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.