Yesterday, The Citizen told us it had the “Real causes behind 2012 Form 4 failures“. Mwananchi led with “Janga la elimu” (Tragedy of education). Both articles published some of the findings from the report of the Commission that was formed earlier this year by the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, to look into the dramatic drop in the Form 4 pass rate. The report has not been published, but the papers had a leaked copy. From The Citizen:
“Outdated questions, poor marking, inadequate time, lack of testing skills among those tasked to set exam questions and the removal of national Form Two exams in 2009 were among the key factors that caused the massive failure during the 2012 Form Four national exams The Citizen can authoritatively reveal today.”
“In May, this year, preliminary findings by the Commission of Inquiry set to investigate the 2012 massive failure, show that the unprecedented poor performance was mainly caused by the introduction of the new grading system called Fixed Grade Ranges (FGR) introduced by Necta for the first time last year. But, according to details gathered by The Citizen from a leaked report the problem was more that the much-publicized introduction of new grading system.”
Today, the Citizen followed up on the story, publishing some stakeholder reaction, its own editorial comment, and a cartoon – see below. Mwananchi did much the same with reactions and an editorial asking where is the report of Pinda’s commission? They asked a similar question yesterday: Why is Pinda’s Commission still sitting on its report?
I could ask whether the report’s full conclusions are any better than its preliminary findings. In both cases, the blame is placed on the exams themselves, not on broader issues such as school funding, the standard of teaching, school facilities and teaching materials, the language of instruction or the unpopular Ward Secondary Schools system. And there are those who know the field intimately who have been highly critical of the report process – including Rakesh Rajani* who stepped down from the commission citing concerns (English version, pdf) in several areas, including the narrow focus of its conclusions.
Or I could make a point about how the non-publication of the report doesn’t fit with the government’s commitment to transparency. The next Open Government Partnership summit takes place next week in London. It will be interesting to see how the government will defend its progress.
But I’m actually most intrigued by The Citizen and Mwananchi’s decision to publish articles based on a leak. Remember that only last month, Mwananchi was suspended for two weeks in part for publishing information from a leaked document.
Brave? Certainly. Foolhardy? Perhaps. But I applaud their decision. For all the report’s flaws, it should surely be a public document. Part of the media’s essential role is to point out where the government is not living up to its own commitments. Another part is to push the process along by publishing important information that’s in the public interest. Here Mwananchi and The Citizen have done both.
I’m reminded of one of my favourite media-related quotes:
“News is what somebody does not want you to print. All the rest is advertising.”
(Lord Northcliffe, probably)
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* Full Disclosure – I now work for Twaweza, of which Rakesh is the Head.