The Gap between Academicians and Practitioners.

Foremost, I want to laud former president of Kenya Mwai Kibaki. Upon taking the reins 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. 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 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 there were 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 was 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 program.

The double intake program 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 learning Computer packages 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. Today, unlike the former days, 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 a large number of students. 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 at the University I was in. 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. As I write this, Institutions of high learning  are flooded with students who are under facilitated and with fewer 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.

Because of strained resources and large number of students in universities, (five students sharing one computer -case scenario) quality of education and that of graduates is dwindling.

After independence, Kenya only boasted of 8 major universities.  There are now 31 universities registered with the Commission for Higher Education (CHE).

Despite the progress, that number still can’t measure to the large number of students joining University yearly. Amongst universities counted, some are private that only the well-off in society can afford.

Private universities seem to be better equipped and facilitated compared to the public ones.  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. Some even holding two graduation ceremonies in a year.

As I write this, I am not employed and I can count the number of my course mates who are employed. Unfortunately, this is a reality, policymakers, in the government were supposed to foresee and create measures that would ensure we accommodate such many students both in government and private sectors where their skills are much needed.

It’s a pity that many are still on the job search with no experience. But lately, there is a ray of hope as employers are beginning to identify potential candidates who can be trained on any skill and perform.

Some care less about the papers and recommendations you carry. This begs the question, how can the government transform its top cream (fresh graduates from universities) from being academicians into practitioners who can solve the present world problems in their area of study.

The government owes its graduates big to make 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 Kenyan students can complete a university education through the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB).

In most graduation ceremonies, graduands 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 superb place for their field industrial attachment wasn’t easy.  This happens because of the large student population 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 interest to help them nurture students from being academicians to practitioners with hands-on experience in solving problems in their field of study.

The chancellor of the 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 lecturers, professionals, economists, researchers, policymakers to not only equip students with knowledge.

He further asked them to make graduates a reflection and an accurate picture of the job they are studying for. He encouraged them to make their students also love and enjoy what they do.

The chancellor emphasized that institutions of higher learning are meant to be centers for research and innovation by world-class standards.  Therefore, the government should put more funds into developing institutions of higher learning.

Kirimari, Kenya

Kirimari

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Kirimari is a word coined by the Aembu people in Kenya, meaning land on top of the hill. You would still be right to title this blog post as Embu, Kenya.
It is a now a month since I landed in this economically vibrant town in Eastern Kenya. Born and raised in Western Kenya, Embu to me was yonder and a place I had never been.

I am here to do what people do – work. Given that it’s an agriculturally rich county you would be forgiven for thinking am an agriculturist. Embu is in a  semi-arid area with high temperatures that make you sweaty and thirsty; if you actually find it hard to gobble 6-8 glasses of water a day, Embu is the right place to change that. I myself have been doing with 4litres of water half a day given the hot working environment. I find myself taking shower two times a day to relieve the body of heat and sweat. For the hydrophobic guys, this is not your place, flee away very fast.

So what does my job entail!? I work on a growers farm majoring in the production of horticultural crops namely Demon chili ( kanyenje) for the local name, French beans ( mishiri), watermelon, bananas and onions. My typical day begins at 5 a.m. Wake up hot or sweaty shower up, prepare and take a hurried breakfast and jump on the next motorbike to my place of work. By the time am leaving my place of stay it’s 6a.m  so I arrive at my place of work at about 6:30a.m thanks to a bumpy 11km ride over a rising and falling terrain with roads that are quite unfriendly, showering you with dust in a dry weather and slippery, sticky mud on a wet season. By virtually 7:30 a.m almost all employees and workers have reported for duty. A normal working day usually begins at 8:00a.m. Walking on gumboots the whole day is now a part of me; I work in the production department and my key responsibilities include supervising labor in blocks, supervising bed maintenance and general routine management practices on the crops in various blocks. By 4p.m am done working but due to the distance,  transport logistics and sometimes the nature of work on a given day I arrive at my place at about 6 or 7 p.m.

Here in kirimari,  two local tribes exist the Aembu people and their cousins the Mbeere people. I am in Mbeere south, Kiritiri to be more precise. Though other tribes have also found Embu hospitable and liveable such as the Akamba, Agikuyu and Abaluhyia like me. The Agikuyu resonate well with the Mbeere people and therefore can communicate effectively. The dominant economic activity is agriculture with miraa being the main cash crop that sells like hotcake. On entering a pub or a club one would mistake revelers as people suffering from mumps. Their left or right cheeks can be seen bulged with shovings of miraa (muguka) accompanied with roasted groundnuts ( to make it tastier) , taken down by a bottle of beer and wound up with a smoke puff from cigarettes. What a stuffy and breathtaking place to be.

Given the side effects, the sour or rather tasteless plant may have on your healthy young men and women consume it with relish enjoying every bite that goes by. However, it leaves behind a wake of irresponsible father’s and husbands that lazy around making their unusually beautiful women more productive than men; no proclivities here, save me your curious mind. Women walk as far as 11 kilometers to go work to and fro something I have not seen in Western Kenya. Most women there would prefer to stay at home doing house chores or be forced to stay at home by their husbands who go to work instead. A lazy, irresponsible husband will be harangued with an avalanche of insults and contempt from an irate wife.

In Kirimari, agriculture thrives more so because of River Thiba backed by the seven folks hydroelectric irrigation schemes namely Kamburu, Kiambere, Kindaruma, Gitaru, Masinga , Mutonga and grand falls. The last two are still not operational.
To anyone with misgivings about this place I would advise you on the contrary that it’s a place to be. Tourist attraction sites within include the 7 folks, Mt. Kenya and the Karue hill picnic site off Embu- Runyenjes road.