Celebrating East African Writing!
I don’t know if anyone else has noticed the current mushrooming of private schools in Kenya a.k.a private academies. Private schools have become so many to the extent people are now turning their houses into schools.
Recently, one of my relatives advised me, to consider establishing a private school since private schools have now become the best business in Kenya. As an educator this “new” development concerned me since it meant people are setting up schools solely for the purpose of profit making and not educating students. To their credit, private schools are performing very well on national exams and that is why they have become very popular. Which parent would not want their child to succeed even if it meant selling all their
That is what is precisely happening, people are struggling even selling whatever they have so that they can get their children to private schools despite the fact that public education is free in Kenya. The way the Kenyan society is currently set up, national exams still determine a lot and that is why people are going into private academies if only they can help deliver their children to the promised land.
However as I previously noted, these academies are only teaching students how to pass the national exams and nothing else (or should I say some of
Given that the number of students who pass may well determine how many more students enroll in a particular academy in the coming year, what then stops the owner of a school from doing his/her level best including buying the exams (read corruption) so that students from that particular academy can perform well. What also stops someone from sabotaging public schools (including pushing for low pay for teachers in public schools which then leads to strikes so that students can abandon them in favour of private schools?)
By directly linking exam results to one’s income in terms of increased enrolment in private schools, the government has opened a gate that will comprise primary education in the country. Private education schooling in Kenya has been there for as long as I can remember. However, public institutions were at one time “superior” to private ones.
When the Kenyan government made primary education free, it won praises from all around the world. However, I don’t think the government has followed through with the expectation of the millions who praised this idea of free education.
I beg to argue that by making public education free, the government has not only helped kill public schools, its policy has been the catalyst that has led to the present increase in the number of private schools. Yes, I am an advocate of free public education but there have to be measures to protect it from those seeking to profit from it. As previously noted above, private schools are performing very well on national exams and I was curious to find out how students from private schools faired on when they went to high schools.
Have you ever wondered why we never hear of some of these students who appear in newspapers for being top in the country once they go on to high
school? When I spoke to one of the teachers from one of the leading high schools in Kenya, I was told most students from private schools perform so poorly when they get to high school to the extent that some have been expelled from that national school.
This left me to conclude that private academies only prepare their students for exams and nothing more. Also with the issue of exam leakage being so
common in Kenya, one wonders if students in private schools have become victims of yet one arm of corruption that is so common in Kenya. With the current strike that is affecting public schools in Kenya it is no doubt that this will be another nail in the coffin for public education in Kenya as we know it.
With public education rapidly going down the drain one won’t be suprised to find that some officials in the Ministry of Education actually own some of these private schools that have now now sprung up in the country. I must admit that as a person working in the public education sector my views on private schools may be biased however that does not take away the fact that with the current trend in Kenya, public schools will continue to disappear and if they remain, their graduates will be viewed as having got a second grade education.
As a son of a retired primary school teacher, I hope my views will not be considered as an attack on those many men and women who work day in and day out for the betterment of our tomorrow’s people but rather an attack at a system that has completely failed to support them and recognize that soon public schools will be no more.
Leonard Wandili is a school board Administrator in Toronto Canada. He is also the founding President of the Kenyan Community in Ontario (KCO) www.kcocanada.org. and a commentator of African and Canadian social, economic and political issues.