Kenyan celebrated musician Julius Owino aka Juliani in the popular song Sheria by Sarabi Band has this verse where he says, things are so bad to the point that when something good happens we’re amazed. True to that Education CS Matiangi broke the internet yesterday after releasing this year’s KCPE that was near perfect. Kenyans on social media were so amazed that a minister was actually working as expected that the hash tag #IfMatiangiwaspresident trended for the better part of the day.
Exactly one year ago when CS Matiangi took over the ministry of Education, the Kenya National Examination Council’s (KNEC) credibility had been hurt so badly that the discussion wasn’t about whether there was cheating in exams but rather the integrity of the exams themselves. A total of 2,709 candidates cheated in last year’s (2015) Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE); up from 1,702 the previous year (2014). But under CS Matiangi’s leadership the number has come down to a mere 21 which is impressive by any standards hence the excitement.
The CS has asked Kenyans to trust him and his team to deliver on Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (KCSE), and going by the KCPE performance there’s little reason to doubt him. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of other institutions with higher stakes. Take Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for instance. The electoral agency messed with their credibility long before they could begin the election process in 2013 after they bungled the procurement of election material and appear to have learnt nothing since.
What makes the release of the KCPE results so relieving and exciting is the fact that reshuffling of the CS Matiangi from ICT to Education was to deal precisely with the increasing cases of cheating. And he did exactly that. This proves we are capable of rectifying our past mistakes if there’s political will and the leadership mettle to handle the heat that comes with such challenges.
The country is tittering at the brinks of another likely post-election violence over sharp disagreement between the government and the opposition over the manner in which IEBC is going about its procurement process. This is quite reminiscent of the events that led up to the 2013 elections that saw EACC recommend nearly three years later that, the then CEO James Oswago be prosecuted over the Chickengate saga.
Opposition CORD are adamant that the Isaac Hassan team should have exited office by 30th November as was recommended by the joint parliamentary committee on electoral reforms. The opposition alleges the Isaac Hassan team is irregularly handling the procurement of election technology, and is planning to help the government rig elections. The government on its part has denied the allegations stating that the Bi-Partisan Parliamentary committee gave the Isaac Hassan team the mandate to stay until a new team is appointed.
Meanwhile a South African firm has accused the electoral agency of discrimination in the multi-billion shilling tender to a Dubai based firm. Coming on the backdrop of the Chickengate scandal that was never satisfactorily concluded. These accusations leave a big stain on the electoral agency’s integrity.
Already the ongoing interviews for IEBC chair have been put on hold under controversial circumstances, including that a number of the previously identified possible candidates were disqualified by the anti-graft body. This mounts pressure on the team that will finally be picked considering we are few months into the elections and much of the logistics are yet to be ironed out. Throw in the issue of IEBC overseeing party primaries and the agency appears likely bite more than it can chew.
CS Matiangi has done in one year what IEBC leadership couldn’t do in four years. It’s sad that Kenyans are still feeling anxious over procurement of elections technology as they did four years ago. There’s a need to restore confidence in important institutions and the only way forward is to have leaders unafraid to roll their sleeves and get things done. We must refuse the narrative that having strong credible institutions is impossible. All service given to the public is a high stakes game be it as a technocrat or elected official. Important institutions and elected officials should borrow a leaf from the stellar leadership of CS Matiangi as far as taming cheating cases in KCPE is concerned.