Education is an equaliser but it has often propagated disparities, as the wedge that widens inequality. Yet its power can be harnessed to create equal opportunity for all.
Such adverse outcomes are common and are unfortunately hinged on the quality of the school, not justifiably on a student’s potential. Ultimately, unequal access to quality education violates the rights of learners and undermines social mobility.
Across the myriad challenges facing education in Kenya, structural inadequacy ranks high, and having stretched beyond their breaking point, many schools fail the stress test as evidenced during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Structural inadequacy refers to the inability of a school system to sustain learners’ demands. This includes availing physical and digital resources for all learners.
Many schools face the conundrum of limited funds chasing many priorities. While this can be crippling, schools are expected to provide a conducive learning environment, adopt new innovations, and technology and pay attention to the mental and physical well-being of students.
Upskilling and equipping teachers with soft and hard skills is another key responsibility of the school, with support from relevant agencies. Beyond these expectations, the school infrastructure has to keep pace with modern advancements which can run into millions in sunk capital.
These conditions affect the quality of education and impact the learning experience by either stimulating or inhibiting performance. In a highly competitive industry where only the strong survive, disadvantaged schools with limited capacity to accelerate improvements fade away if they do not receive the necessary support to remain relevant.
Although the core business of banks is to provide financial services, at National Bank, we have understood that it is unwise to maintain this conservative outlook and alienate the very segment that is expected to produce the next generation of leaders, captains of industry and innovators, and address the mismatch between skills of the workforce and job vacancies to ensure business succession or continuity.
It is within this ecosystem that we have taken steps to dovetail with governmental and non-State actors and developed a customised proposition, Elimu Konnect programme to unlock barriers to access to quality education.
This programme offers flexible asset financing for infrastructure development. It factors in green energy, water solutions, leadership and capacity building.
- The writer is the Retail Banking director at the National Bank of Kenya.