Does the Kenyan Education System Produce all Rounded Learners?


Shackles of a Confined Education System

There’s a notion that the streets of Nairobi and other major towns in Kenya are thronged by hawkers and vendors who are graduates.

Your favorite shoe shiner in town might be a Bachelors degree holder in education. That guy who roasts maize down the lane could be a certified vetenary doctor or even that lady who knocks on your car window when you are stuck in traffic …yes that one, she could be having a degree in supplies.

Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing twisted about hawking or roasting maize by the roadside but you don’t need a degree to do that. These guys I presume went through university or college hoping to be employed in their various fields of study.

If this insinuation is anything to go by, then the situation is truly sad. One is left with a multitude of queries and an immensely disturbed mind. Who is to blame, the Government? The individuals involved? The economy? The devil perhaps? More often than not, the Government receives the blame for not providing enough opportunities for the 60,000 plus ladies and gentlemen who graduate and are released in the job market every year.

Now, how about we begin to shift our reasoning gears to our education system!

Education according to some learned people seeks to nourish the good qualities in a man and draw out the best in every individual. It seeks to develop the innate inner capacities of a man.

By educating an individual, you attempt to give him some desirable knowledge, understanding, skills, interests, attitudes and critical thinking.

He develops some understanding about deeper things in life the complex human relation, the cause and effect of relationships and so on. He gets some skills in writing, speaking, calculating, drawing; operating some equipment e.t.c.He develops some interest in and attitudes towards social work, democratic living, and co-operative management and so on.

As an individual in the society, he has to think critically about certain issues in life and take decisions about various issues in life and take decisions about them being free from bias, prejudice, superstitions and blind beliefs.


Thus he/she has to learn all these qualities head, heart and hand through the process of education. From the explanation above do our 8-4-4 education system and the curriculum enable the natural harmonization and progressive development of the learners’ innate powers? Because candidly that should be the basis of an above par education system.

Let’s take a case study of Finland’s education system which according to the Education Index published with the UN’s human development index lists it among the highest in the world, tied for first with Denmark, Australia and Newzealand.The Finnish ministry of education attributes its success to first and foremost their education system, competent teachers and the autonomy given to schools.

In Finland high quality day care and nursery-kindergarten are considered critical for developing the cooperation and communication skills necessary to prepare young children for lifelong education as well as formal learning of reading and mathematics which ‘only’ begins at age 7 so as not to disrupt their childhood.

In Kenya most of the municipal owned primary schools only begin from class one with most day care and kindergarten being owned privately by entrepreneurs whose main purpose is to make money not necessarily to teach your children the basics of learning. So basically our blunder begins right from the foundation.

Unlike our early childhood programme Finnish childhood education emphasizes respect for each child’s individuality and the chance for each child to develop as a unique person. Finnish early educators also gauge children in the development of social and interactive skills encouraging them to pay attention to other people’s needs and interests, to care about others and to have a positive attitude towards other people, other cultures and different environments.

The purpose of gradually providing opportunities for increased independence is to enable young children as ‘becoming adults,’ to be capable of making responsible decisions, to participate productively in society as an active citizen and to take care of other people who will need his/her help.

All the above brings us to the aspect of competent teachers. Back then idle middle-aged women were tasked with educating the nursery and kindergarten children, however, with a little more modernization some private schools employ teachers who have gone through early childhood training but who basically attained the lowest grades in their O levels and whose training are immensely questionable. How then can they instill the above values in these growing children to equip their learning minds?

In Finland both primary and secondary school teachers must have a master’s degree to qualify. Boom! There you have it. Teaching is a respected profession and entrance to university programmes is highly competitive.

That clearly is not the case back home where only the average and below average seek teaching. Did I mention that they are paid high salaries? A story is told of a Kosovo-Albanian boy who had drifted off the learning grid. His teacher after being convinced that laziness was not to be blamed for the boy’s poor progress decided to hold the boy back a year. Teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around.

“I took Besart that year as my private student” Mr.Lourhivuori said.”We try to catch the weak students its deep in our thinking.”

Years later a 20 year old Besart showed up at his for teacher Lourhivuori’s Christmas party with a bottle of cognac and big grin.”You helped me.”Besart had opened his own car repair firm and a cleaning company.

“No big fuss,” Lourhivuori said, “this is what we do every day, prepare kids for life.”

Students in universities are entitled to a student benefit (equivalent to Kenya’s HELB fund) which may be revoked if there is a persistent lack of progress in their studies. Back home entertainment joints are full of university students who squander the helb on extravagant living because no strict disciplinary measures are tied to it. Most of them graduate as half baked graduants.

It is not about being a hawker, while having your degree certificate stashed somewhere is about leaving the institution prepares for whatever life has to offer. The question is, does our education system prepare us to make lemonades out of the lemons life may throw our way?


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4 thoughts on “Does the Kenyan Education System Produce all Rounded Learners?

  1. Thats a good insightful article by scophine. But dont u think these guys are just trying to eke a living from a capitalist economy? Its true we dont need a degree to undertake these informal duties but i would sudder to add that instead of sitting down with no income,they better go that route. Unfortunately, our education system doesnt prepare us for a plan B when it comes to “suitable relevant employment”. Starting from the preprimary level managed by academic dwarfs to the university level where money takes centre stage, i would further add that ,”everything” has gone wrong with our education system and urgent action need to be taken starting with pre-primary level!

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