Civic education an obstacle to real change
Posted Friday, May 11 2012 at 18:32
Politics and civic education have become a disgraceful and wasteful money spinning racket.
Every election year we witness the emergence of new political entities and the birth of a conglomeration of civic education providers. One feeds off the other.
Civic education has replaced Aids awareness as the latest cash cow of the so-called like-minded donors.
Last week I attended a function to unveil the coastal civic education programme. These launches have become predictable, choreographed, glitzy and no-expenses-spared events.
They are always located in five star hotels, with charming celebratory hostesses, children’s choirs, expensive pop stars and winding up with peace doves, balloons and a giant buffet.
Civic education has become glossy and slick but has lost its edge and relevance for the poor and marginalised voter.
The coastal programme has an acronym of SAFE and perhaps that best epitomises the expected input and outcome of this venture: a peaceful and fair election that will maintain the status quo of inequality, injustice and deprivation.
A safe programme is a tame, anaemic one that will bring little substantial change.
Sometimes I think we have too much civic education, or rather too much of the wrong type of education. Most civic education is like our formal education – all about note taking, cramming information and getting certificates.
It reminds me of a man who once told me that he had attended several family planning seminars but had lost his notes and now he was bringing his 10th child for Baptism!
There is a complete disconnect between information gathered and tools required to address injustice and produce radical change. Like the formal sector, civic education is all about conformity and not transformation.
Yet, just about everyone has attended civic education seminars in Kenya except, perhaps, the political class who most need to be challenged.
Kenyans don’t need information – they need hope and education for liberation, so that they can free themselves. Paulo Friere once said that to affirm that men and women are free and then to do nothing tangible to make that affirmation a reality is a farce.
It is not about helping voters to choose between two presidential candidates who face crimes against humanity, or another duo who can’t agree on who raped the economy the most. It is showing them how to be rid of thieves, warlords, ethnic elites and drug barons.
Civic education — like preaching — that does not provoke, that does not unsettle is not liberation or education as in the Latin etymological meaning to lead out.
The aim of all civic education then must be to begin by believing in and trusting the people’s ability and give them the skills to build human rights communities and movements that deal with their own local problems.
It must be led by people with a passion for justice, with a vision of change who will fight alongside the community and radically transform their reality.
People like that are found everywhere but the donor community and the elitist civil society organisations are the biggest obstacle towards their emergence.