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Government must confront ugly side of education system

By Nelson Guga | February 17th 2016

Last month, US President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. As expected, President Obama’s speech inspired hope and promise for future generations.

One of the fundamental issues in the address was the significance of education in American life. The president reiterated that for America to move forward, it must take education seriously.

In the US and everywhere in the world, education has transformed communities and inspired hope among individuals. Education gives people the power to think critically and creatively so that they can find solutions to the world’s problems.

In 2003, the NARC government embarked on an ambitious plan to enhance free primary education in Kenya. This initiative brought hope to millions of children and thousands of communities. Primary school enrollment hit a record high as children who had been consigned to destitution, thronged schools to gain basic literacy skills.

The pressure in primary schools threw the Government’s spanner into the works. Many primary and secondary schools were built with money from the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) to meet the escalating quest for education.

In the last term of former President Mwai Kibaki, the country witnessed unprecedented proliferation of colleges and universities. Virtually all existing colleges at the time were ‘promoted’ to campus and constituent university college status. In 2013, these colleges acquired full-fledged accreditation to offer degrees to students by spearheading scholarly research and innovation. But one thing that was overlooked amid this excitement was the quality of the students that these colleges hoped to transform.

Uwezo Kenya, one of the most inspiring education research entities, has continuously released reports that reveal the absurdity of education in Kenya. To put the reports into context, little learning is taking place in our primary schools.

While in secondary schools, the wheels of ignorance roll faster as students wait for exam leaks. Despite the consistent cases of cheating, no government institution has put KNEC to explain the causes of exam irregularities, thereby lending credence to the saga of institutionalised failure.

Consequently, the country admits half-baked students to colleges and universities. Employers have observed that majority of the current crop of job-seekers can neither speak coherently nor answer questions during interviews. Yet, communication is one of core courses entrenched in the higher education curriculum.

Many other graduates cannot perform the practical aspects of their degree courses in the job market. This development has pushed employers to design graduate trainee programmes prior to admission of graduates into the mainstream employment.

The Government directs a bigger percentage of the GDP to the education system which goes to waste. Going forward, the Government should stop burying its head in the sand and confront the ugly side of our education system.

Implementation of recommendations of educational committees, beginning with the Ominde Commission and Uwezo reports, will invariably transform the system.

The Government should also take decisive and irrevocable action on officials involved in exam irregularities.

Financing higher education and strengthening quality mechanisms will inspire competition among universities and colleges, and improve the quality of graduates.

Human rights groups and Kenyan citizens should increase advocacy and decry exam cheating. Putting our children through an unfair and predetermined contest is an affront to humanity.

Finally, destroying the cartels that have held our education system hostage will do this country and her people a great deal of honour.

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