Education is too critical to be left to vested interests
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion is not promising us a happy New Year. The union leaders are themselves unhappy with several work issues and have promised to keep all public primary schools shut in January unless and until their grievances are addressed. Whereas the current challenge seems to focus on delocalisation of teachers and head teachers, trouble has been brewing in this crucial sector for a while now.
Only a few days ago, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed announced the postponement of the implementation of the new 2-6-3-3-3 system which was to start in January 2019. Sadly, this was in an apparent contradiction to the Principal Secretary, Belio Kipsang, who only a week earlier had exuded great confidence in their readiness to roll out the new curriculum. The consequence is that pupils who have been piloting the programme now have to readjust to the old 8-4-4 system.
Whereas the government must certainly have legitimate reasons for putting on hold implementation of the new system, the truth is that in change management this does not bode well. The truth is that, for all our progressive talk, Kenyans are some of the most conservative people when it comes to embracing change. That is why the Kidero traffic lights were dead on arrival in the CBD, and especially on Uhuru Highway.
Surprisingly, after only one day of test implementation, the chaos that ensued was reason enough to shelve the multi-million shilling project. How did anybody expect that the lights would work seamlessly in one day! Likewise, Sonko’s traffic decongestion project in the CBD came a cropper after one day of matatu owners and operators outcry. All these do not speak well of our capacity to embrace and effect change.
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Our primary school Physical Education (PE) teacher taught us something significant about the triple jump – also known as the hop, step and jump. In this field event, the competitor runs down the track and performs a hop, a bound, and then a long jump into the sand pit. This calls for the mustering of one’s faculties and a careful coordination of movements to attain a good distance. Hence, the teacher advised that we must avoid distractions and instead focus the mind on the feat ahead. Most importantly, he warned us never to hesitate at the jump stage.
If you do, the momentum gets lost and the trajectory is compromised. Likewise, in change management, detractors and distractions are often many. Focus is critical if the leader is to succeed in accomplishing the desired outcomes. Reversing implementation of a project at the last minute can be disastrous. It is like hesitating at the jump stage of the triple jump. The momentum is lost and it becomes more difficult to restart, let alone make good progress.
Sadly, in moving from the 8-4-4 system, we have severally hopped, stepped, but never managed to jump. Not good at all. The same must be avoided in the matter of delocalisation of schools. One hopes that due diligence was done before being brought to the public domain. If that be the case, then the various arms of the Ministry must hop, step, and take a long frog jump. Unfortunately, indications are that not everything or everyone may have been brought on board. None other than President Uhuru Kenyatta has previously declared that the teachers’ delocalisation policy needed review to ensure it does not break up families. He therefore directed the Education CS to look into the matter prior to implementation.
Likewise, the implementation of another education policy recently hit headwinds. The CS had lowered the entry grade into teacher training colleges to D+ for students from arid and semi-arid areas, even backdating it to 2006. In justification, the Basic Education Director General, Alyas Abdi – speaking on behalf of the CS – reasoned that “the only way to solve the issue of teacher shortages in these areas is by training locals.” An interesting argument considering that non-locals have been driven out from some parts of this region, due to insecurity. In any case, this appears to contradict the very principle of delocalisation that the ministry is fervently pursuing. Why can efforts not be made to similarly delocalise the region?
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To enjoy the New Year, stakeholders in the sector need a meeting of minds on what to do with the education of our children. It is too critical a sector to be left to vested interests.
- The writer is the Presiding Bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]
Kenya National Union of TeachersKnutWilson SossionNew Year2-6-3-3-3 systemBelio Kipsang8-4-4 systemAmina Mohamed