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Taita Taveta worried as education plummets

COAST
By Renson M | May 4th 2012

BY RENSON MNYAMWEZI
Performance in national examinations has been deteriorating steadily in Taita Taveta County.
The region, which at one point was the leader in Coast Province, is now the worst.
According to some stakeholders who recently held a forum to deliberate on education in the county, the downward trend can be attributed to persistent famine and poverty.
Some children have been dropping out of school due to poverty, unwanted pregnancies, early marriages and other economic hardships.
Child labour is also on the increase with most of those children engaging in odd jobs to supplement family income.
More than 80 per cent of the local population is considered poor, majority being unable to meet the high cost of basic needs and education as a result of extreme poverty.
“I have no income of my own and worst of all, no land I can call mine. I use the church latrine because I’m poor,” a resident tells The County Weekly.
Elected leaders
At the stakeholders’ forum, it was noted that lack of participation by elected leaders in education programmes is a major contributing factor to the poor state of affairs.
The participants alleged politicians had not been playing their roles in improving education standards.
“There’s no political good will on the part of elected leaders and the trend has adversely affected the standards of education in the region,” says the county’s Kuppet secretary Shedrack Mutungi.
Mr Mutungi told Gender, Children and Social Development Services minister Naomi Shaban, Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu and Coast Provincial Director of Education Alex Majani and other senior education officials that a lasting solution to the poor performance should be found.
The stakeholders also blamed the widespread sale and consumption of illicit brews and drugs, indiscipline among teachers and students, shortage of teachers and quality assurance officers, poor infrastructure and persistent human wildlife conflict as some of the factors contributing to poor results in the region.
“Some teachers are lazing around at the expense of educating and inculcating good values to students,” said Dr Shaban.
As a measure to improve the dwindling standards the Taveta MP suggested that students speak English all the time.
The meeting also criticized elites for failing to support education programmes in the region.
Mr Mwadeghu accused the elites of contributing more resources to weddings and funerals while skipping education programmes.
“The elite’s priorities are wrong, they contribute more to weddings and funerals than education,” observed the ODM legislator.
The MP claimed that a total of about 75 public servants in his Wundanyi constituency have been sacked for engaging in excessive drinking. And teachers were not spared either.
“Some teachers have no moral obligation and are not fit to be in the teaching profession because of their wayward behavior,” noted Mwadeghu.
Area KNUT Branch Executive secretary Rosalia Mkanjala blamed the poor results on lack of implementation of resolutions made by stakeholders, shortage of teachers and lack of hardship allowances.
Education Assistant Minister Calist Mwatela who is the MP for Mwatate in the region challenged parents to take education of their children seriously.
He says the tendency by some parents not to effectively participate in education ought to be done away with if schools are to perform better in national examination.
“The local community is not willing to support education programmes since the introduction of Free Primary Education. There’s so much reluctance in the participation of parents in education because they think the government will provide everything for them,” notes Mwatela.
Neglect
Mr Mwatela says since the introduction of the Free Primary and subsidized day Secondary school Education, parents in the region have neglected their role in education with the view that the government would cater for everything.
The trend, he noted is to be blamed for the poor performance in national examination by local schools.
“Parents should stop passing the buck to teachers. They should stop abdicating their roles and instead support teachers to improve education, “says Mwatela.
The County was ranked 45 out of 47 in last year’s KCPE. Out of the over 8,000 candidates who sat for the examination only 8 scored over 400 marks and above.
Mr Mwatela underscored the need to sensitize the local community on its role in the provision of education noting that teachers  could little on their own.
Though the region boasts of a university, the number of local students joining it is not impressive.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Taita Taveta College is located in the outskirts of Voi town.
The College Principal Prof Hamadi Boga decried the small number of local students joining the institution saying something ought to be done to reverse the worrying trend.
“I’m perturbed by the poor enrolment of local students at the university. There’s need to encourage local youth to work hard and pass their national examinations to join institutions of higher learning,” Prof Boga says.

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