Our Education; something has to be done…

I was raised by teachers; my father, a language and geography specialist and my mother a home science and nutrition specialist. Everything in our home was about learning, whether my siblings and I wanted or didn’t want. Our ‘free’ time was occupied with making sketches of objects and writing essays in different languages for dad and learning a thing or two at the sewing machine or in the garden for mum. For most of the time, my sister and I felt these activities took up our play time. We complained, but dad in his characteristic way insisted that if we questioned his parenting skills, we had plenty of time in future, past eighteen (18) years old to practice our better skills. Today I am thankful for having learnt something useful credited to their strong will to see us grow up as balanced folk.

For a while, policy makers in our beloved country have held caucus meetings and conferences, retreats to try reevaluate the country’s education system to factor in the growing challenges and the dynamism that characterizes our rather fast paced societal developments. A model was finally agreed upon by some, and the intent to adopt and implement has hit a snag as you may have gathered in the news this week. I have not had access to whatever resolutions and recommendations those involved have reached but I know too well, just like you do, that something needs to be done, fast, to restructure the system, curriculum, define reward and nature passions that are matters education based.

So in quest to pick brains this morning, I tweeted this: “Education: Is Kenya’s problem the education system or the curriculum design/ content?

The much needed debate came through and angles, many angles that I will not have thought of with regards to the subject came through:

@Beenduta: I think it is the content/ design that messes things up. The system will still be a mess if the content is whack.

@Tindilicious: I tend to think it’s mostly systematic thing and more recently, even the content is shallow.

@Wamathai: It is a bit of both. The system does not fit our development needs. The curriculum is outdated. Also, the personnel aren’t the best.

@Mmnjug: I think everything about the education system is out of touch with the current econo-socio-politico needs.

@Ndinda_: The whole education system needs a revamp; from teacher training to remuneration, to content and design.

@Vancemuriu: Let us just say that policies we use in 2012 are those which worked in 1960. The education system needs to evolve.

With these the tone was set for further debate, on what went wrong, what should be done and who should do what. Interesting views came through regarding structures and bodies in place too:

@Mtwita: Current academic certifications and qualifications serve mainly to create gated communities, nothing else.

I understood the above tweet to mean that professional bodies such as ICPAK, LSK and others related are designed in ways to build a community that serves only those who subscribe, and impose their ideals and requirements to industry. I could be wrong.

@Kaggzie: our system is based on training rather than educating.

@Mmnjug: Industry must be involved in shaping the curriculum. In any case, this is their employee source pool.

@ndinda_: Teacher training in this country is a joke. I speak so as a trained teacher.

@vancemuriu: …why do you go to school? To get a job. Why do you need a job? Money.

Education at a certain scale, tertiary to be specific has its standards dropped and objectives for those in school misinformed. While the role of education is to enlighten and instill knowledge, in recent times more and more Kenyans have paid large sums of money for a certificate as a means to a better income, a better job, a better life and as such negating the primary purpose of learning, to know, to be informed, to do.

The debate took an even better turn asking us what we have done, what we are and will do with the system and what it gives us. The role each of us has in determining which way our future generation moves; as parents, as mentors, as employers and as a whole.

@iFirtknox: In as much as we blame our education system, we also lack DIY (Do It Yourself) attitude. How many times have you heard someone ask how Algebra has helped them in their post school life?

@mmnjug: We blame the education system, but what role does the parent play? Charity begins at home.

@roomthinker: I keep trying to do this. Academia tells me ‘What do you know? We’ve been teaching for 30+ years.’

The gentleman above has written before on our education system. How much has changed from decades ago to what it has become today. He once highlighted a conversation he had with a little girl in his neighborhood. He asked the kid when and what she does for fun, she sadly responded with ‘homework’ and ‘there is no time for play.’

@tribe46kenyan: We need to raise the qualifications for those entering the teaching career.

This elicited a number of reactions, key among them being remuneration. If the government and stakeholders cannot pay the current crop of teachers well, will they be able to sustain salaries for better qualified and as such need to be better paid teachers? I personally think the current crop of teachers we have are sufficient, qualification wise. Kenya is by far the most schooled of African nations. To be a teller in some banks here in Nairobi, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is an added advantage if it isn’t a core requirement which intensifies the need to ‘procure’ certificates for gainful employment rather than undergo an education to learn and be knowledgeable.

Not to say our system is begetting half-baked products. There was a time Kenya had the best and most renowned biochemists leading in HIV/AIDS research.

