Empower KNQA to crack down on fake certificates
Kenya is an interesting country. We create institutions and systems and then starting fighting them until they do not perform the roles that we set them up to do. For close to a month, since IEBC began clearing politicians for various elective posts, Kenyans have been treated to all manner of drama regarding academic certificates. We have seen candidates oscillating between having and not having requite academic papers.
Ordinarily, issues regarding academic certificates are supposed to be very straight forward—one either has it or does not. But our case has been quite different. Certificates from various aspirants have been subjected to all manner of scrutiny. Just like the famous VAR in football, where players and fans wait in abated breath to know whether it is a goal or not, politicians and their supporters have had to wait to hear whether their certificates are genuine or not.
The bottom line of the drama is suspicion, fakery and dishonesty in our education system. Many people hold falsified qualifications, from both nondescript and reputable institutions. A study indicated over 30 per cent of academic certificates in the country were fake. Many people have lied about their qualifications.
It was against this background that in 2014 the Ministry of Education established the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) whose key mandate is to equate and validate qualifications within and outside the country. It was supposed to have authority over qualifications. It was supposed to be a one-stop place for all qualifications.
In fact, learning institutions were supposed to provide KNQA with data of all the qualifications that they award. The database would then be used to validate qualifications. The institution was to ensure all qualifications are verifiable even on mobile phones. It would be easier to go online and find out who studied where, when and what they got.
In his speech during the KNQA launch, then minister Fred Matiang’i said “this marks the end of fake certificates in this country,” as he urged KNQA to work with speed, alongside other government agencies, to ensure culprits were brought to book.
Sadly, since then, KNQA has faced a myriad of challenges, someone ensuring it does not take off. It took four years until 2018 for the institution to get its first chief executive Dr Juma Mukhwana, a very committed and energetic professional. He took to his work with gusto to try and establish the institution, but soon he ran into headwinds. Before long, KNQA was taken to court for what was described as ‘undertaking the duties of the Technical and Vocational Education Training Authority (TVETA). They obtained court orders stopping the KNQA from discharging its mandate.
As far as recognition of qualifications is concerned the work of TVETA and CUE is only to confirm the qualifications that one has were obtained from an accredited institution either in Kenya or elsewhere. Then KNQA was to setup a database to verify qualifications. It went ahead and developed and gazetted standards for Kenyan qualifications from primary school to PhD. Essentially, KNQA could undertake a detailed examination of one’s qualifications and establish whether it meets the set standards and also verify it is genuine by using the database. In short, as far as authenticating fake certficates, proper systems were already in place courtesy of KNQA.
However, it is ironical the government instititution has had its work stopped by another. KNQA officials have ended up spending more time in court and parliamentary investigative committees defending their mandate than executing it. In the end, KNQA’s hands ended up being tied, especially when it came to cracking down on illegal papers.
Why would a government institution fight another in court so viciously over a given role? Haven’t we seen overlapping roles before? Haven’t we seen institutions working together for a common public good? Haven’t we seen institutions harmonise their roles instead of going for each other’s jugular?
If KNQA was allowed to collect, assess and approve academic papers, we could not have experienced the drama.
— The writer is an author and publisher—[email protected]