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CBC success lies in embracing our Jua Kali

 Jua Kali artisans at work in Naivasha, Nakuru County. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The Competency-Based Curriculum was introduced in 2017 to replace the 8-4-4 education system, which was considered irrelevant to current demands of job, technology, and social development.

It relied on memorisation and was teacher-centered and exam-oriented. Students did not have time to learn from each other. The teacher held power over students and the learning process. The teacher banked knowledge on the students.

What the teacher taught was absolute truth and students had to follow instructions without questioning. The students had empty slates to script on. CBC recognises that students are empty slates to be scripted on. CBC is student-centered. It assumes students come to class actively and fully functioning. They have knowledge which can be harnessed and brought to the classroom. To demonstrate these students are given tasks to perform and resources to refer to under the direction of the teacher.

The teacher is responsible for guiding students and evaluating them based on the tasks performed. The teacher presents different scenarios to which students respond. The teacher learns equally from students and students learn from each other in the discussions or while performing the tasks.

Tasks in CBC are meant to help students gather knowledge and skills they will use to solve problems. There are many local problems. The local problems are lack of jobs, professionalism, dependency, food insecurity, low technologies, disease and poverty. Efforts to solve these problems have been made since independence through industrialisation, education, importation of technologies, goods, and services as well as infrastructure models.

The search for development solutions has been elusive but one area that has been ignored is the Jua Kali economy which thrives and expands in our cities and rural areas.

Viewed through an elite perspective, the Jua Kali economy is substandard, unreliable, dishonest, backward and primitive technologies, temporarily, it will disappear with the development and adoption of the modern economy. Today it is labeled as hustling where those who lack choice or have no opportunities, end up. Data from KNBS over the years shows the Jua Kali sector has continued to grow and serves as a safety net for many people.

It is also important to acknowledge that most of us are affected in one way or another by the Jua Kali economy. Market traders distribute the food on our tables. Jua Kali mechanics repair our cars. Kamukunji Jua Kali produces the flagship box which every form one buys to take to school. They dominate in producing farm implements, cooking pots, chaff cutters, popcorn poppers, pans, and cooking stoves. Bead worker producers and shoemakers in Kariokor feed our tourist sector.

Sadly, we have been blind to the potential and importance of the Jua Kali economy. We have been following Keith Hart, a British Anthropologist and International Labour Organisation who has been calling for its formalisation. We have spent time and money working on formalisation projects, but Jua Kali evolves on its terms and has relevance for CBC. My studies on Jua Kali for close to 30 years at the Institute for Development Studies, reveal an ecosystem that has rules and regulations governed by principles relevant to the current CBC system.

It is likely to be our saviour from the economic doldrums. The Jua Kali economy is for everyone if you are introduced and meet the requirements, rules, and regulations. It relies on an individual’s ability to learn how to perform tasks and deliver an output.  The individuals in the Jua Kali economy have radical determination and courage. This is what is required of students in CBC, to have radical determination and courage to succeed.

They will dare do the unthinkable and the unimaginable to solve a problem using their knowledge and skills. The Jua Kali economy is a way of life. There is no time an individual resigns to despair or stops working. CBC students can be inspired by this principle in that learning is a way of life. Every stage in life is learning and students do not have to burn books after completing a stage in life.

-Dr Kinyanjui is a scholar

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