Education; Quality vs Quantity

2015-04-30 16:45:11 samuel-kablit

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father of the Kenyan nation declared war on three deadly enemies; illiteracy; poverty and disease when Kenya attained independence from the British in 1963.

Ironically, 52 years later, his son Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, whose name Uhuru implies freedom in Kiswahili is at the helm of the country’s leadership with the three enemies still wreaking havoc among Kenyans. Of all counties, among the most neglected by Jomo Kenyatta and subsequent presidents is Turkana County. It has always been classified as being among one of the most illiterate counties in Kenya with illiteracy levels standing at 94 percent.

Waiting for the national government to transform Turkana is a dream that may never come true in our lifetime. It therefore behoves the County Government to plan and strategize on ways of extricating its people from the miasma of want and neglect.

One of the key ingredients to development is quality education. The Turkana County must critically analyse the education sector in the county and come up with a formula, which while providing universal education to every Turkana child as the Kenyan Constitution 2010 promises, also assures Turkana’s of high quality education.

The county must seek numerous partners such as the World Bank, UNESCO and others to help in establishing more schools while keeping the main eye on quality. It will not be beneficial to come up with new schools when there are old ones lacking facilities.

As at 2014, Turkana County had 32 secondary schools with an approximate number of students standing at 49,000. On average, it means a secondary school hosts 1,500 students. This is still low.

I have had time to visit some schools around Turkana and I bet the number of students in those schools is small and should be merged. Some are hosted in primary schools.

Most of these schools lack basic facilities like laboratories, vehicles, and classrooms. These challenges have forced them to seek help from neighbouring schools. This could not have happened if we had few secondary schools that we could easily manage with the little available resources.

Instead of rushing to establish new schools, we should identify challenges that existing schools face and address them. We should construct dormitories, equip laboratories, build classrooms and motivate teachers. This is better than creating schools that boast of new classrooms with no fence and water.

Looking at the distribution of schools around Turkana, questions linger on. Do people who establish these schools consider the circumstances and situations? Do they consult stakeholders and education technocrats? For example, the distance between schools has been drawn to 7kms apart!

We have resources, but no proper management. This calls for a unified way of promoting education in Turkana County; for example by coordinating activities of all schools, establishing new schools, proper management of donor funds to avoid duplication and wastage.
Education is all about learning new things and exposure. Let us ensure our children learn in primary, score good grades and get admitted to new schools, which are far, which will mean traveling to new environments, to experience new challenges in terms of weather and meeting new people. This way, we will raise smart, future professionals.

There is a saying that a man does not leave his house burning to chase a rat. By focusing our energies in constructing new schools while old ones remain ill-equipped, we are behaving like the senseless man who leaves his house burning and in anger sets upon a rat.

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Hunger in Kenya: Is leadership or nature to blame?

2015-04-30 16:28:10 lucia-epur-lebasha

Media images of hungry, famished and starving Kenyans have become an annual show with the government perennially stretching out its hand egging for relief food.

It has become almost an accepted fact that Kenyans will forever be threatened with hunger. Lest the political leadership and food policymakers rethink and learn that famine does not have to occur, nothing will change. Moreover, as a country, the concerned authorities and parastatals should just accept that it is a disgrace for a country with a potential for food security to be pleading for food aid. However, it is very difficult to assign blame.
It may be possible to argue out that Kenya can, in the future, invest her resources in the ‘potential’ areas that possess the capacity for high productivity returns at the expense of ‘non-potential’ areas, but how viable can this be? Having a closer look, all the areas in Kenya hit hardest by drought and famine are preconceived as ‘non-potential’ areas since they are situated in arid and semi-arid zones. My question is; just by rating the area as unproductive without putting efforts in its productivity, can this justify the action taken, mainly neglecting the area?

As an agronomy student, it is my humble view that food production can be increased in the famine stricken areas. Coming from the northern part of the country, (among the most affected areas of Turkana and Samburu regions) I always view a way out, only that I tend to think that someone somewhere is not putting in the effort required. We live in a world of technology, where nothing is impossible. A lot can be done in these areas. I have witnessed people grow their own crops back at home (Baragoi, Samburu regions) and mark you, these are people trying to put in their best effort possible to produce what they can, with no agronomic advice or so. What if the government under the ministry of Agriculture would play its part? Is it not possible then to have a change in these regions? A larger part of Kenya is dry, and due to climate change effects, the worst should be expected in the years to come. Many productive and potential areas are actually giving a low productivity return in comparison to some years back. So, my question is; what can we attribute this to? Many more famine related deaths?

It’s a high time the Kenyan leadership re-checks the Agricultural sector. We need to inject in the minds of our youth, more positive vibes on the role of agriculturalist. We urgently need to rethink the narrative of hunger and its causes in Kenya.
Epur Lebasha is a second year agronomy student at EARTH University in Costa Rica.

