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Kibaki tenure will be remembered for accomplishments in education

OPINION
By - | December 23rd 2012

By Kilemi Mwiria

The most outstanding accomplishment of Kibaki’s first term in office was Free Primary Education (FPE). This is despite criticism of its quality and the corruption scandals associated with it.

On hindsight however, one has to ask how much more could have been achieved given the speed with which FPE was introduced without commensurate physical and human learning inputs. However, for the first time in Kenya’s history, we had more than 80 per cent of children enrolled in primary school.

Free primary education became the motivation for expanding secondary education; thus the introduction of subsidised secondary education in the form of day schools dotting virtually every sub location. Whether or not students in these schools can effectively compete with their counterparts in boarding provincial and national schools is less important than the opportunities created for Kenyans who would not otherwise have had the chance for tertiary education and possible employment. Today, more than 70 per cent of those who sit KCPE join secondary school, a transition rate far above the average for most developing countries.

Many poor students have used day schools to repeat KCSE, qualifying for degree and other courses they would not have got into from the boarding schools they first attended. These schools have also created many employment opportunities, especially for teachers.  Major strides have also been made in technical education. Twenty one new technical institutions (more than the number built between 1963 and 2002) have been built, raising enrollment from 20,000 in 2003 to 60,000 today. The old ones have been rehabilitated and equipped with modern laboratories. Eleven of these institutes will be upgraded to national polytechnics to replace those that have been converted into universities. All but six of the counties have at least one technical institute with the others to have one established next year.

During Kibaki’s tenure, the growth of university education has been truly dramatic and demystified as the privilege of a few elite students. From six public universities in 2003, we shall have twenty two by the time Kibaki leaves office next year. Enrollment has risen from 82,000 in 2003 to 361,000 this year, an increase of 400 per cent. This has been made possible through government financing, delinking of admission from accommodation, and the creation of an enabling environment for an interested private sector. Not unexpectedly, this dramatic expansion has experienced many quality related challenges, graduate unemployment and tribalism.

Education growth has been supported by infrastructural development, democratisation of institutional management and improvement of the terms and conditions of employment of educational staff from the primary school teacher to the university don. Our teachers and university dons now earn more than three times what they earned in 2003 and their freedom of association is unrestricted. Recruitment to senior university jobs is competitive and the President is no longer the Chancellor of public universities. The newly enacted education, technical/vocational, teachers’ service commission and university Bills have come with refreshing changes in the teaching and management of education.

Affirmative action has benefitted women and other marginalised groups including students from arid areas who are admitted with lower grades than their more advantaged counterparts. In summary, improved access has been the highlight of Kibaki’s education revolution.

The writer is MP for Tigania West and Assistant Minister Higher Education, Science and Technology

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