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Education For All: Is it Really Achievable? Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Mbũrũ, Kenya Aug 1, 2006
Education , Human Rights   Opinions
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Since the declaration of Education For All in January 2003, a substantial amount of resources, both human and financial, have been allocated and an increase in the enrolment ratios has followed.

The achievement of free basic education was applauded by all and sundry, especially organizations which supported the elimination of illiteracy in Kenya. Such organizations observed that this would usher in a new era of a liberated, informed and educated society that was almost denied of these social rights for a very long period of time. They also sighed with relief, since the declaration was a step ahead in the reconstruction of the education sector in Kenya, with an understanding that education is an inalienable right vested in the exalted document.

However, this achievement has not been without its challenges. According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) and the constitution, primary education is free and compulsory. The law stipulates that a child of school going age should have access to primary education regardless of their ability to afford uniforms and stationery.

However, despite this clarification, not all children in that age bracket (six years in Kenya) are enrolled in schools. In other words, the government has recognized the significance of education as a legal right but have the masses, principally as far as the girls’ education is concerned?

Kenya’s culture, like in many African states, explains the fate of a woman as pre-determined – she either goes up to Standard Four or remains illiterate. If she happens to be educated, then she is brainwashed! Cultures, which promote female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages, have for a long time been absorbed into our social systems. This is one major reason why girls in Kenya have been faring poorly especially in Sciences and Mathematics. It does not matter whether this is in ASAL or non-ASAL areas.

Local leaders have not emphasized in their campaigns - whether for political gain or HIV/AIDS awareness - the need to educate young girls. The government can, together with stakeholders, use events, especially initiation ceremonies (not FGM), funerals, weddings or any other association, as a forum to support the integration of girls into the education system. This can be done while insisting that girls can grow up into independent citizens if only educated. They should not be regarded as a commodity to be exchanged over the counter but a productive member of the society whose role is not passive but dynamic. This again, should not mean discriminating against boys who need to be equally educated as their female counterparts.

Teacher motivation and the pedagogical reflection and instruments in education arguably need to be resolved. Burn-out among teachers is common when faced with instructing over 60 children in a class meant for 35 pupils. The form and content of education, in this case, does not conform to the standards of a good management work plan, on the implementation of FUPE. A child, therefore, does not enjoy the services of a teacher-student relationship, which motivates both the giver and the taker.

Many schools of thought have posited that the current 8-4-4 system of education be scrapped and replaced with the 1-7-4-2-3 system, if the achievement of FUPE is to be felt. Complete overhaul of the system is not the problem. A few changes as laid down in the Education Bill currently being discussed in Parliament should be embraced and debated soberly.

Perhaps the greatest impediment with the current 8-4-4 system is that it does not consider the ‘barefoot teacher’ as an acceptable partner in the promotion of education and educational reform. Many argue that the students under the system are not practical enough to be absorbed into the current world because “it does not relate to practical work due to the workload”. Educational reforms do not need to undergo numerous sessions. It can be done in less than a month if we are serious about it.

The other major obstacle is the way in which we are handling adult education. Currently it is based in the Ministry of Culture Social Services and Sports – a rather odd ministry to place an educational department! This clearly shows that the government is not considering the adult education sub-sector. When one talks about adult education, the picture that comes in most people’s frame of mind is old men and women commonly referred to as ‘ngumbaro’. This crucial department should be placed in the right agency that is, the Ministry of Education. It is one reason that the likes of Mzee Maruge, an octogenarian in Eldoret, wants to be a veterinarian despite having only Standard One. This means that there is not a single Department of Adult Education field officer who has advised Mzee Maruge and his acquaintances that to be a vet, it takes a lot of years in school. If he has been advised, then the adviser did it wrongly.

Adult illiteracy is increasing despite committing enormous resources to the elimination of illiteracy at the basic level. When we talk about Education For All, are we really seriously saying that all people regardless of age should achieve education when in reality we are concentrating only on the primary school children? Where do illiterate adults and youth fall? Are they not supposed to fit in some form of education training empowerment? How have they been neglected when Kenya’s illiteracy count stands at only 4.2 million people? Isn’t this quiet a simple figure to round it to almost a nought?

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Writer Profile

I am a researcher on educational issues especially in the rural areas, with much emphasis on girls' education.

As a trained journalist, I have a lot of concern with the handling of the education sub-sector in Kenya and take a critical role in viewing the reforms currently being conducted to integrate education structures for the sake of the youth in Kenya.

One major aspect, sadly, is that Kenya has been sovereign for over four decades but has been the only African country besides Somalia not to have made education compulsory, free and basic. For Somalia it can be understood - the country had been in civil strife since 1992- but for Kenya the politics of the day have played a negative role in reducing the promotion of education to a system sheer competition, instead of progressive

Apart from that, I write fictitious literature.
Currently I am working on prose on love and betrayal and a collection of poems.

Education For All
Eugenia Bivines | Sep 11th, 2006
Great Article and I would welcome the opportunity to answer the questions that are posed by you. Building A Better Future does nto discrimanate on basis of children, youth, adults, men, women or children. In order to educate any one you have to start on an individual level; However literacy has to start on the basic level and then tailored to the individuals intellictual being.

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