The Vision 2030 is the latest development blueprint from the Government of Kenya. Through the improvement of the Political, Economic and Social pillars of Kenya, the government plans to turn Kenya into a middle income country by the year 2030. I believe very strongly that Kenya and Kenyans have the capacity to achieve this. However, I am not sure that we are paying attention to the most important elements of our lives that can enable us achieve this dream.
Tomorrow and the day after, Some 746,409 pupils will sit their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations. Out of these, approximately 66% will get a chance to go to Secondary Schools come January 2011. Regrettably, some of those who will have won places in public secondary schools will not be able to access them since they cannot afford. While I recognize that the government has done a lot more to improve the transition rate to Secondary Schools over the last few years, I reckon that a lot more needs to be done. Further, we need to worry as much about the quality of education that our children get.
Sometime ago, Secondary education was a luxury that many people could actually do without. In the present day world though, secondary education must be understood to be part of basic education. In which case, it is my belief that every Kenyan child should have access to a secondary education. It cannot be acceptable that over 200,000 young boys and girls are being locked out the mainstream economy every year and we do not worry about it. For any development to be realised, Kenya will rely heavily on a well developed human resource base. That is why we must do something now.
Over the last few decades, the Kenyan people and their government have been focused on the very wrong issues regarding education, I dare say. We have been obsessed with the workload for our children in the meantime rushing our kids to academies where kids are required to be in class at 7am in the morning or even earlier. Some children never get any rest: waking up at 4 0r 5 am and staying up until midnight to complete huge loads of homework. We complained that the curriculum is too broad and we decided to remove such beautiful subjects as Music and even did away with Agriculture and Business Education at Primary School. We replaced Geography, History and Civics with a subject called Social Studies.
We are then obsessed with whether the 8-4-4 system is the best, whether we want quota system or not and so on.
I think we need to take a closer at the education sector.
First, we need to agree as a people that basic education includes secondary education too. Each primary school should have a secondary school attached to it and in my view they should be managed as one. The Headteacher would then be assisted by a couple of senior teachers to run the school. The schools should be managed professionally including having qualified accountants serving as Bursars and with very strong Board of Governors. The government should provide teachers, textbooks and all other materials for learning. The communities should be able to mobilise resources to build the classrooms and buy furniture. In the past, this has proven possible and there is no reason why it cannot work again.
If the government is committed to the achievement of Vision 2030, then it must be willing to fund education adequately. Teachers must be trained well and in their numbers. The terms of service for teachers must be competitive enough so that we stop losing teachers to the private sector businesses. The teachers must be trained to facilitate learning.
Secondly, we have to change our approach to teaching and learning. When the teacher comes to class and dictates notes or write them down on the blackboard for the children to copy, a lot of teaching happens. Whether there is as much learning going on, is a totally different matter. Teachers must be trained to facilitate the process of learning by letting the children develop critical thinking skills and also to let them acquire knowledge their own way. In such manner, you will be surprised by what the children may come up with. This is the very basis for scientific and technological innovation which should propel our country to greater heights. Just look at how young children learn to use technology. It doesn’t take them long to learn how to switch a TV set on and once they see the remote, they are likely to discover the use for all buttons while most grown ups are not able to. Unfortunately, when they go to school and can’t score 350 marks out of 500, we classify them as stupid and condemn to going to some rather hopeless schools while their ‘brighter’ colleagues go to the prestigious national schools which can only admit 3,000 students each year.
Thirdly, we must rethink our curriculum. I love what Kagame has done in Rwanda. If you don’t train all your students in the use of computers, you are in effect disenfranchising them. The world has moved so fast over the last few years and one has to be willing to keep the pace if one has to survive. The use of computers is a necessity in every day life and their use facilitates the process of learning impressively. Our children should learn how to conduct research over the internet and how to use that information for their benefit and that of society. This exposure will also mean, like has been the case with a few of my friends, that they may gain enough experience before they are through with school to come up with amazing innovations.
Further, we must not abandon important subjects. The PE lesson should be converted into a Maths lesson. Let kids learn how to play. Provide PE teachers and soon you will have more professional soccer players and athletes. We have the capacity to be a respectable country in sports not just in athletics but also in cricket, hockey, basketball and many others. Please bring back Agriculture. As they told us many a time, it is the backbone of our economy. Train farmers from the very young age and support them. Train our students in metalwork and woodwork too as well as Music. And at this point, I would say bring back technical divisions of Secondary Schools. Our country needs mechanics, carpenters, tailors who are professionally trained. In this manner, we can be able to produce many goods and keep improving their quality thus propelling our economy.
People have different interests and ways of learning. There are people who can never quite understand anything about the ‘Newton’s Laws of Motion’ but will make excellent musicians or dancers. Let’s give them a chance. The fact that calculus goes against your grain should not condemn you even if you can paint better than Picasso.
Let’s broaden not only our minds, but the opportunities we are creating for our children. Then we shall be able to achieve our dreams.