Kenya: We Need to Invest in Quality Education for All Our Children

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By Wafula Nabutola
Our conversation on human capital would be incomplete without discussing standards and some historical perspectives. Two years ago Kenya’s Parliament passed the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Act, No.23 of 2013. It was the right step in recouping lost ground in our quest for reclaiming and nurturing our vocational skills and technical competence.

But what is a standard? It is a level of quality or attainment or calibre or merit or excellence. It is an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations and assessments of abilities.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s public schools offered top quality education, that was the standard. Private schools were frowned upon and were used as a last resort for those who could not make it into public schools. A similar scenario was evident in healthcare where public hospitals provided treatment and drugs for free. Now budgets are exponentially higher, but service is not commensurate with the investment. Now private implies high quality, be it in education, health or security. Public on the contrary connotes low quality. What happened to the pride associated with services delivery through public service?

It is therefore a breath of fresh air that the TVET Act has been passed to address the low quality and the low self-esteem associated with civil service.

Section 38 requires every institution to set up and operate in accordance with the provisions of the Act by adopting appropriate national and international standards in training, and establishing, implementing and managing credible quality assurance systems. It also calls for establishment and promotion of appropriate collaborative arrangements with national and international agencies on standards and quality assurance; and establishment of systems and processes for the continuous review and improvement of standards and quality assurance.

Section 39 states: “The training systems shall integrate on-the-job attachment and internships at all levels in order to provide relevant training for the development of appropriate practical and innovative skills”. This aspect of vocational skills will instill confidence and impart dedication into the apprentices and sharpen their nuances

Reporting from the just ended World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, Vikas Pota said teachers in Kenya are absent on average for half the time. South Africa languishes at the bottom of the international league table for mathematics and science.

According to the Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development), if all 15-year-olds achieved a basic level of education, Ghana could increase its economic growth by 3, 881 per cent and South Africa by 2,624 per cent. These are huge figures, Kenya’s is no different and parents are committing all their assets to education for their children. What can Africa do to change? First, there needs to be a focus on the unglamorous area of vocational training.

In his article “three steps to fix education in Africa”, Pota says: “Africa’s soaring economic growth over the past 15 years has resulted in a burst of optimism about the continent’s future. However, amid the popping of champagne corks, African leaders must not lose sight of the fact that dire education standards could bring the economy back to cold sober reality.

Nabutola is a building surveyor and consultant-in-chief at MyRita Consultants.

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