Church, State and family role in schools

Wednesday March 18 2020

Claret Primary School pupils and their school manager who is also the Kiembeni Catholic Church parish priest Vincent Alicho at a past event. PHOTO | WINNIE ATIENO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Proper social and cultural education is critical to the growth of any society. We — particularly the younger ones among us in the Church — may of course not quite understand how to deal with this reality until it is explained to us.

The problem is that when we get to the top we do not think we need to listen to anyone else, particularly if they seem to be thinking differently from what we know to be the institutional mindset as well as what we have always known and what we feel safe in holding on to.

Whichever way we look at it, education is a major social and cultural reality through which society develops.

Even our traditional societies that shaped our grandparents and parents had an education system which we of course do not talk much about.


Then the missionaries came. Their main aim was to “win souls” for Christ. Their mode of operation was what we would now call “evangelisation”.

In spite of their “misunderstanding” those original evangelisers did their work through one avenue.

They set up schools in which they passed on secular education to Kenyans and gave those Kenyans ability to develop their society.

While they were passing on that secular education they also passed on the faith.

After the Education Act of 1968, all that changed. The religious communities that had set up the schools all the way from primary to high school largely divorced themselves from developing the education sector.


At that point the local church establishments had obviously not trained enough personnel that would have effectively taken over from where the missionaries had left.

The model of evangelisation that they adopted did not seem to see education as part of the pastoral ministry.

Now I hear one of our bishops has brought up a suggestion that we should make all education coeducation. Interesting thought but how do we control that?

What will happen when they get to university? There are a few questions that must go through the mind of anyone who is involved in educational operations and they are thoughts that must come to the minds of those who care about education and the future of our faith.


Christianity cannot be separated from education in spite of the education Act of 1968.

In my humble view, the question of education is a much broader and multidimensional reality than just what kind of schools boys or girls go to.

It is also a reality that calls for the participation of many stakeholders such as the family, the church and government. All this and others must get into the debate.

Fr Wamugunda is the dean of students and a lecturer of sociology at the University of Nairobi. [email protected]