Congratulations to the latest cohort of Form Four graduates. Scaling the heights of secondary education is no mean feat. Regardless of the KCSE results furore, it is an achievement of character, maturity and life lessons.
The early hours and repertoire of daily githeri do not count for nothing. Now that the chapter is closed, it is time to ask the obvious question on every parent’s lips: What next?
Dreams come true, in many ways. A disappointing grade is not the end of life. Even for those who passed with flying colours, it is only the beginning. Clocking the fastest time at the qualifying stages does not mean the finals are over. The race has to be run!
Who has the strength, the drive and the determination to finish first? That is what matters. In any case, life is not a race; it’s an adventure, and with different destinations. In that, the government deserves applause for seeing so and investing incrementally in the technical institutions, TVETs.
Everybody deserves a chance.
Nevertheless, Kenya is missing the bigger picture. Are we encouraging children to join vocational training because they don’t have the ability to go to university? Is it because they don’t qualify? Since there are no jobs to bequeath them? If so, why didn’t they qualify? Why are there no jobs? Are we victims of Nature?
We are taking a wayward approach. Nobody has said it expressly but the implied message we are sending is that we should settle for lower scores as we are incapable of higher outcomes.
Consider the world leaders in this matter. While Europe stresses the need for specialists, we are killing the efforts of our own. While the Chinese celebrate their production of engineers with pride, we tell ours that their degree is just a piece of paper.
If it really is a meaningless certificate, how come we demand that foreigners produce it when they come to build our roads? It is a case of colonial mentality; most definitely, colonial repetition. Then, only other races could pursue higher education; Africans settled for vocational skills.
The difference is, we’re subjecting ourselves to the same ideology on our own accord. As if it is the independence we fought for.
Most of the greatest innovations, past and present, have come from university-level entries. The technology from them gives avenues for vocational skills to offer their services. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to serve only that which is from abroad, which does no good to our balance of trade.
In a globalised economy, we should not be left behind due to a dearth of opportunities for graduates. The government must admit more students to the undergraduate level. Many students sit the national exams from a disadvantaged position: Poorly funded school, under-resourced laboratory, teacher shortage… Telling them to join TVETs for lack of an alternative is no solution.