• Thursday, 01 December 2022
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THE STATESMAN’S PUNCHLINE: Education Is The Greatest Equalizer

THE STATESMAN’S PUNCHLINE: Education Is The Greatest Equalizer

On Wednesday, the annual ritual in secondary schools across the country was on. Form One students were reporting to their new institutions; the transition from primary schools to secondary schools. The government has insisted on 100% transition. That means, if this policy is implemented to the letter, 1,171, 265 out of 1,179,192 candidates who sat the 2021 KCPE will join secondary schools. Of course there will be complaints of congestion and stretched facilities in the available secondary schools, but it is a manageable challenge. The discomfort and inconvenience is by far outweighed by the greater good. I would say this policy of 100% is a commendable thing. It could ultimately be the game changer in our country’s pool of knowledge.

I agree totally with the thought process and point of view that a child who exits primary school still requires more education, and the four-year journey in secondary schools empowers the pupils more. Gives them a better and different world view. And it is not so much about attaining top grades in KCSE, but the skills acquired, the knowledge garnered and the mental or social growth therein. The students’ interactions in secondary schools is broader if you were to compare it with that of pupils who terminate their education journey in primary schools. And that is why I agree totally with the late Sydney Harris, an American journalist in his observation that the whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.

But there is something the annual Form One reporting confirms every year; the level of inequality in our country. The poverty levels in our country. The skewed nature in which national resources are distributed. A look through activities in various secondary schools affirmed the position that a lot more needs to be done, to ensure and facilitate equity in the country. Two photos were in my opinion, the highlight of Form Ones reporting day one.

This is Geoffrey Omollo, a student, an orphan that reported to Kanga High School in Migori County, armed with a near empty metalic box but full of eagerness to learn. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the true spirit of education! The thirst and hunger for knowledge. The total belief that education is a powerful tool of social change. I admired the young Omollo. While a vast majority of thousands of his fellow Form Ones had their boxes full, Omollo’s box only had an old dictionary, a kamusi and a pair of white pair sports shoes. And this is what he had to say; “that is all I could raise since I have no parent. Even the few books and shoes were donated by a neighbour whose had completed high school.” Well, the Kanga school team led by Chief Principal Rueben Kodiango has offered to cater for his basic items, Omollo’s case represents thousands of other children from poor families that may miss Form One slots in top schools simply because they lack the required resources.

Our newsroom phone lines are ringing off the hook, with stories of qualified children who cannot make it to schools they have been called to simply because they lack resources. The strength of any society is in how it treats its weakest. Omollo and such children are a direct challenge to the quality of leadership in our country and counties. Why would a country that spends billions of shillings every year in bursaries have the likes of Omollo suffering? Why would such bursaries be a political weapon, especially in this season as the country prepares for a general election? Why would such funds be used by incumbent governors, county assembly members, national assembly members or county assembly members to amass political bonga points?

Is it not such a shame that some totally undeserving children or well to do and connected political operatives benefit from these bursaries while the likes of Omollo end up in squalor? And why, all these years later, should the bursary funds be dispensed in small doses of Ksh.2,000 or Ksh.1,500 from various quarters, yet it is possible to have proper and accountable government structures that identify poor and deserving children, fund their education in a meaningful way and have value for such taxpayers money? Is it not an even bigger shame that tonight, someone in a position of trust has diverted such resources to fund their greed while deserving children languish in hopelessness?

There is a Chinese proverb that would help our political class think thoroughly about the state of our education and the obvious disparities. If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people. Unfortunately, education is not one of the major campaign issues in the major camps seeking to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta. I wish it were. I hope it will. I say so because I am convinced that education, if we were to subscribe to Horace Mann’s school of thought, then education, beyond all other divides of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men; the balance wheel of the social machinery. And it is not just education, but meaningful, accessible and affordable education.

Then there are the heartwarming photos of 16-year old Fred Ekiru Amurio, accompanied by his parents, as he joined Kapsabet Boys High School. Ekiru who sat his KCPE at Lokwii Primary School in Turkana East and attained 403 marks was on the verge of missing his slot at the school, were it not for well wishers. His father Mzee Amurio Lukitoe had lost hope after his herd of cattle was driven away by cattle rustlers. But all that is well ends well. I dare say, the young Ekiru’s life has changed. He may end up changing the destiny of his family and village. That is the power of education and opportunity!

And that is why at this point I must salute all well-wishers, big and small, who in one way or the other have assisted a child go to secondary school yesterday and years before. Your generosity is not in vain. Institutions like Equity Bank, Family Bank, Kenya Commercial Bank among many others that have helped thousands of deserving and needy children access education, well done! To individuals like my friend Ndung’u Nyoro of ‘Watoto Wasome’ who has come to the aid of tens of desperately needy but qualified children, bravo! Such efforts are not in vain because, to paraphrase Shai Reshef, an Israeli businessman and academic administrator, when you educate one person you can change a life, when you educate many you can change the world.

That is our puncline.

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