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Our teachers deserve more respect

By Kethi Kilonzo | Jan 11th 2015 | 3 min read

“Education is both the seed and flower of economic development”. Harbison and Myers, 1965.
Education delivers economic benefits to individuals and the country they reside in. Investment in this sector has substantial payoffs. It enables the educated to benefit from technology and scientific advances. It also enables them to contribute to the advancement of technology and scientific discoveries.

The level and quality of education determines the job an individual will secure in the future, and the income they will receive. The higher the level of education and the greater its quality, the higher the benefits.

Those without adequate education are doomed to blue collar and manual jobs. They are likely to be inefficient in their future productivity. They will also not be able to use available technology to the best advantage.

Any country that desires, genuinely, to achieve sustainable long term growth must make large scale and intensive investment in the education and training of the population. The proper and adequate remuneration of teachers is a key component of such investment.

The ongoing strike by teachers marks the line between the rich and the poor in Kenya. The distribution of wealth, and the inequality gap between rich and the poor, is not only an economical question but also a political one. Many a politician have been elected on the promises that they will improve the lot of the poor by bettering public education. Free primary education was an election promise of retired President Mwai Kibaki’s administration. Free laptops for standard one pupils that of the current government.

Lack of sufficient investment in public education will exclude those from poor families in Kenya from the benefits of future economic growth. These poor can catch up with the rich if they can achieve the same level of technological know-how, skill and education. By improving public education the gap between the rich and the poor in Kenya can be bridged.

Investing in teachers now is investing in the future economic growth of the country and guaranteeing the wellbeing of the next generation of youth.

By failing to invest sufficiently in public education, the inequality gap will continue to grow each year. For instance, the media reports that approximately 200,000 students who sat for KCPE in 2014 will be unable to advance their education to secondary level. A similar number were excluded from public secondary education last year. Between 2013 and 2023, two million Kenyan youths will be primary school level dropouts. The bleak future of this unfortunate generation will be embedded on Kenya’s walls. Their bleak prospect is conjoined, like Siamese twins, to the future economic prospects and growth of Kenya.

It is no coincidence that investment in education has the added positive effect of reducing crime.
In the current budget year, secondary schools were awarded Sh28 billion for free tuition. Primary schools were allocated Sh 13.5 billion. Another Sh 17.4 billion was allocated for the laptops programme. Parents are now exempted from paying fees for national examinations. And in the most recent policy change, school ranking has been scraped, with the hope that pupils will be spared the burden of excelling in their KCPE and KCSE exams at whatever cost. However, the government must dig deeper. The investments made so far in public education will come to naught if teachers remain disgruntled.

The country has funds that can be reallocated to meet public teachers halfway. For instance, in the current budget, Sh116 billion was allocated for various road programmes. Accumulation of physical capital, like roads, rails and ports, will only contribute to a small part of long term productivity growth.

By intensifying investment in public education the resulting accumulation of human capital and new knowledge will lead to higher long term growth.

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