Ruto's national Open University project welcome

President William Ruto during launch of the Nairobi River Commission in Korogocho slums on February 22, 2023. [Wilberforce Okwiri,Standard]

The Kenya Kwanza government has committed to address the inequities in our education system and level the playing field for all children irrespective of their background.

According to its bottom-up economic document, President William Ruto's administration committed to equitable universal basic education defined as 12 years of schooling.

In the Plan, the government will set up a National Open University to increase access and reduce cost of university education while making 100 per cent transition to higher education a reality.

As an experienced data scientist, I see this project transforming the delivery of higher education. However, this project should eventually be cascaded to lower education levels to enable children of families serving in the diplomatic corps continue with their education uninterrupted whenever their parents are transferred from their station of duty.

Utilising the same concept, Kenya can have National Open Primary School, National Open Junior Secondary school and the National Open Senior Secondary school in line with the new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) to serve Kenyans in diaspora especially employees of diplomatic missions abroad.

This will be akin to the Utumishi Academy concept to serve families of the National Police Service that has cushioned children of employees of the police service from frequent transfers of their parents.

I have come across Kenyan families in diplomatic service whose families have been disenfranchised by transfers in the course of their service with the government.

A family is posted in the United States and their children are automatically enrolled in the school system in America. After three years the family is transferred to another country let's say to the middle East, after another three years they are transferred to Europe and later to South America and the cycle continues.

By the time the child is completing Fourth Form, he or she is confused and may lose interest in school. At that point, the parent is recalled home to work in the ministry and the child is back to Kenyan education system.

In this regard, the National Open University of Kenya offers unique opportunity to this category of Kenyans. This mode of learning will also benefit suspended or expelled students who will get access to an alternative education while on suspension in line with government policy.

It will also transfer the management of students with discipline issues to the parents since they will be learning from home.

I am currently doing research on Natural Language Processing (NLP) here in Washington DC, US and I am confident that one day Kenyans in the remote villages will be in a position to access services online through companies like Uber, e-citizen in their local vernacular languages on a simple smartphone worth Sh3,999 ($35) courtesy of my research and the same can be replicated to vernacular languages in Africa.

As Africans in diaspora, we must put Africa first and call upon the African Union to first track implementation of Kiswahili as the official language of the union to let more African countries be supported to teach Kiswahili in their school systems.

The writer is a US based data scientist and founder of Blue Nile Analytica (BNA). [email protected]

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