Vendor-driven economics is a term I learnt from Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto when he recently explained Jubilee government’s obsession with multi-billion shilling projects which add no value to citizens.
He named Galana-Kalulu irrigation scheme and Standard Gauge Railway.
To Isaac Rutto; the only explanation to leaving the traditional bread basket of the Rift Valley to grow Maize in Galana had everything to do with the ‘vendors’ embedded within the Jubilee government who thrive in tenderpreneuring.
Someone with connections convinced Jubilee to irrigate and plant maize in Galana. This tender was given to an Israeli firm. It was also a way of placating (awarding) Israel, an avowed critic of the ICC. This isn’t what I wanted to post though.
I thought of Isaac Rutto’s “vendor-driven economics” the other day when Education CS Fred Matiang’i was releasing KCPE results.
Dr. Matiang’i was too quick to point out the number of primary schools that have been connected to the national grid. And they are many.
President Uhuru has for some time now touted “school electrification” and “rural electrification” as major achievements of the Jubilee regime.
As we head to 2017; electrification (which Dennis Itumbi often term as ‘powering Kenya’) is going to be a central campaign trump issue for Uhuru and Jubilee.
It is one of the few tangibles people can see. It is real.
However, hidden from this electrification rhetoric is the less appreciated fact that power (electricity) distribution is to Uhuru a personal business.
The first family have increased their stake in KPLC using what is essentially patronage. Shocked?
For every rural school and market centre lit; Uhuru has a personal stake and Uhuru enriches himself.
Now, for Kenya, this may be said to be ‘smart business’. People in power using their positions of authority to enrich themselves while claiming service delivery to the people had long been accepted as fair deal.
But let’s face it, rural electrification of public schools is bad rubbish when the facts are stated.
And what are the facts? It has not improved performance of public schools.
One would have expected that with classrooms lit; public school pupils performances would have improved. The results released last week starkly contradicts this.
For me, this isn’t confounding. I wasn’t astonished.
President Uhuru has no idea when life in a rural public school starts and closes. He can be forgiven for he never sat in any public school.
For all public schools, teaching commences at 8.00am. You don’t need ‘lights’ at 8.00am not unless you study in ‘cerelac’ schools where ‘room warming’ is part of the ‘culture’ of the schools.
There used to be something called ‘preps’ which begun at 6.am or 5.30am for ‘upper primary’ but I hear the policy changed and this thing was stopped. There used to be, also, night preps, and my older cousins would eat by 5pm just to return to school for the ‘night preps’ but some teachers turned it to opportunities for impregnating school girls and this too was stopped.
Question is: When does public primary schools use Uhuru’s ‘lights’? In what subjects does a primary school pupil need the lights considering schools also close at 4pm (upper primary) and 1pm (lower primary). At 4pm, Kenya is still wonderfully exposed to God’s sun. No lights needed!
I am not dismissing school electrification. What I find overly peddled, though nonsensical, is the assumption that powering schools is such a ‘demand driven’ issue. It is vendor driven.
Many public schools have serious pressing issues than electricity. In fact, when Dr. Matiang’i enumerated reasons why he thought public schools did not perform better, he never mentioned electricity. He listed teachers strikes, teacher absenteeism and inadequate stationery among others. And public schools failed terrible.
The irony of it all – which I found amusing- is that Dr. Matiang’i did not seem to connect failure of the government to honor its bargains with teachers as the main issue pushing teachers to engage in other side hustles to supplement the meagre earnings from teaching and leading to both the incessant strikes and absenteeism.
I argue that school electrification will not improve public school performances and shouldn’t be the main project in public primary and secondary schools.
Electrification sounds sweet for jubilee regime mandarins because of the hype they’ve created around it. Beyond the hype; it is a white elephant and plainly silly considering the sorry state of human capacity in public education in Kenya.
As I’ve already revealed to you; the only reason jubilee is obsessed with school electrification is because it is, beyond service delivery, a personal stake (business) of the president’s family.
It is such a huge indictment on Uhuru’s sanctimonious ignorance of the dire needs of public primary schools that over 200,000 pupils got less than 200 marks.
They will peddle school electrification as their huge achievement but will leave the failures, massive as they are, to teachers and, perhaps, CORD.
Ours is to remind them that they don’t get it and won’t get it because they never really got it.