Local solutions essential to revive our declining education sector

A dormitory on fire at Kakamega high school which welcomes more than 500 students on November 6, 2021. [Benard Lusigi, Standard]

There are worrying trends which trivialize education instead of making it an instrument for the promotion and protection of national interests. From colonial times in Kenya, education reviews and reforms have had a common theme. Each begins by condemning the existing system as being too theoretical, impractical and incapable of instilling the skills required for the company or the industry. The supporters of the reform then propose the same solutions.

They focus on teaching technical and practical skills such as welding, carpentry, plumbing, mechanics, various farming methods, housekeeping, bookkeeping, rope making, and even cooking. Lost in the regular reforms and the emphasis on practice is the critical aspect provided by the humanities, especially history and philosophy. Is the aim of education to produce human robots or to empower potential defenders of the collective values, identity and interests of society? In colonial times, the logic of condemning thought made sense because it was the official policy that natives did not have to think or play politics.

Imported from Tuskegee, Alabama, USA, the Thinking Subject Suppression Policy was a control mechanism to keep blacks and natives under white supremacy in the southern United States and colonized Africa. In colonial Kenya, Harry Thuku’s ability to challenge inconsistencies between professed ideals and actual practice implied that he had received a poor education. To stop the rise of other Thuku-type natives, explains the Phelps Stoke Commission which recommended importing the Tuskegee educational slave mentality to Kenya. This mindset of disheartening thought and ability to question has remained largely intact in postcolonial Kenya. There was a brief period when the University of East Africa, which fragmented into Makerere, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, was dynamic in creation, production and intellectual adventurism in all fields. Knowledge.

There were funds and facilities for professors and students as they sought to decolonize knowledge. The university’s dynamism waned in the late 1970s and 1980s as the world adjusted to two global forces. First, the oil shocks caused by OPEC and Yom Kippur disrupted the world economy. Second, the disappointments of the Cold War in the West paved the way for national and institutional leadership hostile to African countries. The empowered IMF and World Bank have imposed cuts and cost-sharing in the third world called structural adjustment programs (SAPs). SAPs have hit the education sector hard, with the university slipping into the pale shadow of itself. African universities then began to outsource their knowledge about themselves to sponsored experts in Europe and North America. These “experts”, as “respected” columnists and commentators, have become advisers and opinion-makers on local socio-political issues. The downgrading of universities has taken many forms. Currently, universities are closing because of cronyism, are of little value to faculty as knowledge keepers, and lack chancellors.

Kenya needs an overhaul of attitudes in education to protect Kenya’s national identity and interests. When three postcolonial ministers of education made derogatory comments about the story, they discouraged critical thinking and the ability to raise questions. This could explain the outsourcing of opinions / advice on matters of national interest. The existence of two curriculum systems, one oriented overseas for the elite in expensive schools and the other locally based for regulars in many schools without proper facilities, implies a lack of consistency or consistency. targeted uniformity in educational thinking. One of the ironies of the lack of consistency is that policy makers tend to be products of the overseas oriented study program that does not encourage students to internalize Kenyan values ​​and interests.

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