There is a lot of talk about whether or not the current Kenyan education system is the right one or not, with varied opinions on what can be changed, what is working or not working. The naming, the numbers, and all sorts of hullabaloo. I think we're still getting it all wrong as a country.

I recently listened to a TV discussion on this subject. In my own opinion, I see that there are big gaps that, apparently, are not going unnoticed in trying to build or correct our education system. The big question policymakers should be asking themselves is "What do we want our education systems to achieve?" If we are not clear about what we want to achieve, then any system will just be fine. Education, to me, is a critical component of development in a society. Problems that we face in society can only be addressed through the acquisition of appropriate knowledge. Not general knowledge. Africa has problems that don't really need to be allowed to continue. But because we seem to be chasing some other programs that are not domesticated to address our needs as a people, we continue to suffer the very same problems decade after decade.

The problems we face in Africa, are clearly not the very same problems Europeans face. European education needs to be addressing the Europeans' problems. Our education needs to be addressing our problems. Our literature, our history, our agriculture, our values, and many other things are very different and distinct. We cannot, therefore, assume that if we adopt a particular foreign system, then it will solve our local problems. I do not deny that there are elements of education that must be universal, but the application of that knowledge must speak to our society.

In Kenya, for example, if our study of agriculture has been helpful, and not just following what is practiced elsewhere, we would not be talking about famine anymore. If we study business in a domesticated fashion, or governance or ethics, most of our problems like lack of jobs, and overreliance on borrowing from Bretton Woods Institutions would be gone case. 

What Kenya (and Africa as a whole) needs is to tune the education content to speak to the local needs; whether it is medicine, engineering, business, or civics.

Take agriculture, for example, in some parts of Kenya, Maize takes 3 months from planting to harvesting. The same maize would take 7 months in other parts. If we don't ensure that students of agriculture will understand these differences, we end up with a one-size-fits-all philosophy; having extension officers who will apply knowledge, perhaps, from a different region in a different region. 

How about medicine field, everyone in the medical industry knows that the diseases we are struggling with in the tropical regions are different from those in the polar regions. A disease like malaria which is easily treatable in my home village becomes a nightmare in the USA, for example, or even in Nairobi. Pneumonia is a problem in my village and not so in Nairobi. How then can we expect that someone in Netherlands or California will have better medical solutions for our locals? If our own medicine students are not trained to research and look for local solutions, all our efforts are in vain. 

In the technology, Kenya has pioneered in Mobile Phone payments, which still appears to be strange in other regions of the world. That is a typical example of a domesticated solution where domestication of education is doing an excellent job. So far, the software development industry has been doing great in this respect. All the other disciplines need to follow. There is no reason to teach children about the flags of different countries if they don't know why corruption is a bad thing for every living individual in society. There is no way of teaching them that 'A' is for 'apple' if they don't know about the cassavas, maize, and lemons which they can relate to easily.

Until and unless we rethink our aim for education and thereby reorient the content therein, all our subjects/education systems will just remain part of the burden. We shall still fail to have competent engineers, scientists, artists, teachers, name them. It is not the number of subjects, but rather the areas that need to be addressed. Nothing to do with competing globally without addressing local problems. There is a reason wazungu endeavored to translate the bible to our native languages but did not bother translating physics, biology, or chemistry. 

Otieno Paul Peter,
Education Enthusithusiast,
Otieno Paul Peter is a perpetual student of life in the field of leadership, psychology, spirituality, ICT, physics, and philosophy among others. He has authored 2 great books and is currently undertaking a Master of Science degree in Psychology at
 Liverpool John Moore's University, London through Unicaf scholarship.

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