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Commercialisation greatest threat to equitable education

OPINION
By Wilson Sossion | August 2nd 2021

Education is a fundamental human right and a public good that can be fully realised only through the provision of free equitable quality public education. It is a foundational and, indeed, an elemental right that should not be infringed upon through commercialisation of education.

The growing commercialisation of education in Kenya, presents the greatest threat to the achievement of equitable quality education. Corporate organisations, apparently supported by Jubilee Government, have been striving to commercialise all levels of education.

As low-fee, low-quality private schools expand rapidly with the support of multinationals, the government seems to have abrogated its responsibility to ensure learners access free quality education.

Unaccountable private enterprises for the last nine years have had undue influence on the State. Corporate organisations have evidently influenced the government look at the National Education Sector Strategic Plan as business opportunity, rather than a policy framework for the State to provide equitable quality education to Kenyans.

Impropriety was first detected with the School Laptop Project which was hurriedly launched and managed in secrecy. Though, it was a campaign pledge by Jubilee, Kenyans wondered whether it was an original idea of the government.

Truth be told, the School Laptop Project was conceived and funded entirely by international corporate organisations with business interests. The Ministry of Education evaluation report reveals that the project failed due to various reasons – teachers were not adequately trained, they lacked skills to drive the project, worse still, they were not tooled to deliver on digital learning programme.

Most schools lacked proper infrastructure, connection to the power grid and Internet connectivity. At the time the project was retired, only 10 per cent of schools were connected to the grid, while 50 per cent were far away from the national grid.

Schools also lacked facilities to safely store the devices and there was lack of support mechanism when technology failed. This left teachers and learners stranded, and often had to wait for long to receive technical support.

The government at one point substituted laptops for tablets and 1,168,789 tablets were supplied. Most of them were either dysfunctional or stolen. The project also stalled after entrepreneurs failed to supply one million devices per year as agreed. At the time the project was retired in 2019, it had gobbled over Sh70 billion.

The implementation of Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) before conducting external summative evaluation of the pilot phase was yet another gaffe by the government to comprehensively reform the school curriculum.

The curriculum reform process which is now a business undertaking rather than a home-grown programme aimed at reforming education system, was never recommended by evidence-based research findings – it was imposed on Kenyans in 2016 through a government decree.

Mr Sossion is a member of Parliamentary Committees on Education and Labour

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