Education reform should aim to create more scholars in schools

Pupils at Mukangu Primary School  in Lugari, Kakamega County, during a lesson in September last year.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Two years ago, the Ministry of Education got serious about fighting exam cheating.
  • The marking of exams has always been imbalanced.
  • The most striking thing about the unfairness is the marking of literature exams.

The Kenyan education system has undergone numerous changes over the years. My concern is not the system of education, but the spirit of scholarship in the systems.

Scholarship is defined as: “The sum of knowledge accrued by scholars; the realm of refined learning.” This catalysed my urge to research on how a scholar is made. Where is a scholar made?

I’ve had an opportunity to interact with many scholars. The first is my postgraduate studies lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Prof Henry Indangasi. With more than 78 publications, his arguments portray a real scholar and researcher. He is one of Kenya’s fathers of literature.

Having attended Mululu Primary School in Vihiga County, he qualified for his intermediate education at Busali Intermediate School and joined Friends School, Kamusinga, for both O-levels and A-levels before joining the University of Nairobi.

Second is my undergraduate lecturer at Egerton University, Dr Joseph Walunywa. He used to joke that he is paid a lot of money to challenge us intellectually. He attained his basic education at Chavakali High School before joining Kakamega High School and later Vassar College, New York, USA. Last is Mr Stephen M. Mutie, a lecturer at Kenyatta University and a friend who happened to be my teacher of English and Literature in high school. Having attended Kanzokeani Primary School, Kanzokeani Secondary School and later Egerton University, this scholar has eight scholarly publications.

Manufacture scholars

Through these scholars, I can say there is no specific house or company where we manufacture scholars, but scholars can be made from anywhere. The above scholars did not share any institution, but through their scholarly works I can brand them as “heroes of literature”.  This wasn’t meant to discuss individuals, but an avenue to correct the powers-that-be in the education sector.

Personally, I attended a village primary school and later a community-owned village secondary school before qualifying for the university level.

Two years ago, the Ministry of Education got serious about fighting exam cheating. The marking of exams has always been imbalanced. The most striking thing about the unfairness is the marking of literature exams. How can you come up with a fixed marking scheme for the English literature set texts? Aren’t we killing scholarship when we give specific answers and limiting these potential scholars from expressing their arguments?

Real scholarship

Do you expect a student in a prestigious national school to reason the same way as a student in a rural secondary school? This statement is not meant to glorify any school or belittle another.

I have only used the examples of such schools as I have taught in both types and I know the differences.

A student in Nairobi County will understand what a traffic jam is, unlike one in a rural area. It is my plea that the KNEC examiners should give learners an opportunity argue out their points and prove them. In literature, nobody is supposed to disapprove your point as long as you support it with relevant evidence from the text.

To conclude, let us train learners what real scholarship is. Learners do not have to wait for the teachers to solve their problems. I have always taught my students that I don’t go to class to teach but to learn.

This is to imply that we engage in a discussion about a phenomenon and either choose to agree or disagree with them in a scholarly manner. To the learners and prospective scholars, it is good to train yourself how to handle your academic work in a scholarly manner.