The Inequality at The Heart of Kenya’s KCSE System


Good Grade, Rich School; Bad Grade, Poor School

The Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results were released on Wednesday in Nairobi to the usually pomp that comes along with it. Naturally and as per tradition, Kenyans took to social media and mass media to congratulate their families and friends for their high performances.

The well-orchestrated press conference for the announcement of the results will make you forget that the very system in place is consistently and ruthlessly marginalizing Kenyans to generations of poverty without any form of redress. The Education CS Prof George Magoha lauded all those involved in making the process a success. Indeed, him and his team have worked hard and beautifully to – at least – bring back the glory to a once degrading system of corruption and cartels. All these are great, but what about the huge elephant in the room?

Just like the KCSE of yesteryears, have we as Kenyans failed to scrutinize the details or we are just not concerned anymore of challenging the government officials for better solutions to the perennial challenges in the system?


According to a report circulating on PACEMaker International social media pages, the Kenyan media, and educationists have focused too much on the ‘top’ students, leaving us blind of the majority who did not score just as much. Why are the 81% of the 699, 745 candidates sitting for the papers who don’t qualify for university mostly coming from poorer secondary schools mostly at the sub-county level? The report by PACEMaker International, titled “Under the Microscope – A closer look at #KCSE2019 results and the stories we don’t tell,” details the grim picture of how disproportionate resources have been allocated to the vast majority of Kenyan secondary schools at the poorer sub-county schools versus the national schools which have consistently given the large majority of A’s in the country.

The 80% of students attaining A in KCSE 2019 came from National or extra-county schools, while 81% of students receiving D grades came from county and sub-county schools says the report. Isn’t it remarkably wrong to imagine that 248448 students from the poorly funded, poorly supported sub-county schools attained D grades compared to 3286 students from the well-off National schools? Why are the scales punishingly tilted against the sub-county and county schools year on end which are supposedly meant to have the same system, same teachers training and same support?


A look at the report shows that however much as a nation we may put emphasis on the ‘top’ students each year, we are essentially creating a system of inequality, social unrest and seeds of apathy amongst the majority at the bottom of the pyramid. World over, the education system is one way to distribute life opportunities to the next generation, unfortunately, this isn’t happening for Kenyans.

As a nation, if 8 out of 10 sub-county and county KCSE students will not go to university after their KCSE, due to lack of resources or poor funding at the sub-county level from the government, then the importance of putting equity first, ahead of any other goal or initiative.

For parents and caregivers, the greatest responsibility is to build a nation in which every child, regardless of their tribe, income, or county level of education, has the same chance to attend excellent schools, graduate from college, and fulfil their potential.

The Kenyan system appears to be deliberately elitist as it focuses on and rewards the few candidates who perform well while ignoring the rest. The majority of students with lower grades will be ignored and denied opportunities

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