By Wandia njoya via fb
I know that the NMG Leadership Forum is just a sophisticated laundromat for government policies. So I didn’t attend yesterday’s forum with different expectations of GoK or of NMG but of myself. I thought I had seen it all and I would be pleasantly surprised. I was surprised, but very rudely. Not pleasantly at all. KICD still hasn’t made a convincing case to educators that it knows what it’s doing.
Let me start from what I said two weeks ago at The Whiteness Conference 2018 about whiteness and education. I said that whiteness’s power is in telling us Africans to always look forward, and to not look at the present or the past. Whiteness knows that if we look to the present or the past, we will clearly see that the future it is selling us is a lie. That is why we Africans are kept in a permanent future called “development.” When we ask about the excesses of the present, we are told to look at development. When we mention our past achievements, we’re told to stop pretending Africa was heaven. When we mention our colonial past, we’re told not to blame everything on whites.
So we are literally suspended in time. We have no past, no present, and the future belongs to whites. John S Mbiti even said that there is no concept of the future in African cultures. And when we talk of the “development” that Kenya is aspiring for, we are talking about the European present as our future.
Here’s the relevance.
Yesterday, Dr. Jwan, CEO of Kicd Kenya, said something seemingly harmless, but very disturbing. When asked why we were replacing the school system (it is more than a curriculum change), he said we are changing because it was time. Just that. It was time. But that is not why we change curriculum. We change it because we want to make it work for us, not simply because it is time to change.
And the reason we Kenyans can accept such a reasoning is because of our deeply colonial concept of time. We don’t think we exist until we get into a Eurocentric future defined for us. And the problem is, that future never comes. It’s always in the future.
The only way to accept the reasoning of Jwan is to accept that Kenyans have nothing to contribute to the future, and that the future must come from the West. But it also to say that Kenyans are not already in the present, and that we cannot be in the future unless the wazungu, through government, take us there.
So these people kept telling us that the new education system is for the future, because people do not know things like how social media can be a career path. What the heaven? It has already happened!!!!! In this Kenya! By Kenyans! We are already doing it without being trained for it. This year I co-taught a course on social media with Pius Adesanmi for Carleton University, and I have never done a BA or whatever in social media! None of us whose careers have been boosted by social media, from Magunga to Errant Natives, ever took a class in it.
What does that mean? It means that if we Kenyans – like any human being – have the basic foundations in sciences, arts, culture, we can do amazing things without government holding our hands. WE ARE ALREADY doing amazing things! We are working in labs abroad to come up with new medicines. We are writing books and performing musicals on Broadway. Many of us are interviewed in foreign media because we are thought leaders. We are breaking marathon world records. We are already achieving great things that need to be integrated in the school system by TEACHERS, through field trips, activities, festivals, guest speakers, etc, not through mummy government telling us “now my dears, it’s time to change.” We are already in the “future.” It’s the government that is behind. But like I said, the fundamental problem of all governments since independence is that they don’t see us. Kenya is a country of no people.
All we need is for our teachers to just keep learning how to relate ordinary examples to what they are teaching. We dont need a system overhaul for that. The only reason that KICD is replacing the system is because KICD doesn’t have work to do. The only way KICD feels itself is by disrupting things, the way Sonko disrupted Nairobi the other day.
Our education system didn’t need replacement. It needed to stop being suffocated by government administrators who only sit in offices and do workshops in hotels. But instead of opening the windows for fresh air, KICD has moved us into another room with even less windows more closely shut. If those of us who were the last A level and the first 8-4-4 years can remember how our lives felt destabilized by the transition, for many years, they can then imagine how it will be for children entering the new system. The children will always be guinea pigs. They will never settle.
Now, the common response is that “the education system is exam centric, teachers have no idea of future skills, and that industry needs a certain kind of graduate.” I have responded to those arguments on my blog, but let me do a summary here:
1. An exam-centric system is not imposed within education; it is imposed from outside. School places are few, and in Kenya, your social mobility is decided by where you went to high school. For those who don’t have connections, exams is their ticked to progress. But the system is already rigged. That’s why many 400-ers are complaining they were not called to Alliance, while the rich and the old boys are getting their kids in. Because it’s not just about passing. It’s about the certificate and the connections.
2. We teachers do know a whole lot more than Kenyans give us credit for. But the colonial-like government control of education doesn’t allow us to do more. Plus, there are some skills that haven’t changed despite technology. The ability to think, create, communicate and collaborate with others has never changed. If we read the Bible, that is at least 5,000 years old, it means that age doesn’t necessary reduce the value of knowledge. The skills we teach now are still necessary in the “4th industrial revolution,” whatever that is.
3. There is no such thing, ever, ever, ever, as a work ready graduate. One can never be completely prepared. The insistence that technical skills must come entirely from the education system is a way of telling families and government to subsidize the private sector. That is why you are increasingly seeing slave labor in the name of internships, where companies use interns but the interns pay for their internship, to the profit of the companies.
Private sector doesn’t share their profits with us. So even if we could prepare ready-to-work graduates, we don’t owe them to private sector. The people in labor ministry should be coming up with policy that manages internships and that requires firms to see on-the-job training as an integral part of its operations. The companies do it already, anyway. Then the school system can be free to enhance the creative, communication and other skills that prepare people to adapt and create in different environments.
I will follow up with more posts on the colonial attitudes behind the #NewcurriculumreformsKE.