protracted court battle by a McGill undergraduate

who refused to comply with that class room stricture.

Then there is this study titled "Academic Integrity: State of Affairs" published by the University of Manitoba on February 6, 2004 that had some interesting key findings for those who care to click open the PDF document.

And this website gives you frank opinions on cheating from posters in China, Brazil, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, Taiwan,USA, Canada and elsewhere.

Personally I think that all the students who had their exams cancelled should be allowed to sit for fresh closely supervised exams as the entire nation examines its conscience HONESTLY about the history, depth and nature of exam cheating in Kenya.

The bigger question is not even IF they students cheated or HOW. Those questions are, in my opinion IRRELEVANT.

The bigger question is WHY students, their parents, their teachers and schools feel compelled to cheat in the first place.

There is a simple answer to this.

Students cheat to pass their exams with good marks because this is a very good thing to do. Living in Canada I happen to know that perhaps more than half of the Kenyan students who are considered to have "failed" their exams will compete very favourably against the North American counterparts if they ever made it these shores.

Indeed one Kenyan woman living in the West candidly made a similar point using HERSELF as an example in this HONEST blast of fresh air contributed at the Mashada forum.

Why is it a good thing to pass exams in Kenya with very high marks?

Because there are too many bright students competing for limited slots in the next upper rung sliding to the apex of the educational pyramid. With rampant poverty in most of rural Kenya(where the bulk of the population subsists) education is often the ONLY WAY out in the minds of pupils, students and their parents from a desolate life time of privation and penury. We know that Kenyan youth and their parents will do almost ANYTHING to make sure they pass their exams well- from swotting for twenty-eight hours every day to visiting a mganga for some ndumba na hirizi to giving up pumpum to the Maths teacher in return for some extra special private lessons to forking out money from the sale of the sole surviving family goat to purchase a dubious document purporting to be the hush "leakage" which is the key to straight As. Back in the day I used to chuckle when I heard that this or that dimwitted student got a leakage of a paper that they would need another year of tuition on to comprehend, leave alone memorize- and then maskini they found to their cost that they had been duped by a wily mgongaji preying on their thirst for higher education.

Poor Kenyan students and their conniving parents and teachers cheat because they naively imagine that this will somehow level the playing field that is stacked by class privilege, an antiquated cut throat elitist educational system of social apartheid and a neocolonial economy that produces Masters graduates who have no better jobs waiting for them other than security guards and makangas of matatus.

If we want to talk about REAL cheating in Kenyan national examinations, let us first confront the UNFAIR advantages that go to the posh shules where the children of the Kenyan rich go to. How do the facilities say at Nairobi School compare to the dilapidated Luanda Dudi Harambee Secondary School in my village that used to be run by Mr Okwaro, one of Martin Shikuku's chief lieutenants in Kisa Location of the old Butere constituency? Old Mombasa hands can recall the ruins that impersonated the so called Makupa High along Jomo Kenyatta Avenue and how it stood in sharp contrast to Alidina Visram which was a venerated national school.

For my "A" Levels I went to the very elitist HH Aga Khan Kenya Secondary School- now part of the swank

