The case of how much our education system has failed us is a never-ending conversation. It is also one where we are unlikely to agree, on its efficiency. Some people insist that it equips you well enough for you to branch out and do what you are good at. Others insist that it is an overload of information that does not allow us to specialise early enough. In the end, we are left with this contention for a situation that can only be changed gradually. While we wait for the shift to happen, we are left with what we have with us now.
A friend of mine is fond of referencing the “what do you have in your hand question?” God posed to Moses when he got the Israelites to the red sea and didn’t know how to get them across. Often in life, we have to confront ourselves with this question. What do you have in your hands? I ask this in reference to the Kenyan education system. It is far from perfect. The robotic dispensing of knowledge, the impracticability of the information we gather while in school, the theoretical nature of what should be practical as in the case of sciences and research. The list of what is wrong with the system is endless. However, the majority of the Kenyan population is incapable of taking their children to private schools. They have to make do with what the government offers.
This, as has been over time, is not enough to prepare an individual for what the real world holds. With the advancements in technology and the world being more practical than theoretical, the best our education system does is introduce us to an environment that exposes us to what the actual world is like. While the schools might not be equipped with technical assets to give us the hands-on skills, they do expose us to the opportunities there are, and how to take advantage of it.
Growing up in Marsabit, I knew for a fact, that education was the only shot at a better life, for me. There weren’t too many economic activities going on. I had no exposure to starting or running a business since the community is largely nomadic. The weather pattern over time, changed and it became even more difficult to farm or grow any sort of crops. If it wasn’t for the imperfect education system, I would fall into the cycle of illiteracy, early marriage, and poverty by extension.
The opportunity to go to school for me was a stepping stone. I had in mind, a rough idea of how it would play out, one step at a time. I knew that if I did well in primary school, I would get admission to a good secondary school which would increase my chances of a better performance. If that happened, I would stand a chance of getting into a university or college, and that meant that I would stand a chance at a good career.
The motivation for me was the poor living standards in Marsabit. There was no real shot at making something out of the life we lived. However, if we got educated and ended up in an ordinary career, we would still be better of than we would have been if we had no education at all. Better still, we could assess the world and draw our own bigger pictures using what we were equipped with. That way, we could create our own paths and make a real difference, not just in our lives but in that of the larger community as well.
In this way, the education system then has met its goal of creating better citizens. In most rural settings in Kenya, school is not emphasized upon. Children are more useful staying home to take care of the farm or livestock. Yet the introduction of free primary education saw an increase in admission of students to schools, particularly for girls. It shows clearly, that it was a matter of means and lack, that made parents retain their children at home. This directly affects literacy levels by improving it. There is no real harm in a child going to school. If we deny children education in the name of poor system, we are not solving any problems. These children will go through these systems, understand the failures and successes and come back later, to fix it.
It is also our responsibility to use whatever tools we are given to create that which we need. With the internet being a universal school, it has become a lot easier to get information on how to do or be anything. I understand that this is not a privilege that everybody has but those that have access have the duty to try and build a better present and a different future for the coming generations.