Demands for higher education have necessitated the need for expansion of learning institutions throughout the country. However, the proliferation of institutions of higher learning in Kenya has not necessarily translated to quality education. There have been consistent concerns raised in relation to the nature of knowledge generated in our educational systems hence the rise of the phrase “half-baked” graduates.
The lack of capacity within the institutions or affiliate colleges is glaring. A recent report by the Commission for University Education (CUE) reveals the shortage of PhD holders amongst the lecturers’ fraternity. This means that the majority of lecturers are Masters Degree holders. In such a scenario, it is expected that the lecturer’s skills would be enhanced through research, publications and other vocational trainings. Unfortunately, this is not the case and things are made worse by unemployment. Most of the lecturers end up being part time faculty who spend most of their time shuttling from one college to the other in a bid to make ends meet. Characteristically, poor lesson preparations abound and this dents the quality of education in the long run.
Meagre resources and the dearth of governmental support amongst the private institutions have given birth to undercutting and dilution of academic programmes. The competition for students and the rising concerns over numbers to achieve certain economic thresh holds remains the leading catastrophe for private institutions. There is a temptation to lower the entry level for certain courses or even to shorten the period required for certain practical courses. Other institutions at times offer technical courses without the proper legal processes being adhered to thus students graduating with certificates that are not recognised for lack of accreditation.
On the other hand, public institutions have perennially been dogged by largely unmanageable numbers. As a result, the lecturer ratio in public universities is way beyond the preferred recommendation of about 1:60 maximum. On the contrary, this is only in reference to theoretical courses and not practical ones where the numbers should be halved. The same should be replicated for postgraduate students to ensure maximum conduct between the students and their instructors. Other aspects such as resources: books, hostels, libraries, computers, laboratories, classrooms, play grounds/recreational facilities, etc are inadequate. This renders the quality of teaching or training largely suspect.
It is not surprising, thus, that there have been concerns raised in lieu of the capacity of contemporary university graduates. Many complainants are from the companies sourcing for skilled personnel. They claim that fresh graduates lack initiative and they do not possess the requisite drive to propel our developmental or economic demands forward. I concur with their frustration and fault the government for the recent upgrade of technical colleges to university status. The need for capacity building and technical skills generation seems to have been overlooked in the quest for higher knowledge.
For our country to attain vision 2030 and hopefully live up to the millennium goals, we need a more pragmatic approach to the expansion of institutions of higher learning. It is important to construct more technical colleges even as we think about universities. This would ensure that our focus does not deviate from the industrial and manufacturing sectors which are key to economic development. In fact, the country should invest more in generation of technically skilled personnel because they are likely to be self employment as opposed to being job seekers. Universities are more likely to produce job seekers and this is an economic liability to a financially struggling nation.
Consequently, the demand for institutions of higher learning should be in tandem with the needs of the society at large. Kenya, with her hindsight of the perils of economic dependency, should align her educational policies with the need for a robust manufacturing sector and an ever growing industrial segment as the corner pillars of a bright economic future. This should not be done at the expense of arts and other social science courses that are crucial to holistic knowledge cultivation. The employers should partner with the academic institutions to foster better courses instead of apportioning blame. On their end, the institutions should think about the welfare of both the students and staff as the motivating ingredient that will spur the thirst for knowledge in the right direction.
NB: This article was first published in DaystarConnect an annual magazine published by Daystar University (During the 2013 Graduation)