April 30th 2017

Society / Education

Former Alliance principal presided over corruption, intimidated Kenya Free Press

What we found strange was that, in his call, the principal insisted that our story was given to us by cabinet secretary Fred Matiangi. “The minister is misleading you,” he said.

By Cynthia Gitaucgitau@kenyafreepress.comFriday, 03 Mar 2017 09:12 EAT

The principal celebrating good KCSE results with students.

For many Kenyans, the rot at Alliance High School, one of Kenya’s best high schools, starts and ends with the bullying crisis that the mainstream media unearthed this week. However, those who know the school well, including top education officials, current and former teachers, speak of rampant rot including financial corruption that former principal David Kariuki had presided over for years.

In November, this website ran a story of how the former principal, alongside other heads of top performing schools, had been caught unawares by the tough regulations instituted for invigilation of the KCSE national examinations. The story reported that many principals of the top performing schools including Alliance High School had sought transfers from the schools in anticipation of declined performance in 2016 examinations.

Shortly after the story was published, Mr Kariuki called our newsroom to threaten our journalists with legal action. He claimed he had never asked for transfer as reported in our story and boasted that Alliance High School would get even more A grades in 2016 examinations than it did in 2015. Recognizing that his threats were not working, he said our reporters should feel free to go and meet him at Alliance to iron out the issues, but we declined.

What we found strange was that, in his call, the principal insisted that our story was given to us by cabinet secretary Fred Matiangi. “The minister is misleading you,” he said. Dr Matiangi had been at the school a few days earlier to monitor the exams and witnessed a candidate who could write his Chemistry paper.

Our report had included the information about the student being unable to write his answers as time ran out, without identifying the school as being Alliance or the top official who had visited the school as being the cabinet secretary for education. Dr Matiangi was also not our source for the article.

Several hours later, we received another call from an associate of the principal who identified himself as a lawyer who had been instructed to sue this website. The man demanded that the story be brought down forthwith, or his suit would drive our publication out of business. Our editors explained that we could correct any fact if he provided evidence that his client’s position was the accurate one. He did not. But his parting shot was that such a story would never pass in any newspaper or website because the principal had a "fantastic relationship" with the media.

A day after the article ran, this website received credible information indicating that the former principal was running the school outside education guidelines. We heard that bullying was rampant at the school, and that Mr Kariuki usually cultivated a small clique of student officials given enormous powers.

On examination management, we received information indicating that, before 2016, many of the KCSe supervisors and invigilators seconded to Alliance usually never sat in the exam halls where students took their papers. Instead, the supervisors were usually ensconced in a hall in the school as the exams went on.

One teacher, also from a national school, refused to obey the practice in a paper early this decade. He was removed from his post, and the next term he was transferred from the national school, initially to a small school out of Nairobi.

Other sources who reached out to us alleged that the principal did business with his school through proxy, supplying commodities such as eggs for which he was in charge of procurement. This website refrained from pursuing these leads for a story, believing that such scrutiny would affect the morale of students at the school at a time when the new examination rules had created uncertainty for candidates.

After the Daily Nation broke the news of the horrific bullying of a Form One student, the principal immediately resigned. There can be no doubt that the principal knew that bullying was going on in his school throughout the time. According to the allegations being investigated by the Teachers Service Commission, the student was brutalised by school prefects on February 17.

For more than a week the school did not allow him to go home or seek treatment for his wounds. Instead, it was nurses at the school who attended to him for one week until February 24th when he was taken back to Kikuyu PCEA Hospital, where he was treated.

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