JUBILEE IS SYSTEMATICALLY DESTROYING KENYAâ€™S EDUCATION SYSTEM
By Eliud Owalo
The Kenyan education system has got the potential of developing the best skills you can find world over. Thatâ€™s why of all the African countries, Kenya has been the leading exporter of skilled manpower. However, the Jubilee Government has not risen to the occasion to fully exploit the opportunities arising therefrom.It has consistently either gotten its priorities wrong, implemented the wrong policies or failed to solve the myriad challenges afflicting the education sector.
In their promise to Kenyans during the 2013 campaigns, Jubilee promised to increase the number of schools in disadvantaged areas and restrict class sizes to a maximum of 40;
provide solar powered lap-top computers equipped with relevant content for every school age child in Kenya;
provide free milk for every primary school going child which will be sourced from County-based dairy farms and factories;
raise the transition rate from primary to secondary to 90%; increase the number of boarding schools in pastoralist areas;
establish a business bursary scheme and encourage private companies – through tax incentives to encourage universities to invest in research, technology and innovations;
and transfer the function of the development of education infrastructure for primary and secondary schools to County Governments, while the national Government retains responsibility for only regulatory and employment matters.
It also promised to invest heavily in disadvantaged counties by providing textbooks, teaching materials, stationery and teachers. And true to Jubilee practice of tricking the public with merely lots of public relations, all the above promises have NOT been met to date.
Instead, our education facilities have been subjected to public greed through the wanton grabbing mania by the ruling elite who have an unparalleled appetite for public land, educational facilities and manipulation of tender processes.
Currently, there is little or no learning happening in some parts of Kenya, with the most affected being the Counties of Baringo, Turkana, Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa due to insecurity. Schools have been closed, teachers have deserted work, while bandits and terrorists have a field day in our northern counties which are experiencing the worst levels of insecurity ever. This has ensured that no schools are smoothly running because teachers, pupils and students are out of school as a result of insecurity.
The youth who opt out of school then become easy targets for recruitment into terrorist organizations. And what has the Jubilee Government done? It has threatened to sack the teachers and institute other disciplinary measures.
To date,neither the Cabinet Secretary for education, the President nor the Deputy President has made any serious attempt to address these challenges. This just goes to show the level of marginalization that the government afflicts on the people of Northern Kenya. Unless the Jubilee government addresses the issue of insecurity of this region and Kenya as a whole, realizing the goal of basic education for all will be a mirage.
The issue of terms and conditions of work for our teachers has been a continuous and running problem between the teachers unions and the Government. No pro-active plan has been put in place by the government to commensurately compensate teachers and lecturers at our learning institutions, unless they go on strike. Our education system almost collapsed twice; last year and once in 2013.
Instead of addressing the issues arising therefrom with the teachers, the Jubilee government has instead resorted to one threat after the other, misused the judicial system to coerce into silence teachersâ€™ fighting for better terms and conditions of work. The divide and rule system has also been deployed by the Jubilee Government through systematic politicization of teachers’ trade unions.
Our education system therefore continues to be in the hands of demotivated teachers who subsequently pursue other means of livelihood besides teaching. This leads to poor childhood development as teachers do not have any serious attachment to their work. Teacher posting has also been discriminatively done. Some parts of the country have got the requisite staff numbers while conversely other regions have minimal numbers. In certain instances, it is embarrassing to learn that a primary school of eight classes only has four government teachers. How then are they expected to deliver with such shortages?
Our higher education has also been heavily commercialised. The ratio of publicly sponsored students at our public universities has continued to diminish while self-sponsored students ratio has disproportionately been increased. This denies poor yet able Kenyans access to higher education. The government has also resorted to turning middle level colleges into universities that operate below optimal levels thereby denying the country artisans and middle level technical expertise for production processes.
This not only limits the expansion of productive and manufacturing industries but also shrinks employment opportunities as such enterprises lack the requisite human capital. There are no tangible plans to modernise the existing educational institutions, while Research is at its lowest ebb, thereby limiting innovation and creativity. Without research, Kenya as a country is bound to continue being a net consumer where the level of imports far outweighs exports.
Leakage of examination materials has become a common practice in our national examinations. The net effect is that international organisations, institutions and foreign countries may begin subjecting our graduates and students to unnecessary screening whenever they seek opportunities for further training and employment.
The intake of students into higher learning institutions and courses has also been discriminatory and biased. For example, the last intake of class eight of the year 2014 into form one places was marred with irregularities through favouritism of sectarian interests. There is also misallocation of public scholarship opportunities where technocrats serving in the Public Service sieve off scholarship opportunities offered by the Government and international partners to their sons and daughters.
Then we have this misplaced Laptops issue. How do you introduce laptops to standard one pupils while we still have pupils in certain schools learning under trees for lack of classrooms? What about the people who will facilitate training of the pupils using the laptops; have they been trained? And do we have electricity connections into all schools to ensure continuous power supply to facilitate uninterrupted operationalization of the machines?
It is important that we deal with basic needs of the education system first before we move to the other issues of modern technology. Otherwise how will a computer literate pupil compete on an equal footing with a hungry colleague who learns under a tree? Also, the idea of introducing laptops in some areas as opposed to others falls within the same Jubilee script of pursuance of discriminative governance tendencies that has made Kenyaâ€™s inequality index to rise rapidly in the last couple of years.
If the Jubilee administration truly wanted to modernise our education system and enhance quality, then it needed to look into how to integrate value addition into our education systems. The quality of education (what students know), not educational attainment (how long students stay in school), determines the economic success of individuals and economies. This quality affects education and the resultant disposable incomes of recipients. Itâ€™s all about helping students master the life and job skills that will transform their lives.
Going by the Jubilee narrow agenda of sectarianism and pursuit of political capital in all aspects, our education system is likely to face further decline. Besides all the other glaring incompetence of the Jubilee Government, the most dangerous one is the mess it is inflicting in our education. And this is why I appeal to all Kenyans of goodwill to be steadfast in pressurizing Jubilee to deliver on its pre-election pledges, lest face the wrath of the Kenyan voting population at the 2017 polls.