Praying for 2010 National Exams

October and November is exam time in Kenya. Kids in Form Four take the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (KCSE) from October 21 through November 16, 2010. During these 19 days of exams, the students sit for national exams in all they have learned during their four years of high school. Kids in Standard 8 take their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) during the week of November 8-12.

Pray for good health, peace in their lives, confidence - you can add more - for these kids during these critical tests which will determine future educational and life opportunities for these kids!

For more prayer suggestions and a Prayer Nudge Photo Album entitled PRAYING FOR KENYANS STUDENTS, go to: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=327721&id=685050129&l=73a546ec9a

"I know, but..."

A friend, who lived in Kenya for many years, returned this week for a visit. One night, a group of us went to her favourite spot for Indian food – Bhajias, palak and tika dishes, masalas, nan, etc – if these are unfamiliar, you have missed truly great food! By the time our guest’s order arrived, she had already sampled favourites from many of our plates – which meant she simply couldn’t clean her plate. Being a witty person, she said: “I know there are hungry children in Africa, but…”

We all laughed, but her statement, one that is repeated daily around our world in different versions including placing the children in China, later returned to me in the form of a rebuke during a prayer time : “How often do I recognize a problem of people suffering and add a ‘but’ before I move on to another concern?”

There are hungry children in Kenya and other parts of our world – children hungry for attention, food, clothing, education, peace, love, etc. During this time of chiding, that I know came from God, I remembered several pictures that I took last weekend during a Church Planting training in the western Kenya town of Kitale. The first was of three children who stood for a short time outside the Tumaini (Hope) Baptist Church. In my pictures of the trio, the two older children expressed many different expressions, including a smile, but the youngest boy always had a look that … there are no words to explain the look in his eyes. But it did lead me to pray as I took the pictures and as I’ve looked back at these. The look in his eyes would not allow me to add a “but” and move on without praying for him.

I also remembered another captured scene that I will long remember. Three boys in threadbare clothes had played near the church most of the morning. After the pastors and church leaders had been served lunch, beans and rice (not fancy, but tasty and nutritious), I spotted the pastor’s wife talking to the boys. She offered them some of the left-overs. The older boy refused at first and passed it to the two younger ones. The pastor’s wife insisted that the three of them eat, but the older boy made certain the younger boys ate most of what was on their shared plate. The woman must have also seen what I viewed – when the younger boys ran off to play, she brought another full plate to the older boy.

Then I saw another amazing thing – after everyone had been fed, including more neighbourhood kids, and the meeting’s afternoon session began, I spotted someone sitting behind the last pew. It was the pastor’s wife – she had finally found time to eat a bit of lunch! I don’t think I will ever read our Saviour’s words, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat” (Matthew 25:35) without remembering this lady.

Please join me in praying for the hungry children of Kenya and of our world. Pray that they will adequate housing, clothes, education, security and medical care. Pray that Christians in their midst will respond also to their spiritual hunger and be active and nurturing ambassadors of their Father’s love and salvation. Bert Yates
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First posted at Omba4Kenya/Pray for Kenya

... and now the "Really Bad" and the "Really Sad"

Earlier in the week, you prayed over the information in “‘Not Bad’ and Not Good” – now your prayers are needed for the “REALLY BAD and the REALLY SAD.” A week after the release of Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam results for those completing high school, the Daily Nation carried this headline: “Government runs out of cash for free school” (3/10/09, pp.1,2). The reason given for this really bad news – money budgeted to support the 9.5 million students in government schools had been diverted to import food. Thankfully, within a few days the news was, “At last, free learning funds released” (Daily Nation, 3/14/09, p.1,2).

It takes little imagination to realize how schools were affected by this delay, especially as funds were also limited last year which depleted supplies such as chalk, textbooks and lab equipment. “Booksellers deny credit to schools” (Daily Nation, 3/13/09, p.37) reported that due to a bill of Sh1.7billion ($25 million), a national bookseller association has “resolved to stop giving credit facilities to public schools … ‘it appears that the free education scheme is collapsing,’ said Chairman John Mbugua.” Pray that this prediction is wrong. Many Kenyans find it a struggle to pay even the reduced costs of government schools and private schools are not an option for many families. Pray that kids accepted into high schools and universities will have the needed money to continue in their education.

Individuals involved in relief projects are also reporting that funds for free lunches at many schools have also ceased and thousands of kids are surviving on little or no food as Kenya faces drought or not attending due to hunger. As you pray for ample rains this rainy season – which could begin any day – pray that adequate relief supplies will reach those who are suffering. The local news continues to be filled with stories of graft and corruption in the government, so please pray that those making decisions for the country will make wise decisions that will benefit the poorest/hungriest/neediest citizens of Kenya.

