There are three interesting developments that caught my attention regarding education in East Africa. To be honest, anything to do with education always catches my eye. It is something I obsess about quite a lot. I am always proud to point out that I come from a lineage of teachers but also that I had the chance to study in different environments and then went on to study Adult and Community Education at the university.
Of late, I have been studying a lot about what education ought to be about and how others are doing it to keep their countries afloat in the large scale rate race brought about by globalisation. This game calls for countries to streamline their education so as to remain competitive on the global labour market. Yes, the market is a global one in case you hadn’t noticed yet.
Coming back to East Africa and starting with Kenya something called the Matiang’i D was trending on Twitter. This is to imply that a score of a D in the current times when the education ministry is under the tough Dr Matiang’i weighs quite a lot compared to the times when examination malpractices made it so easy for many to score an A in the final exams. However it still points to the obsession with marks attained in the final exam than real skills, knowledge and attitudes one should acquire from school.
In Uganda, there has been a lot of hullabaloo about the rising cost of education after it was realised that some traditional schools are charging an arm and a leg for one to attend these prestigious schools. The schools create all sorts of fees that one has to pay before being admitted.
This got me thinking of whether the parents were paying for real academic value or just so they can have their children in schools that are known for producing straight As? Has the increase in money paid to attend these schools resulted in better quality of services or it is just an excuse packaged under “increasing cost of living” to fleece desperate parents.
In Rwanda, the Ministry of Education has banned the organisation of beauty pageants in schools. The directive comes after it was realised that some schools had such events in 2016 and that the ministry is worried that this will affect the academic performance of students and so it has been banned.
I have to point out that I have never really been a fan of beauty pageants even at the national or international level. However I wish schools could have more activities that students can compete in instead of the obsession to cut them down so as to allow children to focus on only academic excellence. Schools are essentially built to prepare younger folks for the world outside school (save for a few who intend to stick with the world of academia).
In this process therefore obsessing about performance in final exams is actually counter-productive. One of my teachers always urged us to do our best regardless of what we were doing. He would even joke that if you choose to become a thief then be a good one. I wish this philosophy could also be applied to our schooling system through competitions.
If someone in school wishes to play football or participate in a beauty pageant then they should be facilitated to do this well because the world out there needs all kinds of people but mainly those that are good at what they do. Schools that end up having some of their former students as successful musicians or sports personalities will gladly own these people and yet they may have slowed down their path to success by telling to focus on academic excellence and forget about their other talents.
I look forward to a time when parents are not just eager to pay exorbitant fees to schools just because the schools were mentioned in the press for having produced so many examination champions but to also find out what more these schools can offer in terms of offering children a platform to discover and develop their talents.
We cannot be competitive if our only focus is to produce examination champions in a world that requires everyone to be a champion at whatever it is they do whether it is playing football or applying salt to a piece of meat in a Turkish restaurant. Beauty pageants may seem a distraction in schools until you read about the fashion and modelling industry. Remember the labour market is global.Follow https://twitter.com/ssojo81