Pass or Pass Away: The Fate of Kenya’s Examination Candidates


Something isn’t right when children in this country commit suicide because they performed poorly in the national exams or because they have been forced to repeat a class or several classes, owing to their poor performance. Which prompted me to tweet yesterday:-!/Nittzsah/status/156777850094108672!/Nittzsah/status/156772028781838336

I realize child suicide is not an uncommon occurrence around the world. Yes it happens, as far as China and across the other side of the globe in the USA, for different reasons. That we can sit back and say “ain’t nothing new” says something about us.

Children shouldn’t commit suicide no more than adults should. Not when they are at that age when they dream and create beautiful, imaginary worlds in their minds. Not at that naive age when they trust adults to guide them. Certainly not at that age when the brain is just so fertile, it freely accommodates any idea (good or bad) planted in it.

I tried to place myself in that 15-year old’s shoes. What amount of futility and utter hopelessness overcame him? How did he figure that death was the only escape? If you have never dealt with a suicidal person or never contemplated suicide, perhaps you wouldn’t know how difficult it is to actually commit suicide. It’s one thing to say you’ll do it; it’s another to actually do it. Moreover, it goes against the 1st law of nature – self preservation. The very reason you can’t bite your palm until it bleeds. Unless you’re trying hard to impress someone or you’re high on a substance.

Well, we may rationalize the matter as just “a few unfortunate cases. About 5 children out of a possible 700,000 candidates who sat the same exams.” But then I’d ask: How many young lives would it take for the number to be deemed significant? How many child suicides should we accumulate until we are moved enough to actually want to look deeper into the matter?

I’m surprised that the Ministry of Education has not said a thing about the suicide(s), yet they government was quick to and defend the adult teachers and headteachers who are being lynched by parents, in various “poorly performing” schools. 

Who are we? What are our priorities? What shape does our hierarchy of needs take?

We hacked, burned, raped and clobbered each other over delayed election results. We torched a church because of two guys we now call Principals. This country stood still at that dark period because of two people who we don’t even interact with. Yet we are not moved over children’s poor exam results, their shame, their feeling of futility and their final act of suicide?

Doesn’t it say something about us?

Doesn’t it point to a discrepancy within the system? A system that seems to invest in and  pass judgement on our children based on one aspect alone – academic prowess. How dictatorial? How limiting? Yet we know, individuals are much more than academics. One’s skills talents and abilities count, and can put a meal on the table. Just because we all cannot be the Pope doesn’t mean we are sinners to be condemned into the flames of hell.

And please note, the system is a very large organism with different components . It’s not just the ministry or the government, or even the teachers. As far as education is concerned in this country, we are all involved one way or the other. Pupils, parents, the entire family, religious institutions, future employers, etc., The system is much larger than our minds want to perceive.

Surely, if constitutions can be reviewed, amended or done away with, why can’t we possibly look into our education system? Just because it has worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work forever. Things change. They come and go. Like I keep saying, the world keeps turning, but society refuses to move with it.

We cannot all be number one. Education is not about winning, it’s about empowering. It’s not about reciting what is already known , it’s about discovering what is not known that we may adapt better to the unknown future. It’s about opening up a child’s mind to the possibilities that are out there.  There’s no end to education. So when a child commits suicide, something tells me that there was very little “learning” that took place in that child’s mind, whether at home or in school. Getting your child an education involves much more than buying a school uniform, paying school fees and sitting him in front of a teacher.

Especially if that kid will end up hanging from the ceiling at only 15.

13 thoughts on “Pass or Pass Away: The Fate of Kenya’s Examination Candidates

  1. Very little learning is taking place in our schools! We have prioritised performance in tests at the expense of learning. And it is frustrating our kids! And this problem comes from all ends- the schools, the employers, the parents…all of us. The schools want you to score an A in Maths. They dont care how you get there. Rote learning- do it all! You meet these kids running to school at 4.00a.m and you are wondering where the hell are they going at these ungodly hour? School? Probably running to cram before a test. The pressure is too much. Then comes the universities. If you do not have A, you aint getting that Law degree. I might be unreasonable here, but my performance in form four, my A, does it tell you all about my capability in a Law class? Is the relation direct or is it an assumption we live by?. Then the job market. Papers matter. Not the abilities that you posses but what is in those papers- performance in test which does not necessarily tell much about what you are capable of as a human being. It is too much pressure on them

  2. Just the other day I heard that a Class 6 pupil in Nakuru had committed suicide over unclear matters pertaining to him repeating Class 6. It is alleged that the boy had agreed to repeat the class, but somewhat on Monday night He ended his life after coming home from school. The matter is still under the probe of the police. Honestly we have made education a contest to reward those who do well, and shame those who perform poorly. It is not unfair to rank best performers but year in year out, schools and even candidates are trying hard to be the best in it in both legit and illegitimate ways. Hence you find schools performing better having registered only the so called strong candidates… This pressure is what causes the poor performers to end it all, coz they consider themselves unable to amount to anything

  3. Our education system needs a serious overhaul & a review that will turn it into a knowledge giving institution that adds value and educates, in the real sense, our kids. What we have now is a system that puts emphasis on passing examinations and not on learning which is in itself a dangerous thing because when some graduate they really have no skills to speak off, just a paper that says they are educated. There are no two ways about it, the current education system needs to change. It has never helped us [when you look at the bigger picture] and it never will.

  4. who imagined that mere KCPE results can have casualties ? notably 3 students and two head teachers ? what should we expect after KSCE results are announced? something needs to be done immediately!

  5. You assume that kids these days think/act/are the way our age group used to be back then. Plus you assume that the THEORY of self-preservation extends to suicide. Self-preservation only works to stem off pain, and there is no pain beyond death.
    It’s not just kids who are self-offing by the way, teachers too all over the country. I will not presume to say I know why people are taking their own lives, and so rashly at that, but I do find it interesting that it was said in 2012 that the next few years suicide rates will skyrocket something awful, and situations become so dire that “a man passes by someone’s grave and says, ‘Would that I were in his place!'”

    PS: hii mambo ya kusema, ‘tunaomba serikali!’ *you do something and stop expecting empathy to check in on the rich fat comfortable people that you let govern you.

  6. Correct me if am wrong but our government have very little regard for human life, so little people would not bother them one bit. It will take mere citizens to stand up and say enough is enough. It will take you and I.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s