The REALLY SAD news is that when the KCSE results were announced, girls once again scored much lower than boys. Only one girl was in the list of the top ten students and she was ranked fourth. There are many reasons for this discrepancy including traditional views and customs that lead to boys being challenged and facilitated in their abilities to study including less chores at home and more money spent on their tutoring and quality education.

Praise God for schools like Nyeri Baptist High School who chose girls for their new Form One (Freshman) class based not only on the scores of the national exams for students completing Standard Eight, but on their class ranking – a good indicator of their desire to learn even in limited situations. Nyeri Baptist is also developing separate classes for the girls as research shows that in the Kenyan society girls who study in separate classes are more likely to reach their full potential. Thank you for praying, Bert Yates
(found also at Omba4Kenya/Pray for Kenya - http://omba4kenya.blogspot.com )

"Not Bad" and Not Good

“Not bad.” This was Leonard’s answer when asked about his recently released KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) score. Seeking a more enlightening answer, without possible embarrassment, I replied, “Will you be able to fulfil your dream?” His smile appeared. “I’m going to Strathmore University.” Leonard’s parents are likely not saying his scores were “Not bad.” Strathmore has high admission standards and their degrees are ranked the best in East Africa!

Thank you for praying in recent months for Standard Eight (Primary) and Form Four (High School) students as they took national exams at the end of last year and as they waited weeks for their results. Standard Eight students learned their scores in January – those who did well and had finances have begun their high school studies. Last year’s KCSE (High School) scores were released two weeks ago and unfortunately few kids received not bad scores. “Of the 305,000 candidates who sat the papers (exams), only 72,649 or 24 per cent scored C+, which is the minimum for university entry” (“Top Marks for Alliance” – Daily Nation, 3/4/09, pp,1,2,16). The scores were much lower than past years – not unexpected as last year’s post-election chaos led to many schools missing one-third of the school year, as well as disruptions when school strikes erupted during second term (May-July). To add to the discouragement, it was announced that of those who did qualify, “60,000 to miss varsity slots” (Daily Nation, 3/4/09, p.9) as “there are limited placed in the public universities” and they can only accept “about 10,000 each year … Of those who will not find a place in public universities, some 10,000 are expected to join private universities while another 10,000 will join foreign ones.”

What will happen to the 40,000 kids with a C+ or above score who will not be offered positions in universities/colleges, the 230,000 others who scored lower, and those who skipped the tests? Some will attend other types of professional training and many will have no further opportunities for traditional education. With all this bad news in need of prayer, there is one praise item. Most college/university/training programmes will not begin until next September or January ’10, so as students await further studies or make “What next?” plans, many churches offer special training for high school leavers (graduates).

One such programme, INDA, is sponsored by Parklands Baptist Church. This year, 65 young men and women, are participating in this January-August intense Christian leadership/discipleship training which includes: Involvement in missions; Nurturing to maturity; Development of God’s given potential; and Acquisition of knowledge and experience. This week, Leonard and 59 other INDA participants are on a mission trip to the Ilchamus, an unreached people group in the Rift Valley. Pray for these kids as they share their faith, work with needy schools, and help with relief efforts. As you also pray for the thousands of high school kids facing uncertain futures, praise God for churches that offer intense spiritual training to their kids who desire to grow in their faith. Bert Yates

"Girls Shine in KCPE"

“Girls shine in KCPE” – yesterday’s Daily Nation headline announced the results of the test taken last November by “some 695,737 candidates (who) sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education” for kids completing Standard (Grade) Eight. “Monica …of … Mombasa, was the best student countrywide with 460 marks out of 500” on the test of eight papers covering English, Kiswahili, Social Studies, Religious Studies, Mathematics, and Science.

After all the good news, there was bad news as it was revealed that some candidates did not receive their scores due to cheating and other irregularities. Another concern was the “gender parity … (in) North Eastern (Province) where boys compromised 75 per cent of the candidates and girls only 25 per cent.”

“Girls shine…” also shared that although “About half of the candidates … scored 250 marks (50 per cent) and above … that does not mean they automatically qualify to join … the 6,400 secondary schools countrywide.” An article on page 13 of today’s Daily Nation explains that “200,000 pupils who sat this year’s national examination” will miss the opportunity to attend high school as existent public and private schools can only accommodate 70 per cent of those who took the exam. This report does not mention those who did not sit for the exam as they could not afford the fees, knew they would not do well, or had already dropped out of school for lack of fees, interest or the need to work. Some students who do not move on to high school will receive technical training, but the majority will have no more educational opportunities. And many of those who are accepted into a high school will not attend due to a lack of money for needed fees.

