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Why the new education curriculum could not be rolled out as planned

COMMENTARY
By Robert Wesonga | December 21st 2018

Over the years, our appointment with the absurd has been constant, even legendary. We have tried to rise above this, with a new Constitution that cost a lot and took many years of crafting. But as often said, what can go wrong will always go wrong.

Even though our country was blessed with a new Constitution, misfortune has always provided us with bad policies and curious decisions. When the drafters of our Constitution saw it prudent to exclude winners of political seats from ministerial appointments, they thought they were removing politics from technocracy. Almost 10 years later, it is clear that politics hasn’t left the ministries.

While there have been concerns over the years regarding preparation for the roll-out of the new curriculum, the Ministry of Education had ignored all these until last week when the Cabinet secretary dropped the bombshell. After all the time and money spent, the new curriculum will not be launched next year as earlier planned. I will not even go into the inconvenience that this postponement has caused pupils and parents. For as it stands, there are pupils who have been exposed to new content, who must now have to contend with going back to the old one. What is worse, teachers have been left in limbo as they ponder the next move.

Some schools are not sure whether to continue teaching the new content, or to revert to the old. Four weeks ago, this column raised alarm that there was potential trouble because of the questionable manner in which piloting of the proposed learning and teaching design was being done. That, and other such voices were predictably ignored.

Remove politicians

What caused the proposed curriculum to be put on hold can be summarised in one word – politics. The Ministry of Education has for some years been under the spell of individual egos. Those charged with being in custody of it have ignored constructive sentiment relating to how things were going wrong.

The former Cabinet Secretary in this ministry, Dr Fred Matiang’i, has been the true embodiment of this refusal to listen to concerns raised by the public and professionals. Even though it may be easy to remove politicians from politics and cast them as technocrats, it is not easy to remove politics from them.

The procedure for effecting curriculum review is very clear, hence turning it into a one man show, and manipulating such a sacred undertaking by unilateral decisions can only be political. The process looked headed for troubled waters when it emerged that key steps in the procedure had been ignored, or flouted.

To start with, the decision to make the changes was not informed by the findings of a commission as is usually the practice in societies that treat matters education with the seriousness they deserve. Details are now emerging of how the whole process was left at the mercy of an individual and the Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development.

Typically angry

It has also emerged that Education CS Amina Mohamed ignored the findings of a report that vouched for the readiness to launch the new curriculum next year. It beats logic why money should be spent to carry out inquiries whose results are expressly ignored by the very people who are supposed to be preservers of public order. Clearly, the counsel of professionals was ignored.

One of the surest ingredients to a long stress-free life is a short memory and an even shorter anger.  As citizens of this country, we were blessed with both. The most amazing thing about us is that we are generally good natured people who do not permit our anger to last more than a day even when the matter at hand is serious.

When the CS announced the putting on hold of the new curriculum, we were typically angry on that day and the characteristic keyboard warriors that we are, went on a bashing spree. But it did not last long.

At the end of that very day, we allowed porridge, tea and ugali to drown the anger and the following morning, the anger that had been consumed and digested found its release in the same fashions as remnants of our diet.

Getting over our disappointment this quickly, or choosing a short time span of anger has often been construed to mean patriotism.

Nothing can be farther from the truth. As Mark Twain once said, patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and the government only when it deserves it.

Dr. Wesonga is a lecturer in Literature at the University of Kabianga – [email protected]

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