via Facebook By Gabriel Oguda
When I die, because I will die, let it be said that I was vehemently opposed to the change of the 8-4-4 education curriculum; into the proposed 2-6-6-3. My opposition to this change is guided on the basic principle that you can’t respond to a mosquito bite with a sledgehammer.
There is nothing seriously wrong with the 8-4-4 system as to occasion a complete overhaul. Those saying that the 8-4-4 system encourages rote learning and does not instil learners with key competencies either do not live in this country, or did not go through the 8-4-4 system themselves.
Let me tell you something.
I have studied outside this country and I can tell you I haven’t seen any Kenyan student struggling out there, because they were fed on the 8-4-4 junk diet. Kenyan students studying abroad are the pick the academic bunch, wherever they are. If they weren’t, those competitive scholarships targeting underprivileged children from Third World countries would have gone to other Africans. But they haven’t, and they wont.
The problem with this country is that we love skirting around the main issue. You know a friend who knows a friend whose mother leaked exams for her but you can’t raise your hand and reprimand them because you are afraid your truth will cost you your friendship in high places, and the attendant goodies that come with it. This country is a bunch of fair-weather hypocrites who love to put the blame where it doesn’t belong simply because if we faced the truth in the face we’ll be regarded as irritating misfits.
As a result, we are now blaming exam cheating and half-baked graduates on the 8-4-4 curriculum because there’s nothing, or no one, left to put the blame on other than ourselves. So the 8-4-4 is now being forced to take a hard hit because somebody somewhere has refused to put their hands up and take responsibility for allowing national exams to haemorrhage all over the place.
The 8-4-4, as originally designed, is the best any leaner could ever have asked for. Those blaming the current mess on the 8-4-4, I hypothesise, were those students who were never attentive in class because they knew at the final year someone would come through for them and the leakage would be availed at their desk-step.
My sister went to Kioge Girls High School, in Kisii County. The market in Nyakoe, every Tuesday, have the best bananas in the whole world. She took after my mum and chose music in Form 3, that term she came with a long list of the things required for those girls who chose Music as a subject. It was the first time I saw a flute in my entire life. Previously I have been reading these things in books. My sister still has that flute to date, and if you asked her to play for you the Kenya National Anthem on it, she would be more obliged to do it even in her sleep. The Kioge Girls Music Class of 2000 broke every record available and made it to the National Music Festivals; with my sister leading the charge.
I have to raise my hand up and say there are problems I don’t take to the tailor to sort out. I know how to do a hem stitch, I know how to pin a button. Even today, I iron my own clothes (even using that charcoal iron box). Ironing is a skill mastered by few people. If I lost my day job today, I’d comfortably walk into a dry cleaners’ franchise and ask for an ironing job. These are practical skills I learnt during my Home Science class, which are still relevant in my day-to-day life.
These are basic survival skills that the 8-4-4 curriculum bestowed me with.
And who remembers the 4K Club? Kuungana Kufanya Kusaidia Kenya. Every Upper Primary student, in Miwani Estate Primary School, had a plot at the School Farm. You were allowed to grow anything you wanted in there as long as it was in line with the Agriculture curriculum. As a result, I grow my own kales and tomatoes at home. I know how to build a rabbit hutch, I can design your dog pen even in my sleep, for a small fee. Many of my classmates, who were serious about Agriculture, have since gone on to be high-grade farmers. One of them, as I speak to you, supplies Kisumu City with first-class melons. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in our class, but when Agriculture time came he gave us a clean pair of heels at the school farm.
And what about Art & Craft? Our teacher, Mrs. Sawe, made it a criminal offence to outsource Kiondo weaving. We would trek to rural Kasongo to buy sisal leaves, then come back to school and yarn them off the ropes before we settled down to stitch Kiondo baskets with coloured strings. It was a tough ask for a young man born around girls, but even today, if Mama Maya’s shopping basket gets separated at the seams, all I need is a needle and a thread and she’ll have the toughest basket this side of the sahara back in good shape. For real.
The 8-4-4, therefore, have no problems at all, if you ask me. This craze about making laws and changing policies because its the the coolest thing to do will not take this country anywhere. Look at the (new) constitution 2010. We were promised that if we passed it, Kenya would, henceforth, play in the League of First World Nations. But six years on, how are we fairing on with the “best constitution in the world”? Better; yes? Nah.
I submit to you that Kenya do not need any more new laws, or new curriculums, or new blah blah blah. What we need is a change of our national values. We need a value-system that teaches our children that they can fail in exams and still make it in life. We need a value system that teaches our daughters that they can still get married to a street-boy and rehabilitate him from the ground up. We need a value system that teaches our children that they can watch a video of an old man falling off a stage and resist the attempt of laughing at him. We need a value system that teaches our children that it is honourable to hand over your bus seat to a pregnant woman, on your way to work.
There is no education curriculum that will entrench a value system that is based on common sense. You can import the best education curriculums in the world, but if our children are brought up on a diet of dishonesty and thuggery, nothing will ever change. If exam cheating was a preserve of the 8-4-4 system alone, those rich kids in schools run on the GCSE curriculum wouldn’t have been accused of exam cheating too. But they are, and exams those sides are also being rigged big time.
This country needs to have a honest discussion on the core reasons behind our graduates being half-baked. Granted, President Moi was a vile dictator, but even he would never have watched lazybones compromising the education system and then calling for an overhaul.
When I used to work a part-time pan-handler in the sugar mill, those engineers taught us that when you encounter a loose nut, the first step you take is to tighten it, not write a letter to the procurement section asking for a new one.
The same logic should be applied here.