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Covid-19 a wake up call to digitise our education system

By Eusebius Mukhwana | September 26th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

No other pandemic has affected our country, Africa, and the world in the last 100 years the way Covid-19 has done.

We were all caught unawares. Our lives were literary running; what with datelines to meet, businesses to run. Schools, colleges and universities were open and running.

As an institution charged with the responsibility of ensuring the quality of our education, the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) is working overtime to ensure implementation of the new protocols does not compromise the quality of our education; and that institutions of learning adhere to national standards set by the authority.

It got us flat-footed. We can no longer teach and examine students the way we used to. Schools, colleges and universities must now innovate to remain relevant.

There is need to embrace online teaching and learning as well as assessment and examinations. These will require investment of resources that have all become scarce.

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But Covid-19 has provided the ‘wake-up call’ that we needed to digitise our education system. Only those who innovate quickly in this direction will survive.

KNQA is racing against time to develop and implement new policies, standards and guidelines to regulate online teaching and examination of students in line with international best practices.

Going forward, it is now going to be possible for each university to develop materials for online teaching and examinations.

Since most of our courses in the universities are quite similar, there is need to come up with one university that will develop, review and disseminate digital content for all other universities.

As a country, we should accelerate the establishment of the Open University of Kenya (OUK) to help digitise learning and teaching at all Kenyan universities.

Our neighbours Tanzania (Open University of Tanzania) and South Africa (UNISA) already have such institutions in place.

We need a similar institution to develop and disseminate digital content for the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector; and we need to revamp Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to serve a similar purpose for basic education.

There is need to review and implement policies to support training with industry (instead of training for industry) and to ensure that students gain appropriate competences at all levels of learning.

The KNQA, working with other stakeholders, has embarked on an ambitious programme to develop policies to support digitisation, recognition of prior learning, credit accumulation and transfer and internationalisation of Kenya’s education.

This aims at placing Kenya as a regional educational and skills develop hub for Africa. This will support imparting of necessary skills to support Africa trading as block under the Africa Continental free trade Area (AFCTA).

We should diversify the labour that we export from Kenya (beyond house maids) to other countries. We need to get more competent masons, carpenters, plumbers or electricians into the Middle East, and the rest of Africa.

To do this, the KNQA is developing a policy on establishment of national skill testing centres and national skills development committees to guide skills development in the country.

Over the last 20 years, Kenya and Africa have increasingly been importing goods from China, Europe and the rest of the world.

With the onset of Covid-19, we realised how much we needed our local farmers, our local bakeries, our small and nascent industries. It was a situation of “everyone for himself” and God for all of us.

We were reminded of how we killed our industries and businesses through lack of protection from our big brothers such as China and India.

We needed PPEs and our local industries were struggling to produce them. 

Post Covid-19 we must strive to grow our local talents, businesses, and industries.

Lastly, we must never treat health as a business. Health is a human right that we all need to access, as enshrined in the Constitution.

- Mr Mukhwana is Director General and CEO Kenya National Qualifications Authority

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