Please pray that those choosing which kids will be selected to national schools (with reduced fees) will be fair and wise. Pray that kids who are selected for admission to high schools will find the needed funds. Pray for the kids entering Standard Eight next week – kids who are already preparing for next year’s KCPE. Pray that their studies will not be interrupted by a feared teacher’s strike (teachers continue to receive very low salaries and poor work situations in Kenya). Pray for protection and opportunities for the children whose schooling in finished. Pray also for the educational situation in the pastoral areas, including the North Eastern Province, where too many children, especially girls, are denied an opportunity for education and a bright future. Bert Yates

(Prayer update also found at Omba4Kenya/Pray for Kenya)
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“Girls shine in KCPE” (Daily Nation, 12/31/08, pp.1,2) - http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/508980/-/u0q1pe/-/index.html
“Top marks for orphaned and displaced boy” (Daily Nation, 1/1/09, p.13) – http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/509272/-/u0qkij/-/index.html
“200,000 to miss places in public secondary schools” (Daily Nation, 12/31/08, p.13) – http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/508940/-/u0q1lu/-/index.html

Break from Study, Time to Wait

Standard 8 and Form 4 students now have a break from study, but not a break from worry. Cecilia, a member of Baptist Chapel in Nairobi says, the Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations for kids completing Standard 8 “were not hard, but they were fair.” She hopes that when the results are released in late December that she will be chosen to attend her first choice, Statehouse Girls’ High School – a top Kenyan national high school. Before taking the exams, Cecelia marked several national schools as her choice schools. After the scores are released the students with the higher scores will be offered places at the national high schools. Those who are not offered one of these limited national positions will then begin applying to private high schools where parents pay higher fees. At present there are only enough places in public/private high schools for 60% of the students who sat for the KCPE exams, so a few of the remaining 40% will move on to training schools, while most will have to accept that their formal schooling is over.

Norman, who sat for the Form 4/Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations, was busy on Sunday helping in the younger children’s Sunday school class at Baptist Chapel. A man of few words, Norman said, “My exams went fine,” but he will not know for sure until the KCSE scores are released in early February. If his scores are high, he may be accepted into one of the few national universities. If this happens, he will not choose the degree for which he will study – it will be chosen for him. Norman is simply praying that he did well enough to be offered a position in a national university. If not, like others, he will begin looking into studying at one of the private universities, colleges, training schools or full-time work.

Most universities/colleges in Kenya will not accept new students until Sept of 2009 or January 2010. Pray for local churches who offer special programmes during the waiting time for those who have just finished high school. Pray that these discipleship and mentoring programmes will offer the foundation they need to become strong and growing Christians. A few churches also offer special programmes during January for the kids awaiting admittance into high school as most Form 1 classes will not begin until next February. Pray also for the opportunities that churches have to spiritually train and strengthen these young teens.

Cecelia and Norman are thankful that the exams are over and were excited to learn that people they didn’t even know had been praying for them. They both were also excited that you would continue praying for them as they await their futures!
Bert Yates

Humble Candidates and KCPE Candidates

This morning’s international news shared how US churches prayed yesterday for last week’s elections, but none of these prayers were what I heard in my Kenya Baptist Church. The prayers of my Kenyan friends were prayers of thanksgiving that “Americans were conquerors” last week, not for who was elected, but for the peaceful elections. Prayers were offered for the humbleness of the candidates who lost – the fact that they accepted defeat in a peaceful manner. These prayers were from men and women who are still suffering from the recent elections in their own country – elections that were not defined by peace or humbleness.

“Tough Rules to curb leaks as KCPE starts,” today’s Daily Nation (November 9, 2008) headlines, reflects another current candidate concern of Kenyans – The month-long examinations which continue through this week for those completing high school and the Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations which begins today for the Standard (grade) Eight students. Many US schools offer special exams to determine if the child progresses to the next class, but few American parents or students fear that failing these exams will mean an end to formal education for the child – nor is there a fear that corruption and cheating will affect the scores.

