In February, the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCP) told us that more than 18 degree courses taken by more than 10,000 students in 26 universities were invalid and ‘worthless’. Many Kenyans were appalled. I was dismayed to see courses related to computing, statistics and informatics on the list, despite being key fields of study for any technology-driven economy.
SPEED OF LIGHT
I visited a technology school on Ngong Road, Nairobi, recently, and noted a number of students who had dropped out of tech courses at public and private universities to study here.
They told me they ditched their studies because the university courses do not meet the demands of a market that is “moving at the speed of light”.
I also met many professionals in various sectors, also either taking long study leaves or resigning from their jobs to catch up with the latest technology trends at the school. What all this means is that we need to scrutinise the relevance of the technology courses being offered in our universities.
Most students feel apathetic when they meet former students who graduated with tech degrees but ended up being rejected in the job market. Many said over 70 per cent of what they were taught in university was purely theoretical; they are forced to find ways to bridge their skills gaps by seeking further, practical training.
Technology morphs every day. Training our youths in obsolete tech only prepares them for a market that does not exist. Can you blame employers for avoiding them like the plague?
They also lack the mental tools to create software that solves industrial problems that would guarantee them self-employment, and ultimately create jobs for others.
What I witnessed made me resentful – but also hopeful. I faced the bitter reality of living in a capitalist society where a gap in financial stability exists to the benefit of only 10 per cent of Kenyans who control more than 90 per cent of our total wealth. While the courses at this school are updated to match international tech space requirements, only a few students, parents and guardians can afford them. Out of 100 students who opt to drop out of universities, for instance, only about 10 are able to pay for the courses.
An overhaul of the curriculum in our universities will be key to opening up thousands of young, bright students to the possibility of reviving our ‘Silicon Savannah’ dream. While some units in computer science were relevant in 2010, they are still being taught in 2019. Universities and colleges must stop relying on outdated syllabuses.
Changes should also include creating an equal playing ground for all students, regardless of their parents’ economic status, by making the fees for such courses affordable. And remember that smart students will only be attracted by courses that inspire their intellect in a challenging environment where their goals will be to help to boost quality levels to industrial goods and services.
The writer is the online editor, Taifa Leo.