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Sustaining university education in Turkana County

2015-04-20 16:35:59 john-teria-ngasike

The people of Turkana County have suffered many historical injustices key among them being the systematic marginalization of its people.
To kill a people economically and politically, the colonialists knew that the best formula was to deny them access to education. Thus Turkana County was left in the dark for decades. Alas, it is only on July 29 2011 that Mount Kenya University (MKU) became the first institution of higher learning to open a fully operational campus in Turkana County at Lodwar town.

The establishment of the University ended a long quest for higher education among the locals who for many years had to travel far and wide for higher education.

Marginalization of the Turkana people in education was systematically planned by the colonial administration who blocked missionaries from entering Turkana.

This colonial isolation ensured that by early 1960s, there were only two primary schools in Turkana. Within this period, the Catholic Church required permission from the colonial Government to do work in the then Turkana district.

The arrival of the Catholic Church, triggered education development in Turkana and to date 80 per cent of the infrastructure for education in Turkana was developed by the late Bishop Mahon.

Education therefore began to trickle into Turkana through the Church. Majority of the secondary schools, operating either as national schools (Turkana Girls and Lodwar High School) or by any other names were built by the Catholic Church with a few schools sponsored by African Inland Church (AIC), Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA), Salvation Army, Pentecostal Assembly of God (PAG), Kenya Assembly of (KAG) and others.

In 1980s, Norwegian Development Agency (NORAD) arrived in Turkana and took up education development in the county, building classrooms, teacher training, logistics for quality assurance, teaching and learning materials, construction of offices for education officials and scholarships in fields of health, environment, livestock, agriculture and education. The agency paid fees for all children studying in secondary schools, tertiary institutions and Universities.
However, in 1990, political differences between Koigi wa Mwere and former President Daniel Arap Moi led to the closure of the Norwegian Embassy in Kenya. As a result NORAD was ordered to leave Turkana within 24 hours. This affected hundreds of beneficiaries and education activities abruptly stopped.

The County then reverted to its traditional education providers – the church and NGOs. The introduction of free primary education and availability of development funds through CDF further continued to enhance children’s’ access to education in the County.

However, education matters in the County have revolved around the provision of basic education. The provision of Tertiary and University education at the county level has never been a concern for leaders and Government except for the medical training centre. Providers of education at the national level have argued that tertiary and university education are unsustainable in Turkana.

However, since MKU began its operations in Lodwar, the institution has become a pride of the County. Within the short period, the University has operated and with the support of the local leaders, the institution has graduated skilled personnel among the locals now serving the County Government.

The general response among professionals returning to take higher education is excellent as the University takes its position as the training hub for Turkana locals and the neighbouring international communities.

But despite its critical role in the provision for higher education in the region, MKU is not free from challenges. To operate a private University in low income and high risk economically marginalized communities where public Universities have declined to take up the challenge, is a huge business risk.

In Turkana County, for example, 80 per cent of the people have no formal education and therefore are not likely to value modern education. Education reports indicate that only three in every 100 people in Turkana have secondary education.

Turkana County leads in Kenya with poor people living 67.5 per cent a drift of the poverty line. This translates to 94 people in every 100 in Turkana living below the poverty line. There are about 380 primary schools, 35 secondary schools and one medical training centre in Turkana. Opportunities for secondary education are limited as majority of primary school children depend on bursaries to access higher education.

With persisting poverty trends, low literacy levels and dependency on bursaries, the role of MKU in the County is more philanthropic than business. Currently, a large number of students studying in the University in Lodwar are adults, who are able to pay their tuition.

Majority of youth living with their poor parents in the villages have a long way to access University education even locally. Dependency on bursaries by the locals appears to drive the funding for education in the County. This is unsustainable. The most reliable way of funding education should be through family income, which is not possible in Turkana. Despite these odds, MKU has decided to operate in Lodwar with a vision driven by a passion to access higher education to the poor regardless of its goals for business. Besides the provision for higher education, MKU wishes to create a mass movement for education awareness that will impact on every school-going child to realize the importance of aiming for excellence in examination performance.
Dr. John Ng’asike is a Senior Lecturer at Mount Kenya University, Lodwar Campus

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Turkana politicians use music, sports events to woo youth

2015-03-29 19:26:59 Turkanaguardian
Uganda’s Jose Chameleone (right), rocks music fans in New Year party at Sandfields Hotel, Lodwar town. PHOTO: KEITH LOYAPAN

Uganda’s Jose Chameleone (right), rocks music fans in New Year party at Sandfields Hotel,

It is said that youth hold the key to the future of their country. This is what inspires politicians to do everything to earn youth support. Youth are energetic and eager for new things. That is why they keep urging for young blood because a young leader will more likely empathize with them. These sentiments have in turn made politicians have campaign strategies extending to as far as dyeing grey hair to appear youthful.

