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An interesting spectacle unfolded during the last three days of last week as I attended a doctoral supervision training course at UFS (University of the Free State Bloemfontein) aimed at strengthening and enhancing the quality of doctoral research in South Africa. It suddenly dawned on me that a society’s values are best measured depending on where its money is invested. Suffice to note that a good number of developed economies invest a colossal sum of their money in building human capital through educational programmes. The inverse is true for developing countries whose resources seem to get wasted through political leaders hell-bent on attaining highest honours on self-aggrandisement and economic enrichment.
For example, Kenya has a small number of quality doctorates in relation to its population compared to a preferable sample ratio of 100 doctorates per one million individuals. The trickledown effect is that educational standards are adversely affected. As a result, instead of having the most qualified personnel teaching pre-schoolers and early grade children, the reverse is witnessed. In Kenya, the more qualified you are, the less likely you are to teach lower cadres of students. Indeed, most professors are stuck in teaching doctoral students, or handling administrative tasks, thus denying young scholars the opportunity to benefit from their knowledge.
In an ideal environment, a professor should be the one teaching children and helping to nurture and horn the educational skills of a future generation. However, in most developing countries, this task is delegated to people who failed in school because the career is associated with poor pay and lack of respect or recognition. It is thus not surprising to realise that there is a dialectic relationship between the quality of education amongst the majority of people who happen to be poor and their masterly of language skills or other pedagogical matters.
On the contrary, those who can afford to enrol their children in expensive schools, begin to reap the benefits of a quality education system that, so to speak, unfairly advantages their children over those from poor backgrounds. Essentially this means that expensive schools have the capacity to attract and retain highly qualified personnel as opposed to public schools that have to rely on meagre government funding. Thus, it might be possible to surmise that our educational system is large and by responsible for exacerbating the social stratification of our nation.
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What would it take for a country like Kenya to have qualified professors to teach kindergarten kids? As it is, many undergraduates will finish their first degree without imbibing or sipping from the fountains of professors’ wisdom. And therein lies our educational tragedy. I am not in any way postulating that people with master’s degrees or PhD’s are not qualified, no way! My argument is simply meant to underscore the fact that the years invested in research and dissemination of knowledge percolates into the making of the individual thereby making him/her a better academician.
Besides, if the Kenyan educational environment was conducive, apportioning adequate resources in terms of time and money, many people would venture into the profession. Unfortunately, being a teacher in a Kenyan context is something that most of us disdain and look down upon. There is no question that societal demands have pushed many a young person to escape the academic path lest they wallow in eternal miasmic conditions of poverty. It is thus prudent for us to rethink the values of education and to appreciate the different demands that societal responsibilities will exert on us. In this way, we will equip ourselves with different skills and pursue different careers with our heads held high.
Indeed, we need to re-invest in the education sector. We need to retrain our children that education is important. Although there are high achievers in the society who are school dropouts, our children need to be in the know that pursuing education does not mean putting one’s goals to an end. Rather, it means that education becomes a means to help them to better focus and crystallise their vision and goals. Maybe it is high time we stopped being paranoid about education and respected this noble profession if we actually belief in the sanctity of human growth and a holistic society.
Back to by doctoral supervision course. At least I learnt one important issue regarding power play in connection to supervision – education can make or break someone’s future! Consequently, if we are not careful, our educational pursuits as a country will end up breaking our kids’ souls instead of transforming them into inspired qualified beings capable of discovering innovative solutions to our social, political and economic woes. I hope that the next time we talk to our kids about what they want to be when they grow up we will think about the need for a quality educational system that can propel them to be what they visualise in their dreams and fantasies.