kcpe results: where are the girls?

This year’s KCPE results were released yesterday. As expected, girls beat boys (on average) in the languages. They however trailed in all the other subjects: mathematics, science, social studies and religious education. The top 100 lists in all the provinces were dominated by boys. It should disturb Kenyan educators that from a very early age Kenyan children are intellectually segregating themselves by gender. In most places pre-teen and teenage girls out-perform boys in ALL subjects. So why are Kenyan girls not doing as well as they should? Is it because of gender bias at home (as is surely the case in the country-side) or in the classroom (as might be the case in the urban areas where boys and girls have more or less equal opportunities) and what can the government/society do to reverse this?

This year’s results also showed that the government’s free primary education program was a huge flop. Yes, more children are going to school but the quality of education has plummeted precipitously. Most of the top-ranked students were from private schools. With the recently unearthed corruption scandal in the ministry and the poor performance of the free primary education program it might be time for parliament to get more hawk-eyed with regard to the operations of this ministry.

merry christmas and a happy new year to everyone!!

It has been two years since I started this blog. I thank all my loyal readers and especially those who occasionally care to leave comments or send me emails with criticisms and corrections. I will be traveling over the next several days so I might not be able to post anything until after January 3rd.

Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2010 to you all!


kibaki should not waste this opportunity to punish corruption

The Kenyan Education Minister Prof. Sam Ongeri is not among the big fish in Kenyan politics. Neither are his assistant and the Ministry’s permanent secretary. Firing them and making them face the law will not have any awful political consequences for the president and his non-existent party. But it will serve Kenya. I think that this is a wonderful opportunity for the president to demonstrate that there are sacred programs that should never be compromised with – like the free primary education program, or healthcare.

Several months ago I thought that the president and his premier would punish those who stole government maize for re-export even as Kenyans starved to death. No one has been punished yet. Word on the street is that bigwigs in the Agriculture Ministry and perhaps even the premier’s son were deeply involved, plus a number of MPs. Now almost SHS 200 million has disappeared from the Ministry of Education. This is money that was intended to finance free primary education. Kibaki cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this.

In other news, the UN wants Guinean dictator Capt. Moussa Camara (and his henchmen) to be tried for crimes against humanity following the massacre of over 150 protestors in late September. Mr. Camara is currently recovering in a Moroccan hospital following a botched assassination attempt. The attempt on his life is believed to be a result of infighting within the junta over who should take responsibility for the September massacre.

Elsewhere, the president of Nigeria continues to rule in absentia. President Umaru Yar’Adua has been ailing in a Saudi hospital for a while now, prompting calls for his resignation. Nigerian politics aside, I echo these same calls. Nigeria is the undisputed leading country in West Africa. The chaos in Guinea and to a lesser extent in Guinea-Bissau and the Ivory Coast require mediation and regional engagement. Nigeria can provide leadership on this front, plus it can send troops (to Guinea especially) to keep the peace. The region needs Nigerian leadership (yes, I know I just said that). And that means having a strong and engaged Nigerian president.

the world cup draws

South Africa (Group A) get Mexico, Uruguay and France

Cote d’Ivoire (Group G) get Portugal, North Korea and Brazil

Ghana (Group D) get Germany, Australia and Serbia

Cameroon (Group E) get Netherlands, Denmark and Japan

Nigeria (Group B) get Argentina, Greece and South Korea

Algeria (Group C) get England, the US and Slovenia

All the groups look good for the African teams (may be not so much in Group G which is quickly seeming like it is going to be the “group of death”). My money is on Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast. They have the talent and will sure get enough support from the “home crowd” in South Africa to propel them even further. Outside the Continent, Italy and Spain will be the teams to watch since they have the easiest groups – plus of course the usual Latin American suspects: Argentina and Brazil.

Let the sounds of the vuvuzela begin!

people don’t go to war because they are poor

So as promised, I read the piece by Burke et al. They claim to have found a correlation between temperature increases and the onset of civil conflict in most of Africa. The mechanism is that hot weather messes up crop yields and therefore increases the likelihood of conflict (especially in places where people depend on rain-fed agriculture). This conclusion is based on the findings of a tight correlation between economic underdevelopment and civil wars. Nice and dandy, if you believe that people fight because they are poor. Sure, the opportunity costs are much lower for the poor aggrieved who oftentimes than not choose the conflict route to settling disputes. But state capacity, in my view, has a much greater influence on whether people choose to fight or not.

The paper’s policy prescriptions are even dodgier. The authors recommend that foreign aid be conditioned on projected adverse effects of climate change. Firstly, this “solution” is based on the premise that greater proportions of Africans will continue to depend on agriculture into the foreseeable future. This might be true, but shouldn’t we be trying to expand African economies and reducing dependence on agriculture (which necessarily forces us to deal with issues of governance)? Secondly, the idea that foreign aid should be conditioned on climate change is just, well, silly. Many a failed development initiative on the Continent can be blamed on the erratic nature of foreign aid. Adding more variance by pegging aid flows to climate changes will only make things worse.

For a more refined critique see Chris Blattman’s Blog.