Parents of the 2022 KCSE candidates who have excelled are celebrating, and rightly so. After four years of hard work, their children have something to show for it, and are likely to join public universities under government scholarship.
Amidst these celebrations, however, there are children who are being ignored and shunned by their own parents, peers, and society because they didn’t attain the magic C+ (and above) in KCSE. Now, society is seeing them as failures.
It is unfortunate that we live in a society that declares people as either intelligent and successful or stupid and unsuccessful based on a single examination that’s done after an education cycle.
Nobody appears to care whether the student is differently gifted or is a slow learner who needs more time to internalise what his or her counterparts comprehended within a shorter time.
People are not the same. But that doesn’t mean that those who take longer to learn concepts are stupid. I disagree with the straitjacket thinking that categorises learners as either intelligent or stupid. That categorisation is itself stupid, insensitive, and unrealistic.
We have heard of many unfortunate cases of young people who committed suicide because they failed to meet the expectation of society in KCSE. This is very sad in view of the numerous opportunities that are now available to such scholars through the TVET channel.
Many parents see their own success through the success of their children. Parents put inordinate pressure on their children to achieve what they couldn’t achieve in their own time at school.
In other words, some parents are looking for self-actualisation through their children. What they forget, however, is that children have their own passions, which they should be allowed to pursue.
Besides, many parents are not alive to the reality that many lucrative professions have sprouted in the last few decades, which are as lucrative if not more lucrative, than the traditional professions such as law, accountancy, nursing, and medicine.
As society develops, tastes and preferences expand, and with them new professions emerge. Today, there are new professions such as mechatronics, musicology, landscaping, beauty, film and television, animation, which young people can pursue and have global appeal.
The young people we are trying to pigeonhole into our preferred professions know better than we do where the world is going. Let’s guide our children but allow them some space to share with us their understanding of market dynamics.
Parents must not try to extend the past into the future of their children. I agree with the Bible that “my people perish for lack of knowledge.”
From my own experience as a person in the higher education space, I can state without any fear of contradiction that in the long run, students with C plain and below have equal chances of rising to the top via the TVET route.
The TVET route could be longer, but it is certainly a very safe path to professional development.
In the last university graduations held shortly before Christmas in Kenya’s technical universities, I saw a number of students who had not attained university entry grades in KCSE graduate with very good degrees in engineering and other highly competitive disciplines.
This is how it happens. A student scores a C- in KCSE, then secures a place at a technical training institute to train for a certificate course. The student then proceeds to take a diploma course, which clears the path for him or her to join university for a technology course.
The beauty of the TVET path is that it enables a student to study very competitive courses that his or her classmates who obtained KCSE grades lower than A plain could hardly access directly from school.
The other thing about the TVET route is that by the time these students reach degree level, they are already very mature, and thus perform much better than their direct entry counterparts. In most cases, TVET students come to the university when they are already in gainful employment.
Many are the cases of D+ students who started from the certificate level and ended up graduating with degrees in electrical and electronics engineering, mechanical and mechatronics engineering, civil engineering, bachelor of accounting, bachelor of commerce, etc.
Ordinarily, such courses are very competitive, and most students who leave KCSE hardly access them directly.
There have been very many cases of TVET students obtaining First Class Honours or Upper Second degrees, something that’s very rare among direct university entrants.
So, I am pleading with the parents of KCSE graduates to not see a C+ as the magic grade to a successful life.
Our children should be encouraged to embrace TVET courses, and they will not regret their decision. The government is committing a lot of resources to strengthen TVET institutions in readiness for more Kenyan children who want to access learn skills.
Sometime last December, President William Ruto, while presiding over a function at the Technical University of Kenya, made a commitment that his government would prioritise TVET as part of the Kenya Vision 2030.
He instructed Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu to ensure increased funding for certificate and diploma programmes at technical training institutes and technical universities.
I do not want to be misconstrued to be saying that there are university courses that are not useful. No. Traditionally, universities train people to think. Universities are not conveyor channels for producing workers for the industry. People go to university to learn and develop the capacity for revolutionary thinking.
It is the duty of the industry to convert university graduates into whatever they want to do with them through training and continuous development. Unfortunately, such opportunities for training are becoming fewer and fewer as corporations put tabs on their expenditures.
My point is that with a small industrial base, and fewer employment opportunities, TVET institutions present better opportunities for graduates to be easily absorbed into the industry and also to be job creators in various technical fields.
With TVETs, the eyesore of unemployed graduates roaming the streets of cities in search of ever-elusive job opportunities should become a rare occurrence.
Prof Okoth Ongore is Associate Professor, Business Administration and Entrepreneurship (DBAE)