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To match market needs, syllabus offered in institutions of higher learning needs review

By Wellingtone Nyongesa | June 24th 2015


It is early morning in Nairobi and Seth Otieno fires his motorbike ready for his usual rounds, delivering parcels from one office to another in the city.

He leaves Kawangware at 5am to do a few errands in several early offices in town before traffic build-up. If there is a Kenyan who could boast of knowing the roads that criss-cross the city from the north to the south, east to west and nearly all the estates in the city, it is Mr Otieno. He could gladly claim that hat.

He has to know the streets, the buildings and underpasses, because of the nature of his job. Clients will call him and trust him with a parcel to be dropped at a particular office, they mostly do not give a damn whether he knows the address or not.

It is up to him to ensure it is delivered because he is paid to do so. Since he is a man on the road, Otieno is permanently dressed in a thick black overall and a matching raincoat to survive the heavy wind that hits at his chest.

Nothing in this man bespeaks his academic qualifications; to many, he is just another rider on the streets of the city doing rounds with a sealed box on the carrier of his bike.

Otieno is however not another ordinary rider you meet in the streets, he is one of the many graduates that have gone to school but have been unable to get a job.

“I am an accountant, given a job in any accounts office or at any bank, I will do it quite well,” Otieno says with a distant look on his face.

He has been looking for a job for seven years.

“I am told I need professional qualifications, that I need some experience... education has lost meaning,” he fumes.

Otieno is sitting on his motorbike along Muindi Mbingu Street outside City Market, as he keeps putting his phone on ‘silent’ and gives us a clear indication that clients are calling.

“After I failed to secure a job in accounts I joined a teachers’ training college and trained as a teacher but I have also hit a dead end,” he adds.

Otieno’s case is not an isolated one. Thousands of university graduates have filled the labour market and are now telling this familiar tale. Educational experts are now questioning the country’s educational curriculum. Is there a possibility that Kenya is operating under an outdated curriculum across the schooling system and even at institutions of higher learning?

According to Dr Emanuel Manyasa an education expert managing the Uwezo programme at Twaweza East Africa, the current educational curriculum was last reviewed in 2002. It is therefore outdated.

“A curriculum is supposed to be reviewed regularly to be in line with the needs of the labour market,” he says.

He notes that operating a 13 year-old curriculum without any review whatsoever gives the country graduates that are out of touch with employers’ needs.

Researchers at Uwezo Kenya are pointing to a disconnect between what children learn and the nation’s development vision.Missing components exist in practical job skills, cultivating of inherent talent, emerging societal values, creative thinking, problem solving, innovation and modern technology. Even then, disparities exist between the curriculum and its implementation.

Valuable knowledge and skills have taken a back seat. Some of the most important areas of study that at the beginning of the 8-4-4 system were encouraged to give technical skills to young Kenyans have been phased out. The areas covered were building, knitting and embroidery, woodwork, carving, sculpture, cookery, drawing and music.

Since these technical subjects were phased out, schools have been left with theoretical subjects at primary level, secondary and university, where respected technical institutions such as Kenya and Mombasa polytechnics have been turned into universities.

Dr Manyasa thinks this is a crisis in the making.

“The country now has universities claiming to teach engineering but lacks lecturers with enough expertise to train engineers,” he says, adding that academic knowledge taught at universities is of little value in the workplace, where what is needed are practical skills.

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