Matiang’i random school visits necessary

There seems to be a feeling of unease in the educational sector with several stakeholders complaining that their turfs are being encroached upon by Cabinet secretary Fred Matiangi’s high-profile visits to some schools and offices. The education field is absolutely critical for many reasons.

This is the sector that contributes, in a big way, to building the character of the next generation of Kenyans. But it is also the pipeline through which our human capital is formed. What the country turns out to be in the future could very well be predicted by simply examining the education sector.

Yet for years, this sector has been weighed down by rot and neglect. The agencies charged with the responsibility of attending to the sector have either had their energies misdirected or have been asleep at the wheels.

The loudest protestation from the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) has focused more on their welfare. Indeed, somebody must stand up for the welfare of teachers. But there is more to the education sector than the welfare of teachers.

Then there is the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), a behemoth that deals with everyday affairs of the teacher. It is a labyrinth of bureaucracy often too opaque for the uninitiated to cut through except for the patient.

In between, there are all manner of organisations — the association of parents, the examination council, the school boards and more.  Some of them are a one issue bodies while others cut across the board. But in spite of all these, the quality of education has been on a downward spiral.

It is unfortunate that many teachers spend their time running errands instead of teaching, and of course the big giant which is cheating in the exams.

It appears as if exam cheating is now an industry on its own. Reports of students buying papers at the university are now standard and raises no eyebrows. There are people who make a living writing papers for students, and writing thesis and dissertations for those aspiring for graduate qualifications. The level of rot is simply astounding.

This is the scenario that Matiang’i stepped into when he was appointed Cabinet secretary. He moved in with gusto but his most high profile activity has been impromptu visit to schools. What he is discovering is astounding — teachers absenteeism, head-teachers running errands, pupils left on their own, dilapidated state of facilities in schools and lack of textbooks. So far, there has not been a single visit Matiang’i has made where he has found the situation satisfactory.

And now education stakeholders are up in arms claiming that the visits are encroaching in their territories. What is surprising is the substance of these complaints or so to speak, the lack of substance in the complaints. For a start, what the country cares for is that its education sector is solid without giving a hoot to who is helping make it solid.

It is the bureaucrats who care about the details of whose territory it is. But these bureaucracies were there before Matiang’i took over, and it appears they are comfortable with the status quo.

Where was TSC when students stay in school with no teachers? When headteachers run errands instead of being in school? When textbooks are not delivered?

One would hope for more of Matiang’i’s visit and possibly that he would increase his frequencies. However, the CS’s high-profile visits must provide a guarantee that something is being done to address the sorry state in schools.

The education sector is crying for attention. At least Matiang’i seems to be providing it. Most importantly, the  loud voices of distraction ought to be shoved to the sides.

Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language and Performing Arts at Daystar University.

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