Wajir — Education officials in Kenya's North Eastern Province say they are surprised by the region's poor performance on the 2012 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams.
"Parents, teachers, staff, leaders and students had done their all and had high hopes that they would do well unlike the previous years," Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) Treasurer Ibrahim Boya told Sabahi.
"When the results were released on January 28th, the region's counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera were ranked bottom among the 47 counties in the country," he said. "We felt all our efforts went down the drain."
Mandera County was ranked last in the country with an average score of 182 out of a possible 500. Kirinyaga County in Central Province topped the nation with an average score of 273.
Boya, who is also the head teacher at Furaha Primary school in Wajir, said local education officials expected the province's counties to be ranked among the top performing counties.
Poor performance discouraging
Kenyan students are required to take the KCPE exam at the end of eighth grade and they must receive a score of at least 200 to proceed to secondary school.
Mohammed Hashim Abdi, whose son sat for last year's exam at Sala Primary school in Mandera, said he felt the eight years his son spent studying were a waste of time. The school was ranked last with an average of 120.
"My son got 102 marks out of 500 and there is no way any secondary school will accept him," he told Sabahi. "What pains me is that the government officials in my village convinced me to take the child to school to educate him instead of looking after the family's goats."
Such results will discourage many nomadic parents who have to make great sacrifices to send their children to school, he said.
Garissa County Education Officer Adan Sheikh Abdullahi told Sabahi that many factors may have contributed to the province's poor performance, including a lack of teachers, a poor learning environment and insecurity.
Abdullahi said education stakeholders in Garissa have reviewed the performance and agreed to collectively take responsibility for the situation.
"We hope with the new county governments that will take effect after the March 4th general elections, nothing should be spared to ensure that the region competes effectively with the rest of the country," he said.
The new government can directly hire its own teachers and improve learning facilities without relying on the central government to do the task, he said.
"We have situations where schools with a population of more than 600 students have three teachers," he said. "The same teachers are forced to fill in and teach subjects they did not specialise in just to help."
A challenge to improve education standards
Despite the dissatisfaction, residents will not file complaints to the Kenya National Examination Council or demand a remark of exam papers, Boya said. Instead, teachers, parents, education officials and government authorities will take the results as a challenge to improve the education standards in the province.
KEPSHA has embarked on capacity building training for teachers, particularly on curriculum delivery, he said.
"We realised that some schools do not complete their curriculum and we will also look for ways to improve teaching methods so that teachers and students enjoy [their experience]," he said.
KEPSHA is soliciting funds from aid organisations and Kenya's Constituencies Development Fund to conduct the training during the upcoming month-long school break in April, Boya said. The training is a pilot programme that will begin in Wajir county and later be implemented throughout the region.
Mohamud Abdi Mohammed, a candidate for the Wajir county governor's seat, told Sabahi that to effectively improve education in the region, the local government will have to address underlying issues that impact a family's ability to send children to school.
"We will need to build more boarding facilities to accommodate students whose families have to move with their livestock," he said. "We will also seek to address the food insecurity and water scarcity that will ensure the pattern of learning is not disrupted."