By Peter Muiru, Eldoret
As the honorable Minister for Education designs girls’ uniforms, let him also cut out for the newly appointed county education directors.
They should earnestly begin tackling the county’s’ education challenges for our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind not the length of the skirt is our fundamental resource.
For starters, the recent activities by communities in beating and harassing the teachers for poor results in KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) should inform them of our society’s value for education.
To most of us, the public schools’ teachers get protection from people who were the last members of their families to attend them. It is unexplainable how a non pre-tested and non pre-selected class of pupils can all fail.
After ensuring that children are supported to the actualization of their potential, the education chiefs must de-tribalise them by developing a curriculum that ‘Kenyanizes’ students.
Some subjects being taught seek to justify and sustain ethnic violence as a fact while highly respected literature refutes such views and goes to a lot of depths to argue to the contrary. This literature points out in essence how violence is very largely determined through social learning and other non-genetic factors.
Concentrating on the parents' known past (historical injustices) and encouraging children to go for what was stolen and failing to point to them what is being taken away from them now (present and future challenges) continually links the child to the past.
Children should be discouraged from carrying out vendettas on their parents’ real and assumed historical injustices while in reality, a child’s threat resides in their life ahead.
The directors must make education affordable to the lowest earners in our society. It is fundamentally critical that education costs be brought down. The inability of most low-income parents to educate a child stems from school extravagance.
Some of them having been school heads know of the disparity of the fees charged in schools even between fence neighbors with similar infrastructure and commodity prices. It is exploitative that students bring photocopy paper and textbooks to schools while the government is funding these expenses.
While schools are meant to offer business to the local people, that should not mean illogical and money-sucking prices. These high price quotations do not correspond to those offered to other buyers and the extra charge the directors should know which pockets it lines.
The schools must stop committing the little available resources in vehicle purchases.
The BOGs have become easy prey for the banks and status chasing head teachers that want to commit these institutions to long term financial commitments that add little value to the schools’ core business.
Some schools, so handicapped in educational resources have lofty buses; “mobile bill boards” lying idle in the compound.
The county directors must approve justification for financial endeavors that parents pay through the moon for. The truth is that many students leave school without using the assets their parents toiled so much to purchase
Transition of pupils to secondary education; a necessary step in a child’s growth, has been hampered by reluctant teachers to accommodate slow learners.
A high level of academic achievement for 90% of a students’ population who scored below 240 marks in the KCPE that would translate into University admission is impossible.
From the low score in the class eight examinations most of the students are already considered non-achievers and are unwelcome in schools where academic achievement is the only synonym to success.
These children less endowed with academic prowess will rarely leave their parents home and in so doing will be disrespected and considered an added burden whenever they go back to the parents for support and assistance.
They will symbolize wasted money while carrying with them the family stigma of failure. The reality is that each year more of these young people, with or without proper education, join the countryside.
If there is a security issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgent concern, it is this phenomenon of desperation among the meagerly educated jobless youth. To curb this menace, directors must force district day schools to accommodate slow learning students.
These schools were basically started by the local communities for the sake of these very students. To turn the students away in order to improve the school’s mean score is great betrayal.
School heads must understand that there exists a wide spectrum of academic prowess and there will be learners at either end.
Let those slow learners be given an opportunity in the schools, be offered alternative learning and other methods of value addition be used to judge schools’ performances if at all.
The teachers’ union must be talked to understand that defiance and radical stands are not necessarily the attributes of great or good leadership. The focus on the future of our country is greater than the size of a trade union.
Union membership should work hard as the rest of Kenyans to propel this country forward. As the teachers are allowed to clamor for better pay they should accept higher outputs demands from their employers.
The Ministry of Education should not continue paying teachers that cannot deliver while energetic willing to work professionals remain jobless. If the TSC is too timid to fire the dead woods because of their trade unions then let the parents do it for them.
The quality assurances directorate is moribund and should be revived. This very important cog in education is rusted and unfit for its role to turn the education wheel.
This is especially so in curriculum coverage and inspection. Schools are never inspected for syllabus coverage and children are hurriedly taught to cover wasted time.
Some teachers are even allowed to teach fatigued students at their own times just because they are too busy during normal working hours attending to their personal business. Ironically, they are ever punctual at the banks for their monthly pay!
Evaluations tests that are continuously done in schools have become lucrative undertakings. Hardly do you find comprehensive analysis that guide on interventions.
The quality assurance and standards officers must take charge of the joint tests, design inputs, outputs and interventions. The department must also determine frequency of these tests, how they are done, costs for setters, moderators, markers, printers and administration. Otherwise they will remain a cash cow for officials that least care whether the tests are meaningful or not.
The Education Act should be amended to allow schools borrow money from banks to improve infrastructure. Other than commit schools to financial loans to buy vehicles, the education act should allow schools to borrow money to put up infrastructure. In this regard are classes, libraries, dormitories, bore holes and such. This approach is better since parents will be paying for what their children are using.
And lastly the academic curriculum should be improved to allow day schools offer special syllabus that teaches skills that enable children apply acquired learning on immediate available resources/ markets in their environments.
While national youth programs on employment are meant to offer solutions to the many maladies afflicting the youth, they lack specificity. The rural youth especially those limited by their academic capacities have not benefited from their many years in school.
This has been observed in many African countries; ‘There are also major concerns about the relevance of schooling in rural areas. Curricula are criticized for not adequately preparing children for productive rural lives and, worse still, fuel youth aspirations to move to urban areas.
Rural youth tend to be poorly educated, especially in comparison to urban youth. The extent of ‘urban bias’ in the provision of publicly funded education and training services is large in most low-income developing countries.
The planning of interventions has been top to bottom: the national offices plan for grassroots. This approach has failed to articulate particular resources available for exploitation for income generation to local groups.
Drainage clearance, garbage collection and road maintenance may be appropriate to the urban areas but these are awkward in the rural settings. Another misplaced intervention is building of dams and water reservoirs; a very well meaning development but without the skills to exploit these resources and the negative youth perception of farming, these initiatives rarely impact on the intended population.
Peter Muiru is a Parent and secondary school board memeber. He resides in Eldoret.