Looks like in Dr. Fred Matiang’i, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has found the silver bullet to use in its fight against the ministry’s atrocious record of wholesale sale of exam papers, cheating during said exams, widespread corruption and incompetence not to mention burnt school buildings -- all which boiled over between 2015 and 2016.
At least that appears to be the case following the December 29th release of the 2016 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results.
Praise and accolades are coming from all quarters for the surreptitious release of the test results that supposedly “caught the school principals unaware”. Dr. Matiang’i (and Prof. George Magoha of the Kenya National Examination Council – KNEC) are being coronated because the 2016 examinations, unlike those of years past, “appear to have been managed with a higher degree of integrity…..that the results for each candidate reflect their fair performance.”
The desperate clamor to find a silver lining in a feat that is still the proverbial “flash in the pan”, is a sad but unsurprising acknowledgment by a country that has become so accustomed to mediocrity and incompetence that when someone does their job; as outlined in their job description, they are virtually assured of moranhood and well on their way to sainthood -- Kenyanstyle!
Unfortunately, I have seen this movie before and am thus loath to jump onto the “Hongera Bw. Matiang’i” bandwagon with a sample size of n=1. The cautious and utterly skeptical optimist in me will also refuse to lather the commendations onto CS Matiang’i for doing a job he is paid to do, handsomely I might add.
Back in 2013, a majority of Kenyans and members of the Fourth and Fifth Estates breathlessly lauded the in-coming “digital duo” of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as the incorruptible and youthful leadership the country needed -- given the sordid history of its past (leaders) including Uhuru’s father Jomo, his mentor Arap Moi and godfather Mwai Kibaki.
President Kenyatta was lauded as the “incorruptible scion” of Kenya’s wealthiest family who did not “need to steal money” ostensibly because he already had it by the truckload. His deputy Mr. Ruto was a self-styled “hustler” who pulled himself up by the bootstrap – first by selling chicken. The rest of the cabinet was alternately described as “technocrats” and “experts” who would “discharge (their) respective mandates with integrity, courage and utmost professionalism”.
Kenyans know how that feel-good story has played out – jameni!
The Opus Dei-steeped and frugal current governor of the Central Bank is another public official who came into office amidst a flourish of lofty praises and expectations. His prudent and spare lifestyle including the decision to forego the trappings that came with his office were given intense media coverage and cited as an example of the approach any in-coming head of Kenya’s main bank needed to take. One reporter echoed the sentiments of most Kenyans: That Dr. Paul Njoroge had “refused his turn to eat”.
Fast-forward 16months later and Mr. Njoroge now sits atop an institution whose management has been implicated in financial/banking improprieties that toppled Imperial Bank among other “rogue banks”. And in classic Potomac Two-step fashion, the blame is falling on Dr. Njoroge’s predecessor. Mr. Njuguna Ndung’u, the former Governor is accused of having a “more than cozy relationship” with the managing director (MD) of the failed bank a Mr. Abdulmalek Janmohamed.
The buck indeed stops – elsewhere.
So, what is my point?
Rather than offer nothing but a “healthy dose of skepticism” as I was accused of doing, I was also asked to desist from allowing “history’s defeats (to) ruin today’s victory”. I responded by asking the “All Hail Matiang’i” crowd to stop overlooking and/or minimizing the lessons of recent past – on matters of corruption and incompetence – especially in instances where lots of money is involved as is the case with the rot pervading Dr. Matiang’i’s ministry.
What Kenyans have repeatedly seen over the last three years are deified leaders, who after the single accomplishment that garnered them the spotlight, almost immediately invariably disappoint. They either turn out to be incompetent, personally corrupt, indebted to the shadowy corrupt “cartels” which often include family members or as having completely underestimated the Sisyphean task they were brought in to clean.
Given the foregoing, I’d (a) temper praising Dr. Matiang'i -- for doing a job he's being paid to do, (b) have the good doctor explain to an impressed nation (including his boss and deputy) how he cleaned out King Augeas' stables so the formula can be duplicated elsewhere, and most importantly, (c) preserve the concoction Dr. Matiang’i and Prof. Magoha used to stop the cheating, selling of exam papers and burning of schools in 2016 so it can be duplicated in 2017 and beyond.
By Washington Osiro | firstname.lastname@example.org