- We must reform education in line with what employers want, which was similar to colonial times when schools were for training Africans who would work in the colonial government
- Academic learning is beyond the “talent” of many Kenyans, which aligns with the view of imperial administrators like Lord Lugard that literary education ruins the African mind.
- Technical learning is more suitable for most Kenyans, a proposition which colonialists justified with claims that the African brain stops growing at teenage and could therefore not grasp complex ideas.
- Kenyan children are doing badly in the education system because Kenyan adults do not subscribe to nuclear family values. This rhetoric was similar to the racist attitudes of the 1970s of black American families and absentee fathers, and colonial attitudes about African families.
In my public engagements on CBC, I was constantly surprised that the arguments promoting the new education system were fundamentally racist and socially hierarchical. Some of the justifications of CBC which were unmistakably colonial were:
As I watched a few clips of the Sonko Leaks, until I could no longer stand the toxicity, I wondered to myself: why on earth do people who are already rich and well educated demand bribes, when they definitely do not need the money?
The answer I came up with was this: they do it to humiliate. There is something about them that is so hollow, that they can only feel themselves by degrading others. The point of bribes is not to earn money, but to assert power by shrinking the human dignity of others.
On the afternoon of Friday, 12 November, Martha Omollo, a teacher in Nairobi County, was called to her school and served with a letter from the Teachers Service Commission, the government employer of teachers in public schools. The letter, which was dated that day, informed her that she had been transferred to a school in Trans Nzoia County, 400 kilometers away, and that she was to report ready to teach the following Monday, 15th November.
Earlier in the week, Omollo had been the spokesperson of the Teachers’ Pressure Group, which had called into question the loyalty of the union leaders to its members, and the opaque health insurance scheme for which teachers pay through involuntary salary deductions. Shortly after the press conference, Omollo received a call from the TSC Nairobi County office, warning her not to publicly discuss issues facing teachers.
I vividly remember this incident that occurred when I was a graduate student in the US. We were having this conversation with an American on campus, when I animatedly said, “I’m so loving this!” The American then deigned himself fit to correct my English, and promptly told me: “In English, we don’t say ‘I am so loving.’ We say ‘I love.’”
This ignorant American, in his own country, seemed unaware that “I’m lovin it” was a phrase that had been popularized by the Justin Timberlake song “I’m loving it” and in a classic manipulation of culture by corporations, had become the tagline for McDonalds commercials. I said “I’m so loving” very aware of that dynamic. I was also teaching undergraduate American students. They said this all the time and I was simply borrowing a phrase from them.
This is a call to Kenyans of conscience to step back and reflect on the lies about education that are circulating in the media, schooling system and government. Foreign sharks have camped in Kenya to distort our education. Using buzz words such as “quality” and “global standards,” these sharks seek to destroy the hopes, dreams and creativity of young Africans, not just in Kenya, but in the whole region, and to make a profit while at it. With the help of local professors, bureaucrats and journalists, they spread hatred for education among the population. At the same time, they ironically create a thirst for schooling that makes parents and children resort to desperate measures to get a school, up to accepting violence and abuse in schools and taking their own lives.
This insanity must end.
On July 9 this year, Kenyan filmmaker Silas Miami posted a tweet asking Kenyans to share their most unbelievable experience in boarding school. Expecting replies about quirks and naughty incidents, Miami was in for a surprise. The stories which emerged from the replies were simply horrifying. They were stories of abuse and extreme violence, including broken limbs and rape, meted out on children.
In the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the government announced, with great fanfare, that students of Kenyatta University students had invented an ventilator that could help with patient treatment. The CS of Trade and Industrialization, Betty Maina, and of Health, Mutahi Kagwe, visited the students and lauded the local innovation in response to the pandemic.
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