The beatings will continue until morale improves

Michael Onsando
23 July ,2019

“There’s no honour in being a plumber, the honour is in going to university. To go to university to do what?”

I’m not sure I know how to feel about his smartyness professor Magoha. Having been in University of Nairobi during the Babu Owino years there’s enough whispered about how he handled the university money for me to keep him at arms distance – or maybe even further.

That being said, when this video came across my timeline it threw me into a spiral of education googling. This, of course has been a centre of conversation with the new syllabus implemented, stopped, implemented and ultimately leading to a point where Grade 3 students may or may not be sitting for an exam in September.

That 8-4-4 has an overemphasis on a certain type of knowledge and has led to a devaluing of more technical and practical oriented subjects is not necessarily a new thought. And this focus not only has an effect on how people are educated but on what kind of people we create in society. It affects their biases and ambitions. Take this from Laila Le Guen:

“This line of thinking takes us all the way back to the fundamental issue implicitly addressed in every educational endeavour, that is the vision we have for young people. Do we see them as future cogs in a big economic system or do we consider them as full human beings in need of guidance to find their place in a complex society?”

The Blindspots of a Stem Focused Education Reform

Which is what makes this such a critical time in many ways. An education system, once set in place, is almost impossible to alter and it carries with itself the implicit biases. Biases that then continue to live on as psychological scars, unemployment or just that nagging question at the back of a child’s mind – “is something wrong with me?”

On the necessity of parental involvement, Wandia Njoya writes:

“It’s one thing for prejudice to be written into policies, and it’s yet another for public officials to be so unaware of it. But the most tragic part of this story is that some middle class Kenyan parents have dismissed the ramifications of this parental involvement, thanks to the effective mainstreaming of capitalist, racist and evangelical attitudes towards the family. The most common rebuttal to our concerns has been parents expressing how much fun they are having with their children.”

Of course the bias in the new system is not only when it comes to the classist trappings of having your parents at school every second of the day. The system has been criticized as being too expensive (another classist trapping?), not just for the schools but for parents, teachers and administrators. There is little said about where the money will come from (and it’s not like Kenya is balling out of control). Also, the 13-14 subject lower secondary segment has been questioned  as maybe being too heavy for the young mind. On the positive though, the system seems to make more room for a wider range of academic orientation.

“A country that is at war with its young people is a country that has no future.”

Johnson Sakaja

What’s ironic is that while the effort to redignify is at the core of these reforms the tone that has been taken with the rest of the country is not one directed at a dignified people. CS Magoha has been heard threatening teachers opposing the new system, going as far as saying he will crush the new system’s opponents.

Crush? Are these crushed teachers then to go on and be the ones to implement this education system? And is shoving this new system down their mouths with no option for feedback really the way to go? For all the flowery language in sessional paper number 1 – how much have the teacher’s been heard in this process? Ever since Mr Matiang’i came with this “let’s pound this policy into submission” leadership style that seems to be the way we want to go. But what becomes the difference between this system and any other if it isn’t implemented in a way that allows for all stakeholders to participate, come on board and for their concerns to be heard? If we are really doing the work of restoring dignity to careers that had lost them – wouldn’t it start by listening?

Or would we rather call people fools on TV and hope for the best? After all, it’s only the future at stake.

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