I recall my days in lower primary being full of games and joking. I used to be number last. In class, my mind would wander like a kite to imaginary places. Paying attention to the teacher was difficult. It felt as if death was around by just paying attention.
I loved to write and I could spin words together. I wrote everywhere. Sometimes the words didn’t make sense to me. But I wrote nonetheless. I longed to bed nurtured. But that was a pipe dream.
I was a day scholar. The home was 2KMs away. I used to be number last or second last and I didn’t care. The school was Malaha Primary School. My mother was a teacher there. My dad was a teacher at the neighboring school called Kituni Primary. My performance wasn’t a bother to me. I loved looking after cattle because I got the chance to daydream and writing more.
One evening my dad came home drunk, he asked me about my performance, I lied. He went to bed. The following day he came home sober, asked me again, and I lied and I was given the beating of a lifetime. To date, that memory is still fresh and real. I couldn’t sit for a week. I was transferred to Lugulu Boarding Primary School, about 5KMs away and I was wanted never to write or draw again. Did I mention drawing was my addiction?
Boarding life was a nightmare. But the caning I received changed my life. My performance topped since and I never looked back. I was a performer. I found myself in Alliance High School. However, my true passion died. My drawing stagnated. But my poetry flourished. In High school, I put that to test and that’s a story for another day.
My life is a symbol that our education is rotten to the core. We went through school cramming formulas, reciting answers that we crammed. We were told to work hard to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, pilots. Saying you wanted to be a journalist or a marketer or a teacher or a police officer was so repugnant to our parents.
Going to school, basic survival skills were never thought. I was simply taught to be a lawyer. Nothing more. Nothing less. Life in Kenya is a rat race and without the prerequisite skills of survival, one will wither and fall off the bandwagon. Fast forward to date, as an employer, am personally distressed by the caliber of graduate and trainees our education institutions are churning out.
My years post my undergrad in Law School at the University of Nairobi have been tough, full of grief, full of success, full of failure but most importantly, full of lessons about life, about survival, about integrity, about character, about running a business, about nurturing talent. Everything my formal education never taught me.
It’s good to give credit where it’s due and for me, my gisty, formal education taught me one thing, how to read and how to clothe my words and thoughts in words that make sense for others to understand me.
The disconnect between our labor market and the education system is so stark, like day and night. The labor market has new demands that our system has failed to capture. New skill sets that are not being taught yet. We have new jobs that didn’t exist a few years back that are key now and driving the economy. We have seen technology amalgamate gadgets that are used to train and teach in the current system that is now obsolete.
The internet of things, big data, data analytics, processed manufacturing, reverse engineering, social media, and artificial intelligence are among the new tech that our education system has failed to capture. Imagine a firm asking for someone with 8 years’ experience in a field that technology has just invented in the last two years? How crazy is that?
For me, our 8-4-4 system failed me. Bragging that I went to Lugulu primary, which is one of the best Primaries in Kenya or that am an old boy of Alliance High doesn’t make. Or that am a graduate of UoN Law school, Parklands, is pointless because we all struggling so much to just survive in the market with so much opportunity.
Business as we know it is changing and it is being disrupted by technology that our education system has failed to capture, catch up and adapt. Retail, manufacturing, agro-processing are changing so much. Medicine, law, accounting is changing so rapidly. But why aren’t we catching up?
Unfortunately, life won’t wait for us Kenyans to sort out our messed up system of education and I doubt Matiangi had any better ideas. What our education needs to focus on, and more so at a young level, either upper Primary or high level in crafting a system that gets our youth ready for the world, jobs and labor market should focus on the following:
If our education system can factor these into the system. If we can foster the development of talents, if we can ensure that all careers are important then I believe Kenyans we can conquer the world. But until we do so, we shall continue to fail. We shall continue to be a copycat society. We shall continue to experience a high level of unemployment rates.