Attorney General summoned over School of Law failures

IBRAHIM ORUKO

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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DAVID MWERE

By DAVID MWERE
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MPs have called for investigations into mass examination failures at the Kenya School of Law.

They queried how more than 85 per cent of students who had passed graduate examinations could perform so dismally at the institution.

The MPs have summoned Attorney General Kihara Kariuki to appear before the legal affairs committee next week to brief them on the outcome of a task force he appointed last year to investigate the cause of the mass exam failures.

“The students come to the school after passing in their various universities. You can lower the pass mark if the performance is poor,” said Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, who asked the Council for Legal Education (CLE) to explain if the exam results were moderated.

Members of the Public Investment Committee (PIC) of the National Assembly, chaired by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, piled pressure on the council leadership to explain the mass failures.

CLE chief executive Jacob Gakeri said the council has no capacity to set and mark exams and instead relies on the goodwill of professionals from different disciplines, whose skills are relevant in the practice of law, to manage exams that are administered twice a year.

“We rely on professionals of repute in the field. For example, moderators of our exams are judges of the Supreme Court and sometimes eminent accountants from reputable firms because there are units that touch on accounts,” Dr Gakeri said.

He had appeared before the committee to respond to the audit queries for the council for the 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years.

The students are allowed by law to take a maximum of nine units and a minimum of five.

However, the system works in such a way that a student must pass all the units because failing one is considered a fail in the entire exam.

Pre-bar exams are administered in three categories; oral, project and written. According to Dr Gakeri, the KSL administers both oral and project, whose totalled value is 40 per cent of the marks. Written exams, which are administered by the council, account for 60 per cent of the total marks.

“The pass mark is set by the law and not even the council has the power to reduce or lower the it,” he said, in reply to a question by Mr Wamalwa on whether the pass mark can be lowered where massive failure is recorded.

In the latest results released on Tuesday, 80 per cent of law students who sat their bar exams in November 2018 did not qualify to be admitted into practice.

Only 308 of 1,572 from 38 local and international universities passed the exams, representing a pass rate of only 20 per cent.

The MPs last week threw out proposed amendments to the Kenya School of Law Act, which came through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill to remove the monopoly of the school of law in administering bar exams. The Bill sought to remove the exclusivity of the school and open the field to other education providers.

It also sought to remove a provision empowering the school to be the only institution determining the admission requirements for the advocates’ training programme.

The proposals could, however, still come to pass because the Kenya School of Law Act allows the education Cabinet Secretary to vary a university’s charter without recourse to Parliament or the President.

Legal Affairs Committee chairman William Cheptumo, while appealing to the MPs to kick out the Bill, said the issues facing KSL are enormous and cannot be addressed through an omnibus legislation.

He called for substantive amendments.


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