What kills this off is when politicians sponsor entertainment events for this is what the youths really love.
Ranging from talent shows, dance parties, rap battles to mention but a few.
It is in such platforms that politicians both aspiring and incumbents gain marks and popularize their agendas.
They do so with the help of youthful event organizers who understand the taste of youth. Turkana County has not been left out either. The festive season last year was marked by entertainment events and rival politicians competed to organize youth events. The biggest was Chomoka night, graced by Chameleone an artist from Uganda. It was organized by James Lomenen alias
‘Chomoka’ a Member of Parliament for Turkana South with some few politicians of his alliance including Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro, Senator John Munyes and Joyce Emanikor woman MP. Another event was the Turkana gala at the Lodwar Lodge resort where a section of youthful politicians graced the event and tried to be recognized as they gave brief encouraging remarks with political undertones in favor of the current Turkana government.

It was a plus for both the youth and politicians. It was soon followed by a colorful event at Kanams Resort dubbed ‘Sikika night’ where the young aspiring politicians electrified youths with music. As though that was not enough, the Principal Secretary for Sports and culture Richard Ekai came up with an event to recognize Turkana youth talents at the Lodwar Lodge Resort and Napak camp Eliye springs. As much as it was fun for the young generation, it was and continues to be a plus for politicians since they become known among the youths and win support. An example is Senator Mike Sonko who has taken over Nairobi by storm due to his relationship with youth. It is for this reason that Turkana politicians need to put aside their age and mingle with the youth. Youth are known to possess musical talents and
can compose political songs in favor of their preferred leader. It is such songs that turn into big hits in radio stations that cut across all corners of the county making it easier to popularize a politician.
It is therefore for such reasons that politics is taking a different turn leaning towards youth. With the right kind of youth, an aspiring politician will be certain of making it big politically. But what we experienced during the festive season continues to linger in the minds of the youth in Turkana who say they will support whoever supports them.
They seem to be enjoying the entertainment favours. As long as they are entertained, they have no problem with whoever sponsors an event.

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Invest in agricultural technology to save the North

2015-03-28 19:37:57 Turkanaguardian
Lands irrigation projects have been undertaken to support the small scale farmers in Turkana. PHOTO: ROBERT KARIUKI

Lands irrigation projects have been undertaken to support the small scale farmers in Turkana. PHOTO: ROBERT KARIUKI

Drylands are a major call in most parts of the continent. Closer to home, Kenya; I am referring to the north .The larger part of the great rift, mostly occupied by the pastoral communities, mainly the Nilotic and Cushite groups. These are regions affected by droughts and receive the lowest amount of rain compared to other parts of the country. This is largely affecting livelihood in many ways. For this case, I am focusing on agriculture.

In every region of the world it is necessary to find or develop appropriate techniques for agriculture. A large part of
the surface of the world is arid, characterized as too dry for conventional rain-fed agriculture. Yet, millions of people live in such regions. If current trends in population growth continue, there will soon be millions more. This is what is happening in Northern Kenya; an arid area, poor/no agricultural practices, yet high population.febmarch-8_2
These people must eat, and the wisest course for them is to produce their own food. Yet, the techniques are so varied that only a large volume would cover the entire subject. In many cases the most suitable techniques for a particular region maybe those already developed by the local inhabitants. In some cases it will be difficult to improve on local techniques, but at times even simple and inexpensive innovations may be almost revolutionary. This is to say that one must begin to improve local agriculture in arid zones by learning what is already there.
Human populations continue to increase at high rates in dryland areas and this is a natural driver of demand for locally-grown and available foods such as sorghum and millets. Effective translation of the increasing demand for dryland
grains into significant benefits for the poor will require significant efforts that target at helping people in these regions.
The whole ‘value chain’, from input supplies through production to output markets, will need to be built, involving multiple actors such as input suppliers, producers, storage agencies (such as the Kenya Cereals and Produce Board), processors and marketing entities. Numerous development efforts have highlighted the importance of addressing inter-dependencies within the value chain. For example, while many soil fertility,water, weed and pest management techniques have been developed for dryland cereal production systems, their adoption is limited without other segments of the value chain such as input supply channels and output markets.
febmarch-8_3The other thing to do is to carry the fault. Early ago, in some centuries if I
may say, in these areas, there was practice of Agriculture. Where are our traditional crops? The likes of: Sorghums, the “Katumani “type of maize, barley, millet, oats, cassavas and also wheat? Where did these crops go? When are we doing to bring them back? What happened? Have we ever had interest of thinking about them? Why can’t we rethink of this?
There is always a way out. Once enabled, farmers must also be motivated to utilize the inputs to achieve benefits. Reliable and remunerative markets create a profit incentive, a driver for change. By raising the technical efficiency of the dry land crops such as sorghum and millet farming and accessing more rewarding markets in ways that control risks. These kinds of projects will create motivating conditions that trigger the adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies and substantial increases in crop production and income .This will be of great help to the individuals and community.
This is among the best ways the north can be helped; Investment in dry land
Agricultural techniques and through this, we will finally have a way out of hunger.
Ms. Lucia is a second-year agronomy student at Earth University, Costa Rica

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