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Produce all round leaners for the East African human resource pool

By Agatha Kimani | July 29th 2021
African girls in class [Courtesy]

This week's global summit on education, hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta and UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in London, comes at a time when critical questions are being asked about various education policies in East Africa.

In a recent assessment on self-awareness carried out by the collaborative Assessment of Life Skills and Values in East Africa (ALiVE), it was realised that perceptions among learners aged between 13 and 17 years about self-awareness varied, but one common factor is that they have limited awareness of their self, and are highly polarised by the environment.

This, therefore, established the fact that ALiVE is built on the three objectives that informed the study, namely; evidence (and knowledge), community-building and advocacy. Self-awareness is therefore anchored in one, the individual-the learner; two, the community, meaning the parents, siblings, relatives and three, the building of self-awareness and the inculcation of it as a culture among the citizenry lies in advocacy. The latter is key if the spirit of the East African community on education has to be kept live.

The harmonisation of curricular process that started in 1998 is yet to yield much on learner development.

There are country converges or diverges with the other partner states. The learner is at the centre. Kenya is still piloting the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) with Tanzania and Uganda eyeing the success of this initiative with the possibility of benchmarking. CBC emphasis on the need for a learner to be given room for discovery, creativity and therefore more participatory learning.

It rides on the dialogical approach as emphasised by one of the great authors on matters learning and development. Paulo Freire, a founder of learning pedagogy, holds that, in education, there has to be freedom between the learner and the instructor, thus the dialogical approach, hence creating the human- world relationship in learning. This enhances self-awareness.

Stakeholders in the East Africa’s regional education system need to appreciate and accommodate self-awareness as a major tool in the development of an all-round learner. Dr Kirk Warren Brown and Richard Ryan in their article The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being, published in the journal of personal social psychology, defines self-awareness in the context of my discourse.

It is the extent to which people are consciously aware of their internal states and their interactions or relationships with others.  The ability to keep alive to the present reality allows a teenager to make more informed choices, which enhance wellbeing.

This is the path that ought to be tracked by the stakeholders of education within the East Africa community. Learners undergo various levels of physical and psychological growth and therefore need well-defined policies that eventually hatch them out as constructive and reliable citizens as well as a major human resource in their countries and in the neighbourhood.

We probably do not know what awaits us in the next five or so years in this region whose governance policies on education have been riddled with political overtones.

The slogan, 'Our year, our voice', used for the International Year of the Youth 2010-11, echoes the call to manage youth, a demographic bracket in which we find learners. The report on this special year for the youth, posits that by the year 2050, about 18.5 per cent of the population of East Africa will be youth.

The question is whether they have been given a voice, especially on matters education. Their capillarity on self-awareness has to be managed through apt educational systems.

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