For graduates, HELB loans are a trail of tears.
Through the Higher Education Loans Board, the Kenya government has been lending loans to students for their university education fees, and using predatory, private sector practices to recover the money. Within a year of graduation, students have to repay the loan at 5,000 shillings a month, regardless if they have an income or not. Worse, HELB has partnered with the Credit Information Bureau to share information of defaulters.
For graduates, HELB loans are a trail of tears.
In much of the research on neoliberalism and universities, Western scholars express concern for part time lecturers. They say that the casualization of academic labor means that the number of permanent faculty positions reduces, which in turn affects the quality of research output because part-time lecturers don't have the stability to engage in research. It also has an impact on student mentoring because part time lecturers are paid only to teach.
But what happened in Kenya?
I was in the last year of the education system before 8-4-4. I attended a church primary school, where we still had erratic home science lessons, even though the subject was not examinable. I learned to weave grass and to knit small scarves using thorns as our needles.
It was in school that I learned how to polish shoes. One day, our teacher told us to bring shoes from home, and the next day we were taught how to wipe the shoes, put polish with one brush and shine the shoes with another brush.
When I was in Standard 5 or 6, our primary school was building new classrooms, and we were told that the new classrooms were for Standard 8 and 9. It is only when we left the Standard 6’s who were not going to do exams the following year, that I first became aware of 8-4-4.
Once upon a time, there was a couple, Wazazi Wakenya, who had been saving their earnings to build a home and finally move out of their poorly built rental apartment. They approached an old friend, a building contractor for help. After all, they knew he would tell them the process from when they contract the architect all the way to when the fundis build the house.
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?”
This week, the Nation Media Group held another installment of its Leadership Dialogues, this time focused on the new system of education being launched next year. In the opening minutes of the event clearly designed to build up legitimacy for the new system, anchor Smriti Vidyarthi referenced the common narrative of Kenya’s dysfunctional education system in her first question to KICD CEO Dr Julius Jwan.
“The competency-based system aims to address the weaknesses of the 8-4-4 system.” She stated. And then she asked: “Dr. Jwan, what is the CBC aim to achieve?”
Dr. Jwan replied: “Maybe I would just try to modify that [question] a bit. In working on a curriculum reform, you don’t necessarily start from the weaknesses. It just happens that a time comes when the society has moved on, and the education system has to move on.”
In the folklore of several Kenyan communities, the story is told of a hyena that sensed the sweet smell of meat, and decided to follow the smell to reach the meat. The smell led him to a fork in the road, and the hyena could not tell whether he should follow the road going to the left or the road going to the right. So that he wouldn't lose the meat, the hyena decided that two legs would take one road, and the other two legs would take the other road. In a short time, the hyena split and died because of his greed.
A similar fate seems to be eminent for William Ruto's political ambitions. He seems to have decided that to become president, he needs to play by the rules of daddy's (and mummy's) boys, (Raila, Muigai, Gideon). However, he also wants to appeal to Kenyans by portraying himself as one of us, thereby adopting the tag "hustler." However, trying to do both at the same time leads to the contradiction we see in Ruto's relationship with the Kenyan university.
On this great occasion where we come to reaffirm the people as the center of Kenya in this People's Charter, my fear is that it is not specific enough. We live in a neoliberal age where the language of progressives, language about rights and pain with injustice, is hijacked by the oppressors from the oppressed.
For instance, the president won the elections in 2013 by saying he was a victim of imperialism, until even those whose relatives were killed in the crimes for which he was charged pitied him.
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