If productivity could be measured in terms of threats then the Ministry of Education is possibly the most productive ministry ever! Around this time every year, students and pupils sitting for KCSE and KCPE respectively are threatened with all manner of consequences if they are caught cheating, with no care as to what these threats do to their psyche – cheating in exams notwithstanding.
The ministry has now extended the threats to parents and teachers; promising to work with the asset recovery unit to recall certificates of parents and teachers who are aiding children to cheat in examinations? I think we need a moment of silence to let that sink.
It’s unbelievable that top education officers, sat in a board room somewhere and combed through a number of recommendations from reports done by the ministry and other reports by the Parliamentary committee on Education and decided the best cause of action was to threaten parents and teachers that they will go for their certificates as a way of dealing with the rampant cases of cheating in exams. Yet this appears to be the modus operandi for the government in 2018.
A few months ago, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) with the blessings of the same ministry decided to threaten the children burning schools with criminal prosecution that will keep them from getting any employment for the rest of their life. This is despite the fact that, both the CID and the ministry have officers who are familiar with the psychology behind violent behavior among teenagers and can therefore offer very useful recommendations as opposed to the fighting fire with fire mentality on display.
At the height of the school arson, MPs debated the need to have Chaplains in school to help guide the students spiritually. And while we have commended that act on this blog, we also recommend that MPs in the education committee give direction on this matter beyond the spiritual dimension.
For instance, why are we turning a blind eye to the conditions under which public schools operate? This is a country where some students wake up early to read while others wake up early to fetch water. The inequality in public schools is so high that there are schools where students see the practical equipment like burettes and pipettes for the first time on the exam day, having only seen it in books they shared the entire four years of their study.
Never mind the prestige we’ve given to university degrees that to fail to make it to university, is as good as to fail in life. It shouldn’t therefore come as a surprise when some of these students or their parents for that matter, panic and attempt to use unconventional means to pass the exams. The point here is that, while the government should by all means encourage honesty among students; there’s also a need to deal with the underlying issues that make the students decide to cheat despite the dire consequences.
So while MPs have recommended the need for spiritual guidance – which in a sense could imply that this is the work of Satan – it only deals with the spiritual bit. What about the social aspect? And what about the administration’s role?
There is therefore a need to make recommendations that deal with the other stakeholders, like the board of governors, head teachers and other people directly or indirectly involved in the running of the schools. Otherwise, every year the Ministry of Education will continue threatening students and their teachers over cheating cases despite the number of Chaplains we send to those schools.
Something worth mulling over moving forward is that, while we have progressed in a number of sectors as a country, our education remains static in its operation and attempts to improve it has had catastrophic results due to the lack of proper planning in most cases. The last best thing that happened to this sector was the introduction of free primary education that increased the level of semi-literate people in the country. However, this noble idea brought with it other challenges including overcrowding, shortage of textbooks as well as shortage of teachers to mention but a few.
The sad reality is that, the government has not been able to build as many schools as possible or employ as many teachers as possible to match the increasing number of pupils hungry for education. Coupled with the lack of enough teaching material, the country has seen the standards of education go down to the point that, it not only affected the morale of the few teachers working so hard but also the majority poor parents who hope education can give their children a chance they never had.
It’s therefore easy to accuse teachers, parents and their children for attempting to look for shortcuts but is the government taking its fair share of the blame? Are our lawmakers debating how we are failing our children; particularly with regard to the much needed facilities in public schools and make recommendations to that effect? Or should we continue blaming it all on their (student’s) spirituality or lack thereof?