KCSE 2019 & Kenyan education: A farcical tragedy
Catherine Iminza. Victor Kiptoo Ng’eno. Remember these names.
Every day, this government and its agencies do something that seem to reinforce the ever-growing feeling that to them, we — the kawaida Kenyans simply trying to eke out a better life for ourselves — are the enemy.
Let’s dial it back a bit.
Chemistry Paper 3 was administered last Friday. Almost immediately, an alarm was sounded: Students, teachers, invigilators were reported to be falling ill as the exam was being taken.
Heads up: It only gets more infuriating from here.
“Ms Cherusha Nyakeri, a teacher at St Monica Girls Kitale in Trans-Nzoia County, who is expectant, had to be rushed to Galilee Hospital after developing complications following exposure to the chemical.” — Daily Nation, 12.11.19.
“…students and supervisors had shown signs of dizziness, nausea, extreme tiredness, vomiting among other ailments.” — The Star, 11.11.19.
“Another teacher who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation said he had been sickly since Friday. ‘I was in the room with the students for two hours and when the students heated the chemical, it produced huge flames and fumes and since then, I have been feeling sick and dizzy.’” — Daily Nation, 12.11.19.
“An asthmatic candidate in Mbeere South Sub-county, Embu County, was said to have suffered attacks after inhaling the fumes produced after heating the chemical.” — Daily Nation, 12.11.19.
“A student had to be rushed to hospital after the gas exploded on her face.” — Soko Directory, 12.11.19.
And in all this, I hear you ask, how does our government respond?
“Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on Monday dismissed the claims as baseless noting the complaint arose from those who sought to take advantage and cheat in the exam.” — The Star, 11.11.19.
I’d like us to take a moment to think about that.
Is more concerned about exam cheating.
Than they are about the possible poisoning of children.
Think about it.
Did you hear about the explosion in a Chemistry exam room? This very KCSE 2019? No?
“I started the examinations well. In fact, I did three questions before the chemical exploded on my face. I had to struggle throughout the examination,’ said Otieno said from his bed at Kombewa sub-county hospital, from where he is doing the remaining papers.” — Daily Nation, 12.11.19.
There are two things sickeningly wrong with this picture.
First: That a student. Was forced to finish an exam. Whilst injured.
Have you ever suffered a burn? Do you remember how ridiculously painful it was, and how everything in your mind stopped for a while as you tended to the burn?
Now imagine you face burnt. AND having to continue your exam.
Second: HE’S DOING EXAMS FROM A HOSPITAL BED AT THIS PRESENT TIME.
People are exempted from work when they’re admitted to hospital. Yet we don’t have the decency to allow students, to allow children, to recover before we subject them to exams.
And no, he wasn’t the only one who was to do exams in a hospital bed.
“Catherine Iminza, 19, of Lwanda Lugari Secondary School, was admitted at the Lumakanda subcounty hospital on Thursday afternoon in labour pains as she prepared to sit her Kiswahili paper. She missed the exam…She was retained in hospital where all arrangements were made for her to sit her Chemistry practical paper on Friday.” — The Star, 10.11.19.
If you thought for a moment that that’s the most horrifying part of this story, well, no. No, it’s not.
“Her condition deteriorated on Friday evening and she passed on leaving behind the baby who is still at the hospital.”
She died, as plans were being made to make her sit her exams.
After a C-section.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Meanwhile, what’s the government working hard on?
“In Nairobi here, it is the chief who was bold enough to recover the phones from between the legs of the learners…I want to thank her and assured her that I will intercede on her behalf so that she can be considered for promotion with the president’s permission.”
The profound words of Professor George Albert Omore Magoha, Cabinet Secretary for Education, as reported by tuko.co.ke.
“We have deployed extra security officers in this examination center to ensure there is zero exam malpractices.” — Prof. Magoha, as reported by capitalfm.co.ke.
Is there more? Of course there’s more.
“The police also arrested 26 people among them candidates at St Teresa’s Primary School in Eastleigh… Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang and Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) acting chief executive officer Dr Mercy Karogo were holed up in a crisis meeting at the institution after the arrest.” — Daily Nation, 06.11.19.
