To move our country forward, we must all change our mindsets

Mombasa's MM Shah and MV Shah Academy Nursery Class pupils inside their classroom. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

The biggest problem and threat that we face as a country is one that many have not identified. We have failed to analyse and understand that our structures have for a long time pigeonholed us into conformity. Due to this, we have limited the infinite potential of our minds; young and old.

Our collective mindset is a problem. This is because mindset is important in all our endeavours to develop our institutions and country as it gives us direction on how to approach issues and challenges. Our system is limiting the way we identify problems that we have the ability to overcome. It is blocking the right of allowing everyone to reach their full potential.

From the home front to schools, our religious institutions to modern day structures put in place to serve us; it’s the same sad story. We are taught that we must succeed. Who wants to fail? And this is where the problem with mindset begins. Our society fears and despises failure. We are all cultured and warned to avoid failure at all costs from a tender age. 

That, perhaps, explains why cheating in national examinations will never end in an all-out strategy to “succeed” and avoid failure. Family feuds are on the increase, including suicide cases and murder.

Politics has become the highest form of business and the most competitive in Kenya. Theft of public resources has become the norm than the exception and our institutions have become dysfunctional. Worse, politicians have gone rogue.

Cultivate Imagination

What if we used failure to invigorate our passion? What if failure was used as a foundation for renewed motivation to pursue one’s passion, even in the face of such “adversity”? What is certain is that we can no longer accept conformity and averageness and ill-equipped children and young people to deal with the world’s complicated complexes. We must nurture and cultivate imagination through critical reflection, boldness and empathy. And this must start from the earliest stages of a child’s life.

Within our education system, fostering a growth mindset in students should be a priority for educators, but sometimes teachers operate with a fixed mindset.  Just as we teach our students to continuously improve, grow, learn, and change, so must teachers. Teachers must therefore continue growing in tandem with the times. Indeed, many schools are teaching students to become innovators, makers and design-thinkers in order to succeed in an evolving global economy. Since there is no one perfect method for teaching, teachers should experiment and innovate to provide dynamic, authentic, and effective instruction.

This is why learning is about acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitudes and aptitudes which enable individuals to set, plan and reach their own learning goals and become independent learners. It allows young people to meet the demands of lifelong learning. Companies are looking for knowledge workers who take responsibility for their own professional development. Where are they? Have they been prepared?

Economic Expansion

Our children must acquire requisite skills and knowledge relevant to economic expansion. But this also means the young people must have a change of mindset about education and lifelong learning.

It must be a conscious effort propelled in and out of school. And what do we do to help the country, yet Kenya needs a constant and steady supply of technical skills? This must be a result of conscious policies and a changed mindset.If Kenya has to achieve its goals, this is vital.

The mismatch between training and market needs for the 21st century must be arrested. But training also depends on what our mindset is.

Essentially, what this means, therefore, is that we must have a shift in the way we train our children at home and at school and view education and the imparting of skills in Kenya’s development.

The country must ensure that the construction, manufacturing, production, health systems, housing, commercial, farming and other sectors that are in need of daily trained personnel; technicians, technologists, engineers, and other technical people to carry out one job or the other are fed appropriately. Basically, we must change the way we view our socialising agents, including education so as to catalyse the skills landscape in Kenya.

Ultimately, we must fix Kenya’s social and education psyche, mindset and shift our focus. Certificates are essential. Diplomas are good. Degrees are even better. But, in the end, our children need to expect and thrive on challenges and know how to turn failures into stepping stones to a bright future. We must change our mindset.

Prof Mogambi, a Communication and Social Change Expert, teaches at University of Nairobi. [email protected]