Education: The Key to Empoweremnt!

We have often argued, as many other people in society have done, and still do that education is key for both peace and empowerment! Education indeed matters so much that no society anywhere should ignore it! Children, the youth and adults need formal education, empowerment and opportunity so that they can effectively serve society as well as earn a reasonable livelihood to support themselves and their families. Children, to be able to succeed later in their adult life, need a strong foundation in education. They need to be exposed to reasonable quality education so that they can start developing their intellect, ingenuity, genius, talents and skills early enough. In their youth, they must be exposed to a positive environment for learning and positive acquisition of attitudes, mentalities, skills, knowledge and expertise! Adults, including teachers, lecturers and professors should deliberately portray good manners, a positive attitude and good character so that they serve as good role models for the children and the youth! The children and the youth should be able to learn and emulate honesty, obedience to the law, respect to human rights and the merits of peace, hard and smart work and true progress! All other adults, especially leaders,  should also, in our view, serve as good role models in leadership and good citizenship! All this sounds easy but we know it takes much much more to be effected effectively! Rome, as we know, was never built in a day! We know also that there are many challenges the education sector in any jurisdiction  faces from time to time!  Let us consider the Kenyan case as an example.

We know that challenges facing the education sector may  vary from location to location and also from time to time. However, the main challenge in many jurisdictions, including Kenya, is inadequacy of financial resources! In Kenya, many schools are poorly constructed, poorly equipped and poorly staffed! Many buildings in many schools have not been designed by architects and engineers and have been built with no expert/professional supervision! That means that the buildings may not be suitable to house classrooms, libraries, staff offices, etc. appropriately! Many schools lack modern sanitation and toilet facilities. The desks used by pupils and students are poorly designed and unsuitable for learning! The playing ground and other facilities are also poorly designed and constructed. Many schools that have been lucky to have electricity have done their wiring and electrical installation without the help of engineers and trained electricians. The wiring, though working, may expose the kids to one hazard or another. Majority of the schools do not have lightning protection masts and arrestors! How about staff? Some schools do not have enough teachers. A few teachers are among those who are poorly qualified as they are impersonators. Many such teachers give the kids a poor foundation in education. Majority of the teachers, however, work hard to make sure that the children are taught and guided well. Generally speaking, many teachers work under difficult conditions and they ensure the children actually learn well and pass their exams and succeed later in life. All the challenges we have mentioned may be blamed on inadequate financial resources!

Insecurity has also been a challenge in Northern  and North-East Kenya! Teachers have feared to report back to schools in these areas after the terrorist attack in Garrissa University College in which non-Muslim students (Christians) were massacred! You may refer to our earlier blog on this challenge!

In the Kenyan case, there is a problem that is recurrent and has been cropping up every time. The teachers argue that they are poorly remunerated and they demand better salaries and allowances. The current government, on the other hand, argues that the Kenyan teachers are the most highly remunerated in the Eastern Africa Region! The teachers counter that the Kenyan cost of living is the highest in the region and the Kenyan economy is the biggest and strongest and hence their demands for better pay are justified! The daggers are always drawn between the teachers’ unions and the government!  Currently, the teachers are on strike! The government insists that the strike is illegal under a 2007 law governing such strikes. The teachers, on their part, argue that the strike is legal as the 2007 law was rendered obsolete by the enactment of the current supreme law in 2010. The supreme law, they argue, protects their right to picket and go on strike without giving any notice as long as there is a dispute! This tug-of-war is also blamed on inadequacy of financial resources as the government argues that it does not have money for higher pay. Kenya’s supreme court has also ordered the government to pay the teachers higher pay as per a collective bargaining agreement approved by Kenya’s industrial court!  Will this dispute ever end? We are of the view that Kenyan authorities and the teachers’ unions are able to work a solution out without using the kids in schools as a bargaining chip. The teachers and the government have a responsibility to resort to non-contentious means to resolve the impasse without teachers downing their tools and without the government resorting to disobeying Kenya’s supreme court and other courts. All Kenyans know that the main problem in Kenya is never inadequacy of financial resources. The main problem is the culture of corruption, poor fiscal policies, erratic management of public resources and lack of accountability, rampant impunity, lip-service to the rule of law, open defiance to courts of law, poor coordination of public affairs and a culture of dishonesty!  Kenya has been moving in cycles for decades due to the culture of corruption, impunity and dishonesty! The development agenda always falls prey to the trickery of dishonest people who always rob the public of tax money, embezzle public resources and bribe their way out of police hands and the courts of law. Kenyan children are innocent and they need to learn without interruption. That is why we urge the Kenyan government and the two teachers’ unions to resolve the dispute in a  judicious manner without affecting learning!  The teachers should go an extra mile to teach better and better and hence empower the kids better! The government should also do away with its high-handed stand on the issue and instead extend a hand of diplomacy and dialogue! Diplomacy and dialogue are powerful instruments for industrial peace and harmony!

Kenya’s education system faces many challenges. Such challenges need solutions. As Rome was never built in a day, so the Kenyan education systems will take much more than token measures to be modernized and made suitable for modern learning and knowledge acquisition! The current challenge pitting the two teachers’ unions and the government is solvable if the two parties to the dispute embrace dialogue and diplomacy! Peace matters! So does industrial peace! It is time for judicious measures! (You may also refer to another article entitled “Kenya’s Education System Needs a Boost” in this blog site!)

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