Surely, what’s the priority here?
What you’re about to read is summarised from an article as reported on tuko.co.ke.
Victor Kiptoo Ng’eno is said to have fallen ill on the evening of Friday, November 8, after finalising his Chemistry practicals. According to his father, David Ng’eno, Victor complained of fatigue and nausea when he returned home at around 4 pm. He also confirmed his son had been diagnosed with pneumonia in September.
Said his father:
“He told me he was generally weak and I asked him to take ascoril drugs which I bought him earlier on because he had few signs of pneumonia. He did not enjoy his supper and vomited thereafter.”
Though he vomited later after supper, he continued taking the drugs but his condition did not change throughout the entire week until Monday, November 11, when he took his last breath.
Xylene inhalation, according to the CDC, affects the body in horrific ways.
“Generally, symptoms of CNS toxicity are apparent immediately after inhalation of high xylene concentrations… Effects of mild CNS depression include headache, lightheadedness, dizziness, confusion, nausea, impaired gait, and blurred vision. More severe effects include tremors, rapid respiration, paralysis, loss of consciousness, coma, and death.” (atsdr.cdc.gov)
The site continues:
“Acute exposure to xylene vapor may irritate the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. With massive exposure, accumulation of fluid in the lungs and respiratory arrest may ensue. Pulmonary aspiration of toxic vomitus or ingested liquid xylene may cause inflammation of the lungs.”
And one more little addition, based on the same reading: Exposure can lead to Reactive Airway Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS), a chemically- or irritant-induced type of asthma.
Any of this sound familiar?
In all this, the Cabinet Secretary for Education is seemingly dismissive of any concerns and reports having been reported as stating that more dangerous chemicals had been used before.
Notice how the phrasing implicitly acknowledges that the chemicals in question are indeed poisonous.
“Why the fuss?” they seem to be saying, “There are worse poisons out there anyway.”
Give that a moment to sink in.
It’s indicated that the switch to xylene was a last-minute change as a result of alleged shortages of the originally intended chemical.
Here’s a question: Did the KCSE exams catch the government by surprise? Did they not know that the exams — which, by the way, are held at the same time every year — were coming up? Did they have no time to prepare for it?
Catherine Iminza. Victor Kiptoo Ng’eno.
Remember these names. Lives abruptly cut short, ostensibly for the simple crime of sitting an exam.
The Education Principal Secretary Dr. Belio Kipsang, while supervising the distribution of KCSE examination papers in Naivasha, said there was no such thing as a poisonous chemical affecting candidates and/or invigilators and supervisors.
He added that on Friday, when students were sitting their practical exams, he visited schools but no one raised an issue.
What could possibly lead to such silence, one would wonder.
Maybe because between being treated like suspected criminals, frisked before exams, and the looming figures of armed policemen hovering, with you lording your power over them, any reasonable student would be terrified of claiming that something felt terribly, terribly wrong.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s why no one raised an issue.
Teachers slam Knec over poisonous chemicals used during KCSE practicals — http://bit.ly/33OwOSc
Government says KCSE chemistry exam chemicals safe — http://bit.ly/32Kf09F
KCSE candidate dies after sitting Chemistry practical exam — http://bit.ly/2NK7mI9
KCSE Candidate Burnt as Chemical Explodes in Lab — http://bit.ly/2NLtX7h
KCSE 2019: 26 arrested in Nairobi over exam malpractice — http://bit.ly/2qRyL1A
CS Magoha to push for promotion of chief who retrieved phone from KCSE candidates’ thighs — http://bit.ly/2phTJqf
Lugari KCSE candidate dies after Caesarian delivery — http://bit.ly/34WGbiY
Poisonous Gas Claims Mere Rumours, Says Education Ministry — http://bit.ly/2XaXPgl
CS Magoha says additional security deployed in Kisii after impersonation incident in ongoing KCSE — http://bit.ly/2QePGWI
Toxic Substances Portal: Xylenes — http://bit.ly/2NO43jf