The start of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination practicals on Monday will once again put to the test the government's efforts to curb the scourge of cheating in national examinations, which has been creeping back.
Both secondary and primary schools will close this week to pave the way for candidates to start the examinations.
Despite the tough measures introduced by the government in 2016, last year recorded the highest number of examination malpractices, with the results of 3,427 KCSE candidates from 44 centres in 16 counties being cancelled, compared with 1,205 in 2017.
Billions of shillings have been pumped into security and invigilation of examinations that will last a month.
Tomorrow, the candidates will take French (Oral and Braille), German (Oral), Arabic (Oral), building construction, home science planning and Kenyan Sign Language.
Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) rehearsals are set for October 28 while the examinations will run from October 29 to 31. The main KCSE examinations will start on November 4 and end on November 27.
The Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) has issued tough guidelines to officials who will be involved in administering the examinations.
Some 400 monitors deployed across the country will have unfettered access to the examination centres, upon presentation of their identification badges.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has also warned that stern action will be taken against those involved in examination cheating.
Among counties that have been flagged are possible cheating hotspots are Machakos, Meru, Isiolo, Turkana, West Pokot, Kericho, Narok, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Bungoma, Kisumu, Kisii, Homa Bay, Migori, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera.
Now, the government's headache is how to deal with some centre managers, supervisors and invigilators who, though thoroughly vetted and entrusted with the exams, go out to help the candidates to cheat.
Last year, some teachers accessed examination materials, worked out the answers and shared them out to the candidates.
Knec acting Chief Executive Officer Mercy Karogo has assured the country that all is set for the examinations to kick off and advised candidates to focus on preparation and not to be tempted to engage in irregularities.
"We cannot allow our country to go back to where we were before measures were put in place by the government in 2016, which ensured sanity in our education system," Dr Karogo said.
Police Inspector-General Hillary Mutyambai has also assured the country that the National Police Service has the capacity to adequately address security challenges and ensure the rule of law.
"It is our responsibility to ensure that law and order is maintained in order to have a safe, secure and peaceful environment for the success of the examinations," Mr Mutyambai said.
This year, Knec will use 479 containers for KCPE and 470 for KCSE across the 338 sub-counties. A total of 1,088,986 candidates will sit KCPE and 699,745 KCSE.
Knec has directed monitors to be present at the storage facilities to ensure the issuing of examination materials to centre managers is done strictly by education officers manning the facilities.
"The monitors should ensure availability and adequate security officers manning the containers and accompanying the managers to their respective centres," say the guidelines issued on Saturday.
The council has also asked the police to be extra vigilant, noting that some malpractices in 2018 arose as a result of examination materials being sneaked out of examination centres and then being returned to the candidates with answers.
Sub-county police commanders will be in charge of the examination security in their respective regions.
"The officers should remain on high alert between the time examination materials are distributed to the centre managers until the time the examination commences and in between sessions," Dr Karogo said.
In cases of cheating, the monitors will be required to alert supervisors and demand detailed reports as well as statements from the centre managers, supervisors, invigilators and candidates.
"The monitor will prepare a detailed and duly signed report on the malpractice and report the case to Knec," the Knec guidelines say.
The exams body warns security officers against going on duty drunk or under the influence of any other drug.
"They should be able to provide security for all examination materials, examination centres and keep an eye on all the spare question papers, which have previously been used by some teachers and workers to facilitate cheating. They should not allow strange people in examination centres. They should use their intelligence to curb any malpractice before they occur," the guidelines say.