An editorial, “KCPE: May the best students excel” (Daily Nation, p.10), states that “Some 669,318 Standard Eight candidates have been registered for this … examination that determines those who proceed to secondary and eventually higher education, and those who drop out to face an uncertain future ... Although the transition rate has improved considerably” only 60% of those sitting this exam will have the opportunity to join Form One (first year of high school). The article does not mention that many potential exam candidates have already dropped out of school due to poor grades and others are skipping the exam rather than pay the fee for an exam the child will surely fail. Often the school made this decision as they illegally allow only the students who are likely to pass to take the exam.

Tomorrow (November 11th) through Thursday, the Standard Eight students will take exams in English, Swahili, Science, Math, and Social Sciences. Pray that the best students will excel. Pray for the hundreds of students who are still among the Internally Displaced. Pray that they will excel in spite of poor housing, food and inability to study in recent months. Pray that the situation in Kenya will change and all students will have access to quality education. These students are the future of Kenya – They are the ones who can become the Kenyan’s leaders – They are the ones who can bring true peace to Kenya.
Bert Yates

Some Face a Permanent Holiday!

“No school tomorrow” – many Kenyan parents received this message yesterday. After a difficult year of fear, death, pain and disorder, Kenyans, who highly value family ties, have something to celebrate with pride – the next president of the United States is the son of a Kenyan! Most Kenyan students were thrilled when today was declared an unexpected national holiday, but there are many students and parents who are using the day to study, not to sleep late and play!

As the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations for those completing high school continues into the last days of the 2008 round of national exams, the Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations (KCPE) for Standard/Grade Eight students begins next week. Like the exams for the older kids, these national exams, not any past scores, will determine their future opportunities for education. In many societies there are certain years in a child’s life that become a milestone – that year is Class Eight for most Kenyans. Often beginning the year before, all of a family’s time and finances are focused on helping the child prepare for the KCPE. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends with special skills become valued tutors. The exam is the centre of any conversation you have with family members. Especially for the kids from lower income homes, the majority of those sitting for the exams, a poor score when the results are announced in early 2009, will mean an end to formal education. High school is now “free” in Kenya, but there are many hidden costs and not enough free national high schools for all those who would like to attend.

“Pupils left behind by free schooling” (The Standard, October 29, 2008), an editorial, shares more: “When dust finally settles on the national examinations at the end of the year, three quarters of the country’s best young brains will have gone to waste, perhaps never to be redeemed, thanks to a competition heavily tilted in favour of the privileged few. Against that backdrop, 211,475 of the 704, 918 pupils who sat KCPE last year did not qualify for secondary school and they now confront an uncertain future at a tender age … Free education …sounds hollow in the ears of poor parents … the rich … have their children in top-notch schools with state of the art facilities and some of the nation’s best-qualified teachers … Examinations are set with no regard to such disparities.”

Please join Kenyans in praying – and they have been, are, and will be praying – for the Class Eight students who have rehearsal exams next Monday, November 10th, to learn how to mark their test papers. They will sit for the national exams in five or more subjects on Tuesday through Thursday (11th-13th). Pray that the many students who remain in camps for Internally Displaced People will have adequate food and sleep during the exams. Pray that the government’s plans to help them get to the exam centres will succeed. Pray for confidence for the students who have been without teachers this year due to the tensions in the country. Pray for an exceptional ability to remember all they have learned for students in the northern arid parts of Kenya where “rocks, stones, bricks, logs and even exposed roots of giant trees come in handy for pupils whose parents are too deprived to afford desks” (“Pupils left behind…). Pray that these students, Kenyan’s future politicians and leaders, will enter the test rested and capable of doing their very best during the exams. Pray also for peace for the parents. Bert Yates
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“Pupils left behind by free schooling” (The Standard, October 29, 2008) – http://www.eastandard.net/InsidePage.php?&id=1143998065&catid=14&a=1
“Exam help for students hit by poll chaos” (The Nation, November 6, 2008) – http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/487718/-/tljv34/-/index.html
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This posting also appears at http://Omba4Kenya.blogpsot.com

Flaws, Leaks, Fakes and Cell Phones

“Hopes of flawless examination season appeared dashed last week when reports of malpractices hit newspaper headlines.” This sentence began “Exam cheating rears its ugly head again” in the most recent Sunday Nation (10/26/08, p.5). The article included some of the flaws that had been exposed in the first of the four weeks of national KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) testing for the Form Four Students – the testing that determines their futures!