@ifortknox: There was a time Kenyan biochemists’ were the leading HIV/AIDS researchers. Do our school systems still suck?

He also tweeted: ‘Parents however much they are to blame, times have changed, some see their kids once in a week.’ This attributed to their careers and it was in response to @mmnjug’s: inquiry; ‘I recall President Obama (USA) saying in education, parents had a big role to play, especially at home.

@BintiM: wondered what time parents will be playing a role when ‘they’re busy working to pay the exorbitant fees required to keep the kids in good schools.’

Plenty of issues were raised. I asked what regulation the government has for those establishing schools. Everywhere you go upcountry, there is an ‘academy’ coming up, everywhere around the city, and other urban areas, there is a college coming up. I mean, there is Zetech College on just about every street in Nairobi. Sorry to the owners and the alumni but I seriously question their professionalism. Just to highlight a few. Education is big business after-all.

@KKaaria: posted something of absolute reason: ‘Education institutions are adapting to conform to something going going on in society. That something is what needs exploration.’

My personal view is that there are policy makers, they will have as many retreats to come up with supposed solutions. They will fight, agree, and disagree at the expense of our systems and children. Solutions have to come from within us, step by step to influence direction and the future. I cannot for sure capture the many angles that this subject comes with in one post. I have identified a few topics for further discussions. I will seek opinion and write blog posts progressively. For now, I will work around what I believe we can influence: Parent, Society and Mentorship role in education.

It might not capture everything, but will sure indicate the various deficiencies that need to be addressed. I’d like if some of you can write something about the issues you passionately debated about. @ndinda_ @KKaaria @mmnjug @tindilicious @wamathai…and others feel free to indulge me. ( mail@zackmukewa.com )

Education is foundation for self sustenance, national development and global enlightenment. Ours is failing. Something must be done.’

Till then, Cheers!

2 thoughts on “Our Education; something has to be done…

  1. Taking on the parent’s role….. I wonder why parents are taking kids to some school levels unknown to man…what is baby-class? My take is that a kid should be taken to school when 4-5yrs for nursery school and start primary when about 6yrs.

    The we have academies…….by the life me…..I don’t understand why parents would torture a kid by waking the poor soul at 4am to be in school by 6am? Did you see the harm kids are undergoing by carrying bags weighing about 13kgs daily that was featured in DNation last week? smh!!

    Come to secondary and you find subjects combinations that do not make rational sense[is that phrase correct]

    One is then admitted to University via JAB! A body that I find to superfluous and works in mysterious ways literally! I was just telling a new Moi Uni student today that if by mistake….yes, by mistake someone thought they’d make me an Education Cabinet Secretary…we’re done with ministers you know, my first order of business would be to suspend the operations of JAB and let individual universities sort their admissions themselves….why he asked.. I told him, look at Uni Pullouts in the last month newspapers…focus on Moi, Egerton, KU and UoN…. They are complete replicas of each other yet they are expected to be champions of education in the world? By abolishing JAB, universities would target students individually and compete among themselves to pick top students for each faculty they specialise in..the ripple effect from this would be seismic in terms of quality, research and output….because no student would want to attend to a university where a certain course is obsolete…

    Its a long journey this one…..but maybe one day we will reach….or will have made substantial progress in making our education system more relevant to our needs….

    One can only hope.

  2. Interesting that this discussion has come up now, even more of the same is being discussed in the ongoing E-Learning Africa 2012 Conference in Benin.(#ela2012) http://www.elearning-africa.com/

    My perspective on education, is it has to be a multifaceted approach. As was your upbringing vis a vis your first paragraph, your immediate environment played the greatest part in building you up, not the schools et al.

    Thus we must all take responsibility. For our teachers, Sons, daughters,nieces and nephews, friends.

    Thank you for stepping up and doing your thing towards its betterment, as this is how it has to be. Each of us must play by our strengths to uplift education.

    Kenya has some of the world’s best laid plans. But how to prod ACTION?
    Granted, policy makers must utilize best practice in infrastructure and outlay, NGO’s must do the same in their Edu projects but the biggest burden falls on parents who must stand up and take responsibility for what their children read, and teachers need to have passion for their work.

    I would also like to point out a few who I believe are independently making positive change, @mtotowajirani for example focuses on base level technology education for the youth http://www.mtotowajirani.com, others like Inveneo and @ICTworks focus on ICT enablement for teachers and students in marginalized communities. I favour Edutech hence my examples.

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