The contractor, however, forgot their lifetime of friendship and got greedy. So he said to them; “give me the money, I can design the house, do the quantity survey and engineering, the contracting and hiring of the fundis.”
Wazazi Wakenya asked: “are you sure? Don’t we need to get the architect, and quantity surveyor, and an engineer as part of the team?”
They replied: “Actually no. We trust you then.” And they gave him a down payment.
The contractor drew the house on a foolscap paper and a few days later, he showed the couple the design. All the couple could see was lines and numbers. Pointing at various corners of the plan, he told the couple how they would have a fabulous mansion with three bedrooms, an SQ and a veranda. The couple trusted the contractor, after all, the house sounded nice.
Within a week, the contractor hired watu wa mjengo and called them to the site. When they arrived, he handed them the foolscap, told them he wanted to see a house within three months. The masons were surprised.
“Are you not going to get an architect and engineer to help us with a proper plan?” They asked.
“Nyamazeni,” the contractor said. "If you want to be paid, you’ll do as I’ve said or I get others."
As the weeks passed, the walls were rising, but there was no one to confirm that the foundations, the pillars and beams of the house were properly done. Soon the couple asked when they could come see the progress.
“Ah…that is easy!” The contractor said. “I can take you there myself tomorrow."
The couple got to the site and saw the walls. They were shown the house and were told how great it would look when it was done. But there was something odd about the masons. They looked uncomfortable and didn’t want to answer many questions.
As Wazazi Wakenya was walking off the site, they met Village Madwoman, a fundi herself.
“Hey! What are you guys doing here?” she asked.
We’re building a house,” Wazazi Wakenya replied.
The Village Madwoman, not known to be polite, blurted out, “lakini that house of yours looks a little off. Who is your architect that drew the design?”
“We didn’t need one,” said Wazazi Wakenya. Our contractor is a good friend and he said he could do the work himself.
“Ai,” Village Madwoman said. “That sounds a little odd. That means you don’t have a design? If I were you, I would pause the project, get an architect and an engineer to check it out for you.”
Wazazi Wakenya got annoyed. “That’s the problem with you, Village Madwoman. You’re so negative. Don’t you ever see anything positive? You know how we have suffered in the rental house we have been living in. Are you saying that we should live in that house forever and continue paying rent? And you saying that the house we’re now in is better? The roof leaks. We have to keep calling plumber to fix the loo. Almost every month, we’re repairing something.
“It just happens that there comes a time to move out. We want our own house. At least even if we repair it all the time, it will be our own house.”
Village Madwoman didn’t let it go. “Surely, Wazazi Wakenya….you’re going to lose all your savings, and you are putting your lives in danger with this construction.”
The contractor, who had been quiet all this time, butted in. “Nenda zako! Mwendawazimu. You are just a mere fundi. What do you know about construction? I was given the mandate to build this house”
“True, I don’t know much,” Village Madwoman said, “but I know that there is supposed to be an architect who draws the plans, who gets an QS to cost the project and gets an engineer to check that the construction goes well. This construction needs to be checked.”
Wazazi Wakenya chased away Village Madwoman and told the contractor to continue with the job. As the days went on, the house became more and more lopsided. The fundi’s become less and less. They could see the construction would fall, and wanted nothing to do with it. So they just didn’t show up at the construction, and soon, the contractor found out that they had found other construction sites. But he kept going to Wazazi Wakenya and asking for more money, promising that the house would soon be complete.
One day, an architect who was passing by and saw a disaster waiting to happen. The next day, she came back with an engineer friend who was visiting from Italy, ask him to look at the house.
With one look at the house, he told her: those people working there need to get out immediately. This project needs to be stopped before somebody gets hurt. The architect went to the police, and they got the project blocked and barricaded. And Wazazi Wakenya had to contemplate their lost savings, but be thankful they were still alive.
As for the contractor? I don’t know what happened to him.
A new education system is a construction. It needs an architect whose role is to listen to Wakenya and what they want, and translate those dreams into the design. The architect then consults a quantity surveyor and an engineer to plan the construction, and then the contractor who hires the fundis to put up the actual house. In educational terms, the people of Kenya would say what we want, then our elected representatives would come up with a Sessional Paper and policy framework for the new education system.
The Ministry of Education was then supposed to bring KICD, KNEC and TSC together to a conference. KICD would draw the curriculum design, KNEC would then say how it would evaluate the curriculum. Once that is done, the syllabi of different subjects would be written, then handed over to publishers to develop materials. Only with complete syllabi and materials would teachers be trained, and then the pilot would begin in the schools.
The pilot is supposed to be piecemeal, not an entire class in all its subjects. Different subjects could be piloted in different schools. That way, if the pilot reveals that the system is flawed, the children will not be left clueless when the pilot syllabus is withdrawn. After the pilot, data is collected, analysed and adjustments are made, and the implementation stage begins, and eventually the evaluation.
What happened with the curriculum is that the contractor, KICD, took the role of the CS and PS of education, and promised Kenyans a house without adequately understanding what house Kenyans wanted and without the skill or capacity to design it. The architect was supposed to be our elected representatives, and the Ministry of Education, who should have adequately consulted Kenyans and come up with an appropriate design.
But worse, KICD, without consulting KNEC or other stakeholders, drew a flawed design and gave it to the publishers and teachers to both interpret and implement by either writing the book or teaching. That is the same as the contractor giving the fundi the plan on the foolscap and expecting the fundi to do the job of both QS and fundi as well. The publishers and teachers were supposed to prepare materials and lessons from syllabi; instead, they were given the curriculum design and both were expected to interpret the curriculum design, design a syllabus and teach.
All Amina Mohammed did was to prevent the collapse of house that KICD and Matiang’i had unilaterally promised Kenyans, and which they were unqualified and not mandated to promise. But, as many of us women are not surprised to see, Amina is now getting the blame and the press is wondering why our modern day Michuki of education was not left in the docket. Matiang’i was a disaster in that ministry, despite the media’s fondness of him. Amina has saved our children.
We now need an education system that is properly designed and implemented.
I’m no longer sure that the system needs to be replaced. There have been good initiatives like the School-based teacher program that showed great results in the 1990s, or the Tusome Initiative which improved children’s math and reading through a simple, innovative teaching approach. These could have been scaled countrywide, and it would have motivated both the teachers and the students.
Instead, KICD and Matiang’i decided to play Superman, making promises that were beyond their mandate or capacity to keep. And as many stories end, a woman is now bearing the brunt as she deals with the mess.
What happens to the contractor? Only time will tell.