Aga Khan Academy and I am NOT exaggerating when I report that I was perhaps among the TEN POOREST students in this school that was stacked with the scions of the upper middle class South Asian, Arab, Swahili and other indigenous Kenyan big shots in Mombasa. KENSEC, as it was known, rivalled Alidina Visram and Shimo la Tewa in terms of top academic grades. Many of the students there did not even bother to sit for the old EACE, but rather for the London GCE because so many of my schoolmates saw themselves emigrating to the UK and Canada right after high school and they did. My only asset was that I was among the top three in all the subjects I took- General Paper, History, Economics and Literature. I remember with bitterness an incident that happened at the end of Form Five. It was customary then to award a prize to the student who topped the class in each of the A level subjects. I was the top student for both the Science and Arts stream when it came to General Paper and was also top when it came to Literature as well as History. It was only in Economics that there was a see-saw battle between myself, Chetna(I forget her last name now) and Hiten Shah. Well, I was determined to beat them that year and I did. I do not know about other schools but at KENSEC we all complained at how mkono birika and economical with the marks Mr. DeSouza, our Economics teacher was. So if you got any mark higher than a 60% you actually celebrated. Well that term I got 72%, Chetna was second with 67% and Hiten(who had beaten both of us in the previous term) with 65%. I had always been a good sport when I came in at number 2 or 3 and that is why I was SHOCKED when both Chetna and Hiten decided to boycott those results and protest very loudly to the teacher. Now, I am not accusing them of racism- but it was a fact that among the three Black Africans in the class (a Ugandan named Opiyo and a Kenyan named Ochieng) I was the one they sweated bullets over. I expected Mr. DeSouza to stick to his guns and uphold the results. Instead, MY MARK was reduced to 63% while the other two retained their previous marks- only this time THEY ACCEPTED the teacher's verdict triumphantly! Still, I consoled myself by saying that I was still going to walk home with three prizes in GP, Lit. and History. But a shock was waiting to ambush me around the corner. My Literature teacher, Mrs. Lewis, a kindly Christian from South India announced that even though it was beyond dispute that I was the top Literature student that term, she was awarding the prize to the runner up, Fatima, a very bright Ismaili student because "It Just Was NOT FAIR" that "David" as I was then known, should be on top all the time. Let us just say that it was a major anti-climax when I stepped forward to glumly accept the GP and History prizes. I was upset because my competitive zeal was very much CLASS (as opposed to RACE, you prejudiced jaundiced minds out there) based. Here I was, a very ordinary Kenyan youth from a very ordinary Kenyan family pitting my brains against very bright students from the crust of Mombasa society- kids who had private tutors, who had access to extra text books and yes, students who occasionally got "leakages" from teachers THEY HAD BRIBED to help them along. I used to still come out on top despite all that. So to be ROBBED of those two prizes hurt me particularly. Anyways, at the end of the day we all did well in the only exams that mattered-the EACE "A" levels. All three of us were among a slew from KENSEC who were admitted to Nairobi University in 1981-even though it was only Hiten and myself who bothered to show up-the rest ended up in overseas campuses in Europe and North America-including at least six who I know for sure FAILED to make the Kenyan grade but had no problems earning admission at institutions like York University in Toronto-I could name names but what is the use?

The moral of the above anecdote is that cheating in exams in our country is SYSTEMIC.

Sometimes, if your school produces some of the national examiners, then you are technically cheating as a school already; if your school is a rich school, then your school is cheating already because you are enjoying unfair advantages compared to some of the poor urban and rural schools that are not enjoying the same amenities; if President Moi or Mwai is part of your school's board of directors- or if either of them is fucking your headmistress or your head girl secretly, then you may already be cheating indirectly. By the way, hands up any Kenyan woman reading this who owns up to have allowed, even hata kama it was mara one tu jamani, if she kubalid for her tiny teeny punani to be stroked by our ever so HORNY second Kenyan President (who was recently outed for dinyaring that tell all frisky mzungu lady) when said Kenyan woman was still wearing a secondary school uniform in the late seventies, throughout the eighties and nineties or the first three years of this twenty first century. Come on: Pasua Mayai other words, Toboa...Tell the UKWELI and SHAME the Shetani is what Oloo says...

What is happening in Kisii land is the educational equivalent of racial profiling in America. A persistent national myth has mushroomed around this legend of Kisiis as the nation's chief academic swindlers- consequently their schools will be targeted when there are allegations of cheating. How many investigations are carried out at

both Alliance schools,

Kenya High

Limuru Girls,


Moi Forces

Starehe Boys

St. Patrick's Iten
Alidina, Shimo la Tewa,


Menengai, Matuga Girls,


Nairobi School,

Loreto Msongari

Precious Blood,

Rift Valley Academy

St. Mary's Yala


other top schools? Is every single result in those schools kosher and halal?

Beating up on Kisii High for even verifiable cases of academic fraud WILL NOT SOLVE the larger problem which is the ROT in the Kenyan educational system.

Let us ask ourselves some cogent questions:

Who is going to stop the Kenyan Government from CHEATING millions of Kenyan students that "someni vijana/na mfanye bidii/kwa sababu/mwisho wa kusoma/mtapata kazi/nzuri sana"?

We know that thousands of Kenyan pupils and students FAIL to proceed with their education even after

SUCCEEDING very well in their final exams. Why is this the case and what can Kenyans do to resolve this?


Are our educational policies in tandem with our economic, social, cultural and technological priorities?

Do we have the infrastructure to take advantage of the best and the brightest?

And if we do, how come we are whining about the Brain Drain?

I have many questions.

Today Onyango Oloo REFUSES to be examined for a SINGLE ANSWER.

Kwani, mutanichapa viboko?

Ala! Huko huko!!

Onyango Oloo

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