The Gap between Academicians and Practitioners.
First and foremost I want to sincerely laud former president of Kenya Mwai Kibaki. Upon taking the reigns of power after the general elections of 2002, Kibaki (and his government Narc) forever changed history in the Kenyan education sector. Millions of Kenyan parents with school going kids breathed a sigh of relief when Kibaki announced free primary education to millions of school going children. For sure, that was a milestone in Kenya’s education history. For sure, it was a far cry from maziwa ya nyayo.
In that year alone (2003) public primary schools flooded with pupils as enrolment skyrocketed almost to the high heavens. The world was pleased with a nation that was ready to educate it’s children, as such foreign aid was readily granted by the UK government.
Children hungry and thirsty for an education couldn’t have been rewarded more. It was a success story to say the least.
However, somewhere along the way cracks started forming on a wall well-built and with so strong a foundation. It wasn’t long before it was alleged that their was massive misappropriation and embezzlement of funds meant for free primary education by top officials in the education ministry. It was sad, pathetic and a stab in the back of school going kids. One of the local dailies then screamed the headlines ‘A tale of two professors’ The then education minister Professor Sam Ongeri and his permanent secretary professor John Ole Kiyiapi were put to task to explain how the money had been misappropriated by education officials….
One other thing as a writer was to later write is the fact that the Narc government never foresaw the danger that loomed ahead. Education facilities in schools and institutions of higher learning became congested and flooded with students thanks to the double intake programme. The double intake programme began in 2011, the year I joined University in the month of August. Having sat my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in the year 2009, I had selected four and revised the courses I intended to pursue. The exercise had been conducted at the Western education provincial headquarters in Kakamega. Thereafter I was to await my admission letter to campus for one year 6months. In the time in between I engaged myself in tertiary courses like computer in addition to running my uncle’s businesses. At the time I joined university, a degree took four academic years to be completed which is still the case, however today unlike then,long holidays come after a semester instead of one academic year. This had been announced to us after we had completed our first semester to our consternation. The main reason given was that there was going to be a double intake and the school could not accommodate that large number of students and therefore one group ( K.C.S.E candidates 2009) had to go for a long holiday and allow the K.C.S.E candidates 2010 to be enrolled in January 2012. This happened in the University I was. There were other scenarios different from mine in other universities. The 2010 candidates were lucky; thanks to the double intake they had not been at home for long waiting for admission to University.
I was highlighting a situation that had been brought about by free primary schooling in Kenya over the years. Institutions of high learning as I write this are flooded with students who are under facilitated and with less materials, laboratories, libraries and workshops for research and innovation. Adding insult to injury lecturers in both public and private universities have been periodically complaining of poor pay forcing some to skive lecture sessions. It was only recent when Moi University KPA campus students in Eldoret rioted over lecturers not attending lecture sessions when they had payed their school fees in full.Due to strained resources and large number of students in universities, (five students sharing one computer -case scenario) quality of education and that of graduates is beginning to dwindle.
After independence, Kenya only boasted of 8 major universities, currently their are 31 universities registered with the Commission for Higher Education (CHE). Despite this being progressive, that number still can’t measure to the large number of students joining University yearly. Amongst universities counted, some are private and only afforded by the well-off in society. Private universities seem to be better equipped and facilitated compared to public, however, few are the number of students who attend private as compared to public universities.
Employment in Kenya is also becoming a tricky affair in Kenya given the large number of universities holding graduation ceremonies for their graduands every year; with some even holding two graduation ceremonies in a year. As I write this, am not formally employed and the number of my course mates who are employed can stand up and easily be counted. Unfortunately, this is a reality that the economists, policy makers, strategists and researchers in the government were supposed to foresee and create measures that would ensure such large number of students are accommodated both in government and private sectors where their skills are much needed.
It’s a pity that many are still on the job search without any experience. It’s only experience and what you are good at that employers want to see. Some careless about the papers and recommendations you carry. This begs the question, how can the government transform it’s top cream ( fresh graduates from universities) from being academicians into practitioners who can solve the present world problems in their area of study. In my opinion, the government owes it’s graduates big in terms of making them relevant and practical in their careers.
Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that the government has also played a big role in ensuring that it’s students are able to complete a university education through the Higher Education Loans Board ( HELB). That is much appreciated though not a beneficiary myself. In most graduation ceremonies graduants are encouraged to be job creators and not only seek jobs. I believe in creating a job , one needs to possess the relevant skills that will put him /her in a better position to create the job but here is a scenario where a half -baked graduate with little exposure ; who even securing a good place for their field industrial attachment wasn’t easy owing to the large student population is expected to be skillful and well oriented upon leaving campus. The government I believe should link up with private individuals who have set up companies that nurture graduates in their field of interests to help them nurture students from being academicians to practitioners with hands on in solving problems in their field of endeavour.
The chancellor of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Dr. Mwai Kibaki while addressing students in a recent graduation ceremony at the institution encouraged every stakeholder on board including lectureres, professionals, economists, researchers, policy makers to not only equip students with knowledge but a possible reflection and a true picture of the job they are studying for. He encouraged them to make their students also love and enjoy what they do. He emphasized that institutions of higher learning are meant to be centres for research and innovation by world class standards and therefore the government should put more funds into developing our institutions of higher learning.