Mar 7, 2012

Our children are going to school but are they really learning?2

The recently launched government task force report on education proposes to change Kenya’s system of education from 8.4.4 to If this is adopted, children will spend two years in pre-primary school, six years in primary school, three years in lower secondary school and another three years in upper secondary school. It also means that they will have to spend a minimum of three years at University. 

 Kenya has already changed its system of education twice. The first system, 7.6.4 was adopted in 1963 and later abolished in 1985 to make room for 8.4.4 system of education. These changes however have not succeeded in enhancing the quality of education to expected levels. Our children still face many challenges at school most of which have nothing to do with the system of education.

Uwezo Kenya has been conducting national educational assessments since 2009. These assessments constitute the largest study in Kenya’s education sector for children between 6 and 16 years old. In its most recent findings contained in the 2011 Annual Learning Assessment Report, it is clear that Kenya’s school learning levels are low across board. Nationally, 4 out of 10 children miss school daily and 7 out of 10 children in class 3 cannot do class 2 work.

The report also indicates that on average, every primary school has a shortage of 4 teachers while on a single day, 13 out of 100 teachers miss school. The prevailing acute shortage of teachers at schools affects learning. It may also shock you to know that 9 out of 100 children in class 8 cannot solve class 2 mathematical problems involving division.

The study found out that many children are not learning because they are unable to see the blackboard. 3 out of 100 children in a classroom today have unidentified eyesight problems and their learning standards are 27 percent lower than those of children with good eyesight.

These findings are without any doubt a reality staring at our faces and begging the question; are our children learning? 

Changing the system of education is off course necessary but it’s not enough. It’s not about the number of years children will spend at each level of education. It’s not even about the kind of examinations they will do. It’s about the seriousness with which our country will generally handle education matters. 

Schools will need to be well managed by their head teachers, well attended by both pupils and teachers, well supported by their government as well as parents. They will need to be provided with enough resources to run successfully and produce students capable of thinking critically. The government will have to train and employ more teachers and parents will need motivation to be more involved with their children’s education.

A shift from the reliance on examinations to the kind of education that will inspire basic foundation competencies with critical thinking skills and advances in science and technology will help bring the Kenyan education system in line with globally competitive standards. If adopted, the task force report will be the first step towards achieving this. 

It is our duty as Kenyan citizens to push for specific reforms in our education sector that will ensure tomorrow’s generations are provided with a first class education at all levels. We cannot expect to achieve anything much with the current system of education where our children do not have equal chances of learning. We ought to remember that education is a key pillar towards achieving Vision 2030.
Duke Kosprin

Feb 2, 2012

Are Children in rehabilitation schools learning?

Ten years have passed since Kabete secondary approved school was unceremonious abolished. Questions are still being asked as to why the school was done away with despite its benefits to thousands of children mainly from the streets.

Kabete was the only approved school providing secondary education for boys. The institution has since been turned into a children rehabilitation center providing elementary level of education.

The school got abolished barely ten years after being established through the now repealed Children and Young Persons Act of 1991. Besides Kabete, there are eight more centers across Kenya with just two for girls.

Latest figures put children in these centers at about 700. Four thousand more are in custody of juvenile remand homes waiting for their turn to join rehabilitation schools.

There are 11 juvenile remand homes (under the administration of the Children’s Department) in Kenya. These homes host homeless, abandoned or orphaned children and those with serious criminal offenses.

According to the Children Act 2001, juvenile courts are mandated to determine cases for children with both criminal and discipline problems. Those above fifteen are committed to borstal institutions which are under the prisons department. On the other hand, those below fifteen years with discipline problems are committed to rehabilitation schools for three years.

In rehabilitation schools, they are required to cover primary school curriculum but only a lucky few get to sit for KCPE. That is if they are retained for the full three years.

Philip Wapopa a manager at the Kabete center says that children in custody are equipped with technical skills besides school curriculum. “We have enough teachers qualified enough to teach them and to reform their behaviors.”

As a person who has worked for the department for over ten years, he reckons that three years is not enough to rehabilitate any child. “Initially, we used to be rehabilitated them until the age of eighteen.” He says.

He hopes that policy adjustments will be considered to do away with the three years limit and to mandate the department of children to resume providing secondary education.

Anactard Naam is a beneficiary of Kabete approved school. He grew without a father to look up to and his mother was destitute. In 1993 when he was just ten, he dropped out of school to help his mother at home.

A few years later when approved school had just come to his rescue, his mother passed on. He however remained in custody until his O-levels. “Had I been released out Kabete before my form four, I wouldn’t have become a career hotelier I am today. Secondary education is essential,” he charges.

Now a journalist at NTV, Simon Kigamba reminisces how approved school made him who he is today. He says that the school couldn’t have come at a better time in his life than in 1999 when he had no hope for education.

However after joining Likoni approved school in 1999, he made it upon himself to turn his life around for the better. He was later transferred to Kabete approved school to join form one.

Simon had to put up with many difficult conditions that prevailed during his time with a goal to make it in life. In 2004, his prayers were answered when he scored high grades in KCSE to make it to University.

He now wonders how it can be assumed that the poor children are being rehabilitated when nobody really cares about their future. “The act needs to be amended. The three years limit has to be done away with and secondary education must resume if those kids are to be helped.” He says.

Another beneficiary Boniface Lele never imagined that he could come from the streets and be a responsible man he is today. “I was in the streets because of poverty.” He remarks as he gets deeply disturbed remembering his ordeal in the streets.

