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Current crises in education now affecting all economic sectors

Vihiga County Education Director Alexie Muzame assisting PP2 students during a learning session at their institution on October 2, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

There is a self-inflicted crisis of education in Kenya which, lacking philosophical cohesion, runs two systems – one for the elite called ‘international’ and the other for regular people called 8-4-4 and now renamed CBC.

The education system suffers the paradox of having schools with no teachers and teachers with no schools and manages national examinations shambolically. Its policies lack credibility and encourage external dictates.

There is a history behind the current misery in the educational sector that affects every other sector. That history has three broad phases in which the supposed custodians of society supposedly ensure that ‘education’ serves interests. These are pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial phases. While there was clarity of educational objectives in pre-colonial and colonial phases, confusion in the post-colonial times accounts for current crises in education and hence crisis in the country.

In pre-colonial times, various peoples had educational systems that stressed training the young to defend interests, values, and perpetuate themselves as people. Among the values were religious beliefs which gave them identity as to their origins, the essence of their ‘utu’, acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and even governance systems. Often, that education was entrusted to the elderly, the grandparents, whose experience and command of requisite knowledge and beliefs needed passing to the youth. The beliefs and behaviour that distinguished one people from others were part of the core values that gave each identity that needed defending and advancing. They all devised educational systems and philosophies that catered to their identity and independence as a people.

African identity

The colonial period, one of imperial conquest, the purpose of education was to entrench the colonial state, eliminate African identity, kill sense of legitimacy and stifle independence. The intent was to make Africans, termed ‘natives’, mentally and materially poor.

The new colonial educational philosophy, therefore, was one of poverty creation to eliminate African ability to think and to question newly imposed foreign rule and values. It aimed at training ‘natives’ to accept subservience to external rule and to discard belief systems and values that made them independent.

Although the colonial education system largely succeeded in creating ‘happy natives’, there remained small pockets of ‘natives’ who continued to ‘think’, to question the logic of colonial training, and to try charting independent paths. They were responsible for ending racially based political colonialism in 1963 and theoretically should have recast the philosophy of education to regain the lost sense of self-worth. They tried but seemingly failed partly because of surrendering the management of the country to such external post-colonial forces as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).      

The process of allowing the IMF to rule the country was gradual rather than abrupt. It makes the elected team of President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua irrelevant except for meeting IMF demands in reducing such public goods as health and education services.

David Ndii, Ruto’s Economic Advisor, has made it clear that the IMF is ruling and that Kenyans have to succumb. The subsequent mess in education is representative of the mess in the entire country which is sinking the country deep into manufactured poverty.

Whatever the IMF wants, it gets despite the pain it causes the country. The pain is in the public watching officials deliberately waste limited resources and still expect the people to believe them. Besides being incompetent, as Ruto said they were, officials are reckless and boastful in utterances. The tragedy is that these officials are drunk with power and do not see the mess they are in or their tendency to undermine ability to meet challenges. Instead, they recklessly blame victims of their irresponsible policies and bad decisions which geometrically increase levels of public despair and desperation. Destruction of education destroys the country and is at the centre of that desperation.

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