– “Some candidates were obtaining papers before they were due for writing examinations even after … ‘watertight’ measures against leaks” were announced.
– “At least 40 people had been arrested for peddling … fake papers … four people have appeared before a … court … with real papers … Unscrupulous police and education officers are believed to be behind the leaks”
– “Parents are wondering whether their children would be awarded the grades they merit should others continue gaining access to the questions prior to the” exams.
– “Some students have been sneaking into exam rooms with mobile phones even after (they were banned by administrators) … possibility that they are used to relay exam questions or answers to other candidates.”
– “Candidates at … lost Sh 184,000 to two colleagues who promised to supply them with all the papers before the exams started … after they collected the money the two students disappeared and did not show up even when the exam began.”
– “As the exam got under way … some candidates … wrote some papers in hospital and at police stations … student who had been arrested with fake examination papers was supervised” by an official. (Several other articles have appeared about girls who have given birth in the midst of their taking the exams.)

There was a praise found in this article: “Students displaced by the post-election violence in the North Rift are sitting the exam following arrangements made by” officials. Another statement in this article also leads to prayer: “Some of their students say they may not do well due to the trauma, frustration and lack of proper counseling” after the post-election time. Students still in IDP camps say “they could not concentrate on their school work because they often slept hungry and were exposed to chilly nights and diseases in the camps.”

Please continue praying for Kenya’s kids who have just completed their four years of high school studies. The scores on the tests that began last week and will continue through November 17th will determine which kids will continue to universities and other training centres and which students will have no further educational opportunities unless their parents are very rich, which covers only a small minority of the students! Pray that they will do their best and be relieved of any extra stresses during the testing time. Bert Yates


***Pictures are of Form Four students at Ridgeways Baptist Church.

No Cell phones! Exam Time

“No cell phones allowed!” This is what 304,829 older teen-agers were told this morning (Tuesday, October 21) as they entered classrooms to begin taking the 2008 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams (“Tough new rules as exams begin”, Daily Nation, 10/21/08, p.56). These tests which end their high school study will determine the futures of these youth. It does not matter if a student has normally made the best grades in their classes during the last four years, the results of the six to seven exams they take in English, math, science and other subjects between today, October 21, and November 17, are the grades that will determine their future educational opportunities. Many know that the only way they can attend university is to be among the top scorers of this exam. Otherwise, they possibly will be accepted into technical schools or other training centers. Students with the lowest KSCE scores, unless their parents are extremely wealthy, will likely have no further opportunities for formal schooling. So, the tensions are high for students, parents, teachers and school administrators – tensions that will remain until late February, 2009 when the exam results should be announced.

In the past, many students have faced difficulty during exam time due to illness or problems in their families. With the current economic problems, some students will sit for the exams hungry and with limited time to study as their parents can no longer afford kerosene to power lamps at night. Day students are often unable to get to the testing site due to flooding which blocks the roads during the short rains which began earlier this month.

This year, many students are unable to sit for the exam and others are poorly prepared due to the ethnic clashes. Hundreds of students that should be sitting for the exams are still in tented camps for the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) or they are living in other temporary quarters. The Saturday Nation (10/18/08, p.8) gave this description of these students in “We are ready to tackle final exams, assert candidates trapped in IDP camps”: “They lack teachers and kit, and do not always have enough to eat, but candidates vow to excel. They may not have had enough textbooks and some may not have completed their syllabus. Yet others did not have teachers … laboratories … not equipped to handle the science subjects … (in one school, like many others) says a physics teacher … The lab can only accommodate eight students at a time during an exam … fears that the shortage of facilities will affect the practicals and make them run into the night, a fact that might affect the students’ performance … pupils lost their exercise books (notebooks) either to fires that razed their homes or to looters.”

Thankfully, the students sitting for the KCSE exams nor we need cell phones to talk to our Heavenly Father, so pray for the students in Kenya who are sitting for these exams. Pray that they will be at peace and that their tensions, fears and other problems will not affect their ability to share what they know during the tests. Choose one or more of the above listed difficulties and pray for the students facing these problems in the coming weeks. Our Saviour has promised that if we ask in his name, we will receive answers and our joy will be complete – so pray diligently between today and November 17 for long-lasting joy in the lives of the Kenyan students sitting for national exams.

By hitting comments below, you can send assurances of your prayers to the Form Four students of Nyeri Baptist High School and Mombasa Baptist High School (see side item) who are sitting for the national exams and the greetings will be forwarded to the schools.
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All pictures taken at Nyeri Baptist High School, one of the Baptist High Schools where students are currently sitting for the national exams.
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“Tough new rules as exams begin” – http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/482476/-/tlgca5/-/index.html
“We are ready to tackle final exams” – http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/481338/-/tlfm31/-/index.html