2 April

Today I am invigilating my first exam in Kenya. I was sent the invigilation schedule and my name appeared many times. Today I am the Chief Invigilator. I have no previous experience invigilating, and my name has never appeared on an invigilation schedule before. I am proud that in my first experience with invigilation that I have been named the Chief Invigilator.

What the? I had to go to Merriam Webster to understand this strange new word. The word sounds like I should be doing a strange dance in front of my students. Because I was originally pronouncing the word incorrectly with a hard ‘g’, it seemed like there should be a few strange wiggles and shimmies as I invigilate.

The word means: To watch students who are taking an exam. The first known use was in 1553.

Fellow invigilators in Harambee Hall- where three exams were given simultaneously.

Fellow invigilators in Harambee Hall- where three exams were given simultaneously.

The Latin root vigilare means to stay awake and be watchful. Vigilant. Invigilate. Soft ‘g’. Cool word. My Dad would have known this word. He loved Latin. He went to St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Buffalo, New York at a time when Latin was compulsory. I can hear him singing every verse of Adeste Fideles at Christmas time loudly and proudly.


The British roots and layers of formality and bureaucracy are deep in Kenya. The students show ID cards to ‘sit’ the exams, complicated examination booklets are given to each student, and I have filled out and signed three forms with three carbon copies each making every aspect of this examination formal and precise. The exams were delivered to me in a sealed envelope and I had to confirm their accuracy and authenticity before they were distributed. An invigilation messenger just arrived and had me sign another form confirming that I was present and properly invigilating.

I love invigilating in Kenya. I can now add to my resume Chief Invigilator at Kenyatta University.



This entry was published on April 2, 2014 at 9:34 am. It’s filed under Culture, People, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “CHIEF INVIGILATOR

  1. on said:

    When I was appointed “Chief” in our group visiting Maori people, it was my task to make peace with the Maori Chief and to rub noses with him.(Boy, was he ugly!)

    However, the privilege of rubbing noses with the pretty young women was much more inviting. Maybe invigilating has its moments!

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