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Kenyan education system is overrated

August 30,2017 1 comments

Have you ever used a calculator to do some little addition arithmetic, but you accidentally used the subtraction sign instead? What happens? Does the calculator fail to do the required job? Or does it do it correctly? The answer is rather obvious: the calculator masterfully does the wrong job correctly. Such are the majority of products of an education system, so well praised that the few that are obliged to take care of their fellows are willing to sacrifice their comfort to see their sons and daughters become part and parcel of.  Albeit being a part of this system, I view it with horror, hence pointing of fingers is very necessary, and the cowardly malice of rebuke will deter me not from doing so. I am talking about the Kenyan education system, “one of the best in Africa,” as they say. Standing so tall above everyone else is a gift I highly cherish, but of what good does it do to be able to see from afar someone commit suicide, yet you do nothing about it? May your gift of height be subtracted from you and added to the giraffe’s neck.

But why the complaint?

According to a survey conducted by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), only half of the 50,000 students who graduate annually are suitable for employment. To add insult to injury, more than half of them are not suited for their career choice. So, add the 25000 ‘unsuitable’ to the already existing pile of the 2.3 million unemployed youth. Unfortunately, this number of the ‘unfit’ grows exponentially, and it will be no time before this doubles. The root of the problem, however, is bedeviling and it’s a chicken egg’s situation.

Career Mastery

It would be an overwhelming number of individuals if you were to count KCSE candidates who have no idea about a course that they would choose, or that, that they have chosen as they await their results. In this Kenya, it’s not a surprise to find a student so well suited for journalism and related career in an Engineering course. Well, what are they doing there? However, most of them are not to blame. During course selection through the education ministry’s online portal, KUCCPS, many students select courses that are ‘selling’ or are known. More than often the choice is made, not by themselves but by their parents who are after the ‘success’ or rather the pride of what their sons and daughters are studying in college. Surprisingly, about 70% of my friends who phoned me to help them revise their course selections confessed that their first course applications were done by their ‘friends’ or just cyber café attendants. The KUCCPS selection committee has also been successful in awarding students their third choice courses and also, many at times, courses a student didn’t even select. How is this even a selection committee? I am merely echoing the cries of my friends. It is this period that decisions about future lives are made, but unfortunately for Kenya, lives are destroyed during this time. I am just wondering what high school career masters do, or rather what’s the whole point of taking a student to school to learn ‘everything’ yet he doesn’t know where he/she would apply them? Anyway, most schools are geared towards ‘success’ by having their students gunner ‘serious’ grades than imparting the students with knowledge. With a keen eye, you can never see the school in your high school graduate child. I blame experienced parents.

Higher learning

Kenya has about seven major universities. What used to go on here was ‘learning’ or the gain of knowledge. However, that ceased to be, and for now, these institutions are commercial centers for mega businesses. Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, China, Russia, Japan, and Germany have their universities majorly ranked by the quality and quantity of research that goes on there. These world super economies have their institutions packed with highly equipped research labs and centers. Turning your attention to Kenya; the few professors that our institutions have been too busy running from one institution to another in the chase of money. You can have one lecturer offering their services in more than three institutions at a go. So the question is, when does this professor have the time for research? Back at their universities, they are assigned so many classes in a day than they can manage. Source of the problem? There is a huge number of students in these institutions especially self-sponsored students. The institution managers would do anything to ensure that the numbers of self-sponsored students increase, for the more they are, the more the money. This results in an overwhelmingly large lecturer: student ratio; with the current standard of averagely 1:49, in these major institutions.

The number of lecturers also seems not to be increasing at all. The rate is close to 1 in some institutions, while others decrease annually. To counteract this, degree graduates in various fields are absorbed back into these institutions and turned into lecturers. They turn a man who knows math but nothing when it comes to lecturing, into a major, on high demand lecturer. I thought lecturers were trained. How can a degree graduate train an engineering student on how to operate a Computer Numerical Control Machine (CNC)? Something worth being laughed at. I heard of a student being awarded a Ph.D. in a research topic, “Causes of student failures in the KCSE exams,” or a related topic. How, in the first place, is that a research title worth being awarded a Ph.D. in? It is obvious that the paper was bought. Then that is the kind of doctor you expect to lead major research for the whole country?

Touching on the resources, you would walk into a major institution in Kenya, and even from the outward look, for sure resources are lacking. These institutions lack lecture theatres/ rooms and instead have classrooms, the high school type, with mobile class 8-type chairs. A class like that of civil engineering is often overflowing up to and including outside the door. You wonder how that student outside is hearing even a word from the lecturer, let alone can the lecturer carry out a practical demonstration of an idea in such a room? Most of these lecture rooms are often shared by even the whole school and most of the time collisions occur, forcing one class and the whole bunch of students, some of which commute from afar to postpone the class to the next day. If the rooms are lacking, then what about the labs for practical? Back in my institution, we are trained with cold war era equipment, yet I am in an ever-changing field of engineering. These ‘equipment’ are also inadequate. The labs are also not equipped for research but only for gaining simple basic knowledge in a field of study. The lab technicians are so not occupied that when with students, they ensure they spend as much time on nitty-gritty as possible. How can this be? It is more than a rumor for now that there is pure mismanagement of funds in these institutions. About ¾ of the same is directed to the pockets with only ¼ being spent on ‘development.’

Paper graduates

So possessed with ‘papers’ that students (some supported by their parents) are willing to buy them. So possessed with papers (money) that lecturers and professors are willing to sell the papers. But why so? To begin with, it is a sheer waste of time to spend a whole day in an engineering class copy-pasting notes from a book which you already possess. Secondly, “I am only in need of that paper, the job requires it. Just give me a first-class, I need this for the job.” Will the paper do the job? No wonder why most ‘educated’ youths are unemployed; they are just not fit for the job. A majority of graduates are in fields that weren't their career choices because they did not just prepare adequately for the same. As of now, the chief employer is connections and not what is upstairs. You can sometimes look at an employee and wonder how they got where they are. The system has turned political where the noisy you are the higher the chances of you getting there. To end with, students are majorly to blame. About 99% enter into a course because it is selling, they want to be the guys who are ‘highly paid.’ The first choice for employees. No wonder why major Kenyan assets are either owned by the government or foreign investors. Students are not trained to have an entrepreneurial mindset, but instead, they are after being employed. Even if so, employed by who?

The image above has spoken for itself, I want to believe, and so you should be pondering over the whys of the same. A tree is judged by its fruits, and that’s exactly why I will judge that the Kenyan education system is overrated. The system is merely a pyramid, where many enter into it or are at its base but only a few if any manage to the top/graduate with the skills, plus get where to apply the same skills thereof. A system is not a system if it cannot sustain all its reactants and products. The few that are learned lack even the place where they can be settled. The root of this is corruption. How comes a cybersecurity expert as the lady in the above picture lacks where to settle yet Kenya itself is a safe harbor of cybercriminals? We are too wanting that the demise of one cybersecurity expert has a profound effect on the destiny of the whole country. Corruption is a blatant denial of the unity that we all share is Christ.

Michael Jaroya

He is a technology enthusiast, a writer, and motivator.An individual with the love for humanity..

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