Teachers at a past industrial action march. The insensitive KNEC; This is why teachers are furious with the Council over Exams administration
Teachers at a past industrial action march. The insensitive KNEC; This is why teachers are furious with the Council over Exams administration

A section of teachers has been angered by the decision to use a hazardous chemical as one of the reagents during this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, KCSE, exams. Teachers Manning the Chemistry practical exam castigated the Kenya National Examinations Council, KNEC, for exposing them and candidates to Xylene; a known, poisonous, organic compound. After the Chemistry Practical that was done on Friday November 8, 2019 the teachers could not hide their anger; pouring to social media to condemn the council.

“Ifikie KNEC and TSC ( To KNEC and the Teachers Service Commission; TSC)

Xylene is carcinogenic and very harzadous☢♨🚯🚹🚺

I’m sure most of us here today (on Friday) witnessed the grave danger Chemistry teachers were exposed to during the KCSE Chemistry practical, Kuppet as our voice should not let this opportunity pass, use it to the advantage of science teachers,” wrote one teacher.

“I personally suffered from the effects of the chemical. Even now, I have breathing difficulties. How I wish teachers came together and demonstrated against this insensitivity to make the KNEC answerable. If this situation continues, I will seek medical attention with a view to instituting legal proceedings against KNEC. Let teachers be respected, they are not trash to be treated as such. How can such important professionals be exposed so dangerously to carcinogenic organic chemicals? It pains to see that there is no organised organization coming out to defend the teachers. It pains”, complained another teacher.

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THE EXPLOITATIVE KNEC

Principals have also raised concerns over the inflated cost of the chemical. “I spent close to Sh30,000 on this reagent (Xylene), alone. A litre was trading at Sh10,000 and given that I have 300 candidates (and each candidate required 10ml of the chemical) the school had to buy 3 Litres. What is so special with this reagent!” Wondered a school principal who sought for anonymity.

Of irritating to the Science teachers is also the failure by KNEC to recognize their supportive role in administration of the exams. Whereas other Professionals who are involved in exam administration are remunerated, teachers thronging the exam centres to prepare the exams walk home empty handed. “The Biology practical is slated for this coming Friday. I will spend a cool Sh3,000 to school and back home,” complained one teacher; involved in administration of the KCSE exams.

Back to Xylene

The hazards of xylene are well documented. Breathing xylene vapors in small amounts can cause headache, dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. With more serious exposure, xylene can cause sleepiness, stumbling, irregular heartbeat, fainting, or even death. Xylene vapors are mildly irritating to the skin, eyes, and lungs.

The nervous system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and kidneys are primarily affected by exposure to xylene. Effects due to exposure to Xylene include:

  • Labored Breathing
  • Impaired Pulmonary Function
  • Increased Heart Palpitation
  • Severe Chest Pain
  • Accumulation of Fluid in Lungs
  • Respiratory Depression or Arrest
  • Ventricular Arrhythmias

Symptoms of Xylene exposure include:

  • Eye Irritation
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Incoordination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach Discomfort
  • Impaired Short-term Memory
  • Impaired Reaction Time
  • Alterations in Equilibrium
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Lack of Muscle Coordination
  • Death
  • Coma
  • Impaired Vision
  • Paralysis
  • Skin Irritation

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