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Blame not the pupils, look in the mirror

By | April 28th 2010

By Andrew Kipkemboi

Who is to blame if a Standard Eight pupil fails Standard Two arithmetic? Or worse, who is to blame if a Standard Two child fails Class Two arithmetic?

The cause and effect of the wanton illiteracy and numeracy handicap in our schools as detailed in the Uwezo Annual Learning Assessment report could be attributed to the system of education, teachers and society. First of all, it is important to note that the aim of education right from the start is to impart the pupil with knowledge, self-discipline and basic survival skills.

It must also transform the pupil into a sociable human being oozing courtesy and respect for others. Therefore, it rankles to hear parents bellow "let us hurry we are being waited for," to their children at a supermarket. Or meet the man who serially jumps the queue at the grocery shop. Or the road maniac who disregards the rule of law.

All of them are products of a certain school. They either aped such vanity from a teacher or picked the bad manners as they grew up.

Going through the rigmarole of primary school, high school and/or university is not everyone’s cup of tea. Therefore it is taking things too far when the pupil is used as a scapegoat for the deep malaise that pervades the system. In truth, often pupils become what teachers and society moulds them to be.

If one is lucky to get through primary, students find themselves in a whirl at secondary school, because of a bad foundation, when confronted with logarithm tables in mathematics and nomenclature in biology. Matters cannot be helped by any stroke of genius and many just muddle through to Form Four.

Indeed, the study released last week is a tip of the iceberg of what really is wrong with our entire education system. It has exposed the gullibility of pupils and their parents; the inability of teachers; the rottenness of the system and a country that is hamstrung to change the way a nation’s future is educated.

Reading anathema

Make no mistake, appalling quality and standards in the public education system have been there in spite of rather than because of the vilified 8-4-4 system.

From the start, pupils find serious reading anathema and view breaking school rules and being macho as the norm rather than the exception.

It is fashionable not to brush teeth and wear a clean shirt or worse attend classes.

It is fashionable to sneak out for a drink in the nearby shopping centre. Generally, it is considered feminine to be neat, organised and obedient. And the hapless teachers make a bad situation worse by unwittingly rewarding errant behaviour as prefects or looking the other way and reinforce rotten behaviour as the in-thing.

The delinquency then drives unruly youths to burn school dormitories and engage in sex, drug and alcohol abuse. By this time, parents have given up on their children leaving it all to teachers and the wide jaws of the world. If in a private school, the wayward teacher drills the end justifies the means mantra into them. And because of the cut-throat competition, the pupils are trained to accept nothing less than a win at whatever cost.

The lazy ones, choose to sleep because they know they can steal the exam. After all, no one cares how you win, but win you must and after all, hard work is never rewarded.

After this, those lucky to get through to university will have gone through baptism by fire. But alas, more surprises await.

It is while in college that crooked politicians get into the now thickening soup. The politicians never see students as future accountants, doctors, surgeons, researchers or scientists. No, they are mere votes to win an election and guns for hire should they lose the contest.

Yes, the 8-4-4 system of education is inadequate, but teachers and society have been obliging villains in the ruinous academic journey that many of our children take.

It is not that most of the teachers and trainers are hardly qualified or make little effort to improve on their teaching skills. No, rather an out-of-date curriculum, clumsy teaching methods, inadequate resources and a system hell-bent on winning by any means conspire against our children. To cover this shortcoming, the students engage in rote learning and chastise absorption and understanding and conceptualising of issues.


The consequence is inferior education and students remain deficient even in basic competences in literacy and numeracy.

Secondly, much promising talent is thwarted. It is tragic that we seem content with churning out half-baked, brainwashed graduates who lack gumption and lack the wherewithal to survive the world.

The bigger picture is that a society that glorifies upside down morals cannot expect angels to sprout from it.

So unless society ostracises those who engage in theft and corruption, it is no use telling a student to desist from stealing an exam because after all, he knows that the wages of such sinful ways are handsome.

The writer is Foreign News Editor at The Standard.

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