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17 - 24 January 2007 
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Master and Disciple Censure Education

Education in Africa has continued receiving escalating criticism for failing to address Africa’s plight. In spite of massive investment in the sector, there is little to show in output. Many University graduates have been churned out from the existing systems, but they cannot solve the continent’s woes. Why is this so?


“Last year,” laments a magazine editor, “somebody wrote an article arguing that Africans amount to nothing. They can’t develop unless they imbibe European genes. All successful Africans, he argued, either had a white man, white woman or white gene behind them. What was the response? Angry Africans unsubscribed from the magazine, blaming it for carrying such an insulting piece.”


The editor laments that Education in Africa is producing emotional elites. “They can’t defend themselves logically. When I asked them to refute the authors’ allegations, none was ready!” He says.


“The whole education system needs rethinking,” says Taban Lo Liyong , a Sudan based don. “The Asian philosophy has helped Asia develop. What is wrong with the African philosophy? We have to redesign our education system to arise from African sensitivity and values.”


Dr.  Joshua Obuhatsa, a lecturer in a private university, opines that African education is not competent.   “In western countries, education is not a means to an end but an end in itself. But in Africa, it is utilitarian. It does not build an individual for development.”

Dr Obuhatsa further says that African education is  in most cases politicized, hence it is not normative and conceptual.


“In drafting education bills, people are just handpicked regardless of where they are versed with the task at hand or not. Professionalism is not considered. Enough time is not allocated to give the bills careful thought. Passing education bills in such circumstances is handcuffing Africa’s future,” he says.


Most African nations don’t ask themselves what education is supposed to achieve. Prof. Obonyo Digolo opines that –Africa’s education needs a philosophy based on current philosophical movements.


“ ‘Education for what?’ Is a fundamental question. We have to define what kind of society we need. So many people have gone to school, but are they educated? Are we just inclined in reporting increasing statistics?” Asks Prof.  John  Shiundu.


Prof. Shiundu laments that promotions in most professional bodies are not made on merit. “There are many qualified people being wasted. We must develop a system to identify specialized resources and deploy them where they are needed,” he says.


The professor suggests that foreign universities pitching tent in Africa must be scrutinized, for some of them are out to fleece people.


University of South Africa (UNISA), through its distant learning programs is a case in point. Anybody who has failed his first degree or Masters Degree in Kenya and goes to UNISA, will qualify with flying colors. What explains this sudden shift? Some Kenyans have begun a university in Kampala. The university is not regulated. Shall we acknowledge its graduates when they come back, shoddy?” he asks.


Most public universities’ inspection boards inspect physical facilities and stop at that. They don’t scrutinize the lecturers. As a result, most countries have unqualified staff in both the universities and inspectorate. A horde of university staff and students are products of nepotism.


But Raymond Ntalindwa says people are opting for foreign training institutions due to meanness in the teaching fraternity.


“In Kenya for example,” Raymond says, “Students taking a Masters Degree course  undergo a lot of humiliation and torture. Their lecturers don’t want them to succeed as they will pose competition. Kenya lecturers fear competition. They would rather frustrate these students till they give up, leaving them to be the sole custodians in respective fields.”


With things becoming difficult, students have resorted to bribing their lecturers.


“It is not uncommon to see lecturers in vehicles bought by students,” says Omondi. Female students especially offer sexual favours to achieve what is commonly known as STDS - Sexually Transmitted Degrees.


We can’t get universal education without addressing the non-formal education issue. The only alternative to achieve education for all is by using non formal approaches to complement formal education. Most curriculums are centrally developed .The planning process does not put into account diversity of the culture, climatic variations and learner’s situation. Consequently, the skills, values and attitude acquired in schools have no bearing on realities faced by Africans.


There is need too to rethink our evaluation systems.


“A student could be evaluated in many ways: ability to talk to people, listen or interact. There are other factors that can be used to ascertain an individual’s competence instead of a one time activity,” says Byshaija Joshua of Makerere College School. “What happens in my final exams if I fall sick? Does it mean I am useless?” He asks.


Lucy of Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) feels that special education has been ignored for a long time and says that governments should carry out  a national survey to ascertain the number of people with special needs, with a view of tailoring educational policies that will help them advance.


 “It is sad to see that most universities have no provision to enable students on wheelchairs to attend lectures in storied buildings,” she says.


When all is said and done, “The lady we are all wooing is the nation. Let the suitors court fairly, with respect. Let her choose whom she wants. Those who are rejected- let them go and re-examine themselves,” says Taban Lo Liyong.


Could time be ripe to shed off education which is more of a liability than an asset? The certificate of the education of the future should not be how many papers and titles one has, but what constructive product he is bequeathing the community.





By Kennedy Omenda
Freelance journalist

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