Kenya’s economic performance may be dismal but nothing exposes it like the surge in the number of top-scoring students seeking donations to fund their education in public secondary schools, yet the State is pontificating about 100 per cent transition.
That a student can report to school with only a bar soap while his counterparts from well-to-do families arrive in top-of-the-range cars with their parents is an embodiment of the deep inequalities in the country.
While every financially endowed Kenyan is rushing to sponsor students whose plight has been highlighted in the media, it shouldn’t escape our attention that there are hundreds of similar or even worse cases in the interior of this country, which reach neither the traditional nor the social media.
Sponsorships, just like harambees, have never spurred a country to greater economic heights despite the short-term benefits to the vulnerable.
We would be exposing ourselves to international ridicule if we started thinking that the few rich Kenyans can sponsor all the disadvantaged students to school, or offer them jobs when the taxes the same poor Kenyans pay cannot be accounted for.
Truth be told, our education system got messed up the day we categorised public schools into national, provincial, district and harambee.
In functional economies, public schools are funded by the State and accessible to every Tom, Dick and Harry thirsty for education.
They have got the same facilities and no one waits for a sponsor to realise their academic dream.
But our system treats some public schools as elite, with state-of-the-art facilities, while others are condemned to a state of hopelessness with no libraries and laboratories or teachers.
Yet they are all expected to compete equally and post good grades in the national examination!
It is such systemic marginalisation that has resulted in the distasteful scramble for “top” schools, including bribing for slots, and exam cheating, yet there’s a section that believes sponsorship is the cure.
The government must explain why some public schools lack trained teachers when numerous trained teachers are jobless.
It must also come clear on why certain public schools have magnificent libraries and laboratories while, in others, students have not even touched a burette despite the huge budgetary allocations to the Ministry of Education every year.
Even the talk of 100 per cent transition holds no water. You can’t have an influx of students while not employing teachers and building classrooms and laboratories.
Soon they will be joining university but, unfortunately, our government believes the universities, which themselves lack facilities and qualified staff, should be reduced or merged. Where will they go?
We should not be proud of an education system that violates the rights of the poor. Every Kenyan is entitled to a decent and dignified education.
It is enshrined in the Constitution, which leaders swore to uphold.
Joab Apollo. [email protected]