National cohesion should be at centre of education reforms

Monday February 25 2013



By NYAGA KINDIKI [email protected]

It isn’t debatable anymore that the government to be formed after the coming general election should initiate education policy reforms. There have been such calls, and most of the presidential candidates have indeed made some promises to that effect.

However, a lot more than offering free primary and secondary education should be on the agenda, given the country’s social experiences in the past several years.

Reforms in education policy should be approached with national cohesion in mind. That would call for the inclusion of special areas of study.

Political education is one of them. It is important for political socialisation.

Political education would help the youth to learn about nationalism and nation building. Young people need to know about the great patriots and their contributions to political development in the country.

Political education could help to build a society that is aware of history, international diplomacy, capitalist economies and concepts of marketization and privatisation, the importance of freedom from colonisers, and the dangers of tribal politics.

Human rights education, including children’s rights, is also necessary. Rights are meant to protect the interests of the rights holders, with “interests” here interpreted as concerns, plans, projects, and states of mind that give meaning to their lives. It should not to be confused with avoidance of pain, desire for pleasure or self-indulgent whims.

Of importance too is moral education. It would help the youth to be clearer about social responsibilities, gender issues, drug avoidance, environmental protection, as well as ethics and moral values in general.

Moral education could also be part of in-service refresher courses, seminars, and initial or pre-service requirements for teacher training curriculum. Such a curriculum for teacher training could foster issues of citizenship, leadership and integrity.

Peace education would help young people to understand social interactions and learn critical thinking.

Peace education would strengthen values and attitudes towards diversity, cultural differences, tolerance, and human dignity.

The need for establishing counselling departments in all education institutions to curb the rising cases of indiscipline and disrespect cannot be ignored.

Counselling would minimise spiralling cases of drug and substance abuse among the youth. It could be treated as an urgent agenda of the new government, given the magnitude of the post-election ethnic violence in 2007/2008, which disrupted learning in parts of the country.

Strengthening counselling activities in schools could further help teachers to desist from inflicting harsh or corporal punishment on students. Some young people joining school after the introduction of free secondary education might not have been used to order and proper school behaviour, hence the need to spend time with them to explain how the systems work.

Teachers also need to be counselled alongside students as they too have become vulnerable to stress owing to pressures of life.

Conflict resolution education should be introduced in the school curriculum. It could be developed to include teacher-to-teacher, child-to-child and teacher-to-child conflict resolution skills.

Conflict resolution skills will enable people to acquire knowledge, skills, values and attitudes necessary for developing an open mind that can appreciate socio-cultural and religious ideals.

Values and knowledge are important tools for supporting societal structures such as law and order.

Education is the true bedrock of the society’s culture and civilisation, and the panacea to the endemic ethnic violence.

Sports and athletics education reforms could enhance cohesiveness when participants associate as teams.

Sports and athletics could be used as unifying factor to provide opportunities for talent development.

It could also promote peace in areas hit by conflict and civil strife, challenges manifested by frequent cattle rustling and banditry, particularly among the pastoralist tribes.

Another area of education reform could touch on land, where most of the information passed on over generations, especially in regard to land ownership in Kenya might have been incorrect. Kenyans, especially young people, need to be educated on this.

Lessons on promoting national reconciliation and cohesion should be taught at all levels, including university.

Studies could further be introduced in schools in Kenya to help young people to recognise customary institutions of governance.

Repeated politically instigated ethnic conflicts have ravaged the country because they seem as though they are institutionalised.

An elaborate system and mechanism of resolving conflicts, whether intra- or inter- tribe, is necessary.

The government to be formed after the elections should support the introduction of lessons in schools that advocate for increased collaboration and networking between its institutions and customary systems of governance.

This would require that the new government recognises customary courts, whose rulings could help to enforce law and order in the society.

The writer is a Professor of International Education Management and Policy Analysis at Moi University