A prize giving day in Kirinyaga left me both frustrated and upbeat

Thursday May 26 2016

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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I was recently invited to a school prize giving day at Rwambiti Secondary School in Kirinyaga County.

In the spirit of “My Country, My Responsibility”, I tend to take an interest in all things that can make Kenya a better place for future generations.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 identifies education and training as the vehicle that will drive Kenya into a middle-income economy. Now, some may argue that innovation and entrepreneurship may play a more important role, but experts in this subject, such as Peter Drucker, put forward a very relevant counter-argument.  

They insist that works of genius that result into life-changing innovations are rare. Many innovations, they say, are the result of mastering what may seem like mundane daily tasks, resulting in a system that works and gives incremental credits, so to speak, on a daily basis.

This ends up not only in value addition but also a learning process that refines the processes of carrying out those tasks. That is innovation, the kind of innovation that almost 90 per cent of the world’s most successful nations rely on.

The government, at least in its policy framework, has been committed to establishing regulations that will ensure accessible, efficient, effective and quality education for all Kenyan children.

However, at Rwambiti, a day secondary school, I was not able to immediately establish the role the government has played in terms of providing learning resources. Indeed, they indicated that they are short of teaching staff.

The Board of Management and the principals have, however, provided great leadership, creating significant synergy in the conducive learning environment.

Throughout the day and it was a long day the principal demonstrated inspirational leadership for that group of young people. Consequently, the students were highly motivated and very well-behaved. They sat throughout the ceremony without breaking into disorderly hordes until the function ended at around 5pm.

The school has a motivational choral verse with more English words than I have cared to use since high school and a tag line for the graduating class of 2016, "Movers and Shakers".

In addition, the school has a mentoring programme in which a board member "adopts" a class in Form Two and mentors them all the way to Form Four. That just about takes the three years that a board of management can exist for.

It gives this country great hope that there are young Kenyans out there who are on school boards to make a difference, not just to collect a sitting allowance.

It seemed to me that the school board significantly contributes not just time and financial resources, but a spirit of giving back that may be the single most important thing that the board will give to the youth at Rwambiti Secondary.

I also noted that the Board of Management was made up of local residents, mostly well-educated business and opinion shapers in the community.  

The school is sponsored by the Anglican Church of Kenya, and I am aware that the debate on school sponsors has been long and winded.  

I believe all are in agreement that they have a role to play in setting the aspirations of an educational institution and mobilising the community in support of school programmes, but I fail to understand why churches would want to have a three-hour-long service during a school prize giving day.

A prize giving day is a day for the learners and their achievements and challenges, not a day for the church to bore the congregated population with long sermons and even longer exaggerated Bible readings.

The redeeming part was that the pastor was youthful and happy, just like the gathered congregation, a great relief from the days of long-faced, sullen older men leading worship.

What was heart-breaking was the fact that 90 per cent of the parents at this school gathering were mothers. Of all the students who received prizes that day and they were in more than 10 categories featuring at least 50 students only two were accompanied by their fathers. Where are the fathers?

The story of the struggles of the community in establishing the school was told by a charming octogenarian. It made me think that there is hope for our youth yet.

It also made me realise that the roles of government, parents, teachers, sponsors, boards of management and the community can be complementary, but none can replace the other.

My best wishes to the students and teachers of Rwambiti Secondary School and all other schools that are committed to giving Kenyan youth knowledge, and perchance, wisdom. Aside from opening of Facebook pages at Sh2 million, there is indeed something in Kirinyaga!

Twitter: @muthonithangwa