Ruto must pay more attention to education

President William Ruto. [File,  Standard]

There is no hiding from the fact that the education sector is in shambles. The system is failing in big and small things.

The government forgot that the introduction of junior secondary as a tier in the system, necessitated the construction of schools.

The training of teachers for the new curriculum was sub-par. Budgetary constraints are getting in the way of timely disbursement of capitation grants.

And the government does not seem able to implement a proper national examination system. All this is unfortunate.

Education has always been a singular Kenyan obsession – for mostly good reasons. While it is true that we have never had a perfect education system, the aspiration for one has over the last six decades brought out the best in us.

The best bits of the Harambee System (the part about community self-help) was powered to a great deal by the quest for access to education.

Education was also seen as a tool of social mobility, enabling a general commitment to the social contract behind Project Kenya.

When Kenyans started the process of rejecting colonial domination, one of the first investments was in education.

Forget the need to train workers. To understand our education system is to appreciate its socio-cultural importance throughout the country. Kenyan households and communities invest heavily in education.

Therefore, the success or failure of the public education system will have a bearing on how the society sees itself.

The private sector can only go so far in filling the gaps. At the end of the day, the vast majority of families need the public system to work.

Killing the public education system – as we seem to be hellbent on doing – will be tantamount to killing our very communities.

It is not too late to bring sanity to the system. There is absolutely no reason why we could not have reformed the curriculum within the 8-4-4 system.

There is absolutely no reason why we cannot have a robust 2-year vocation system for everyone who leaves secondary school but cannot join university.

There is absolutely no reason why we cannot make basic education (through the age of 18 years) free.

The first step ought to be to admit why we are in a rut. We let hucksters and fly-by-night profiteers hijack policymaking in the sector. It is time to bring the experts back in.

-The writer is an Associate Professor at Georgetown University

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