“It is unfortunate that our country still has children roaming streets in this century.” He regrets and says that streets are no place for any human being especially a child.

Boniface however expresses optimism. “My life got changed at approved school because I got educated. The same can also be extended to our brothers and sisters from the streets in those rehabilitation schools and not just a token of it.”

Despite this outcry, Ahmed Hassan insists that the role of providing secondary education belongs to the ministry of education. He reiterates that the department of children which he directs can only follow existing laws.

Norkiso Owino however does not entertain the director’s remarks. The former approved school student currently pursuing his master’s degree rubbishes section 53 of the Children’s Act as draconian.

He adds that if the government was interested in helping destitute children, it wouldn’t have repealed the approved school section of the old law.

“What is the point of giving orphans and street children so much hope only to take it away after three years?” He laments and recommends urgent amendment to the act to remove the three years limitation and provide secondary education to compliment the technical training they receive.

Meanwhile, the number of street children in Nairobi seems to be swelling. It is suspected that the difficult economic conditions may be a major contribution to this.

These could as well be children released from rehabilitation schools after serving their maximum term of three years. The ministry of gender and children will need to move quickly and address these weighty concerns.

By Duke Mwancha

Jan 15, 2012

The Art of Being a Parent

Howdy folks, its twenty twelve right? Ooh! I think it is! Sometimes I get lost in the early nineties when I was six. Well, welcome to my read. It’s a roller coaster read in which I will pull no punches; beware.
Do you have (a) kid/s? Yes, No! I don’t, I am not a father material just yet. I have lots of love for little ones though. Clich├ęs aside, little children are angels for real. You will make no sense of this anyway until you spend time with them to see how I mean.

If you don’t have your own, you may want to try those of your friend’s. Just give them your sincere attention, don’t act. Clean them, change their diapers, feed them, play with them, ride them around, make them laugh, do whatever you can to keep them happy until they sleep. If that is too much to do, then you can’t be any further from being a parent.

I chose to kick off my year at Kilimani’s New Life Trust, a home like no other with about forty five children. Only thirteen are toddlers. The rest are infants and they were all found abandoned in the streets some as young as only four days old. What an ordeal!

The forty five are lucky to the extent that they are well taken care of. But then I really don’t understand ‘why’ these little angels had to find themselves in strange hands at their tender age.

The fourteen toddlers, Shawn, Lukas, Ephraim, Ankas, Lydia, Christiana, Faggas, Noel, Max, Victor, Zablon, Tabitha, Jonathan and Meshack have become such friends that I can’t imagine missing even just for a day. I recommend you go visit them. Let’s face it; a child is the best friend you can ever have. I mean, all a child will care about is your attention, nothing more.

The forty five represent many more across the country not abandoned by insane people but some selfish and heartless irresponsible men and women.  I don’t belief that tough economic conditions have anything to do with it, its blatant rejection, just a nicer way of being cruel. They clearly do it because they know somebody will rescue them and take them to custody at some point.

For a while now, I have witnessed desperate uptight Kenyan women coming to New Life trying to find perfect children to adopt. They normally walk straight to the kids with smiles and hellos, a really nice gesture. What raises my eyebrows though is how choosy they can get. To them, some kids are beautiful and others are not.

The seemingly malnourished and those with darker skins get no attention from any of them at all. The act of showing open discrimination to innocent kids leaves no questions as to what kind of mothers they really aspire to be if at all.

My meticulous observation at the home has made me realize that I may after all not need a child of my own just yet. Not until that time I would have fully learned the art of being a father. I say this because I can’t be disappointed enough with the kind of parents I see around, not just in New Life.

Just because age is catching up with you or you recently got married and things are going well in your life does not necessarily mean you are ready for a child. You also don’t want to have a child because your folks and peers think that you should have one already. Neither should it be because your life sucks and you need a companion. I need no moral authority to tell you this, I just need pain.

On the other hand, you are probably that person who always provides for your children. You have them in private schools better than those of your relatives and neighbors’ right?  I assume that you also avail whatever it is within your means they need. You also have a nanny for them I guess, just to assist them with all they do!

You are that busy chap who understandably comes late at home and asks them, “Hey sweetie, look at what I brought you- did she feed you? By the way, do you like your school...” so on and so forth till you go to bed.Do you drive them to school? Is that all you do? Great, then you are a characteristic modern Kenyan father. Awesome parenting huh!

Somebody should answer me this, why is it that Kenyan parents and teachers like yelling at kids? I see that everywhere I go. It’s even worse with those who raise hands on them. You have no idea how they boil my blood. I hate my neighbors just for that. It’s really a lousy habit and if it does anything, it deeply develops anxiety in kids as they grow.

As a country, our parenting is obviously below capacity. That is why we have so many abandoned kids roaming streets and in children homes. You shouldn’t think you are a perfect parent because yours are with you. You too need a reality check at your home.

Parenting has got to be more than just keeping your children’s lifestyle better or at per with your neighbors’. It surely has to be better than showing off your son’s/daughter’s photo to friends. It has to go further than just dressing them well for snaps and posting their photos on facebook or buying them candy and ice-cream.

If God has blessed you with (a) kid/s of any kind, please give them all your attention. A child will need your happiness, time, stories and most importantly your friendship. He/she will need you to understand his/her language. Those other material things, any fool with money can do.