7 August 2011

Kenya: Why We Are Producing Grade 'D' Mindsets


In the past one month, I have attended three prize-giving days. As usual, the ceremonies were celebrations for individuals who had scored Grades A.

They were celebrated because of the great roles they will, hopefully, play in the economy as doctors, pilots, engineers, lawyers, corporate managers, planners and architects.

However, those individuals awarded are in the minority. There is a bunch of high school graduates who obtain Grade D+ and below that we need to think about.

Data from Gatundu North District indicates that out of 1,963 candidates who sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination, 61 per cent (1,187), obtained grade D+ and below, while in Central Province generally, out of 117 district schools with 9,013 candidates who sat for the exam in 2010, 31 per cent (3,198) obtained grade D+ and below.

The questions that arise for any social development planner are: Where do these students go? What is their future? And what is their role in development and societal transformation?

At the age of 18, high school graduates with grade D are sent out into the world inadequately prepared for the labour market. They are labelled examination failures, which erodes their confidence.

The society is committing a crime against this generation of youth and condemning them to hopelessness.

Failing in examinations implies a lot of things to the individuals: that they did not follow the rules; they did not work hard enough; they are not achievers; they possess no analytical skills, and at worst, they are lazy.

These things - the ability to follow rules, hard work, creativity and analytical skills form the basic tenets of good citizens and are needed for social transformation in a developing nation.

Attaining Grade D generates a category of people with a D culture that pervades all aspects of life. The individuals do not trust the mainstream society, mainly because it labels them failures.

They ask themselves: Why should I obey traffic rules while driving a matatu? Why should I not hawk in the streets? Why should I not work to defeat the mainstream? Why should I care?

The D culture is exhibited in parenting too. It produces irresponsible parents, especially when it comes to their children's education. The children go to school unkempt, and are not motivated to learn. As a result they score grades that are no better than those of their parents. The D grade reproduces itself.

In agriculture, the grade D scorer does not feel like picking tea, coffee, or working on maize farms. When they were sent to school, they were given false hopes that they will get white-collar jobs. They cannot reconcile themselves to working on farms and prefer to congregate in shopping centres.

For the nation to develop and society to transform, we need to work towards inculcating a positive self-image in our youth by ensuring we give them quality education.

We need to create a critical mass of self-assured individuals. This means improving the quality of the education offered in district schools which produce the majority of Ds.

Dr Kinyanjui is a senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Nairobi (marykinyanjui@yahoo.com)

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