democratizing kenyan schools

As a former prefect at Mang’u High School, I know quite a bit about the excesses of the prefect system. To put it mildly, prefects sometimes do go beyond the line. I am therefore glad that a student forum at Bomas, Nairobi voted for the establishment of elected student councils to replace prefect bodies. In most schools prefects are appointed by the school administration (usually a small group comprising the principal, his assistant, the dean, the discipline master and a few other teachers). Instituting elected student bodies will go a long way in democratizing Kenyan high schools. I will go out on a limb and even make the claim that it might help Kenyan democracy in the long-run by teaching our students a few things about civic duty and peaceful competition for elected office. Additionally, inculcating in students the virtues of peaceful political competition at an early age might help reduce cases of violence in elections for student body representatives at Kenyan universities.

KCSE results reveal a drop in performance

The (Kenyan) minister of education, Prof. Sam Ongeri, released the 2008 KCSE results today. This year’s results announcement was different in that it did not include the ranking of schools. Only students were ranked, with Mark Maugo and Velma Mukhongo emerging as the top boy and girl respectively. The top girl was fourth overall.The rankings also included lists of best students per subject.

The minister also noted a drop in performance, possibly related to the numerous strikes that rocked several schools mid last year. There were 460 fewer irregularities this year than there were last year.

While I appreciate the minister’s attempts to remove unhealthy competition among high schools, I still think that the ranking gave schools an incentive to make sure that ALL their students succeed. Now that only students are being ranked, we may end up with a case whereby schools only concentrate on their best students who will make it to the top ten lists of subjects nationally and forget about those at the bottom of the class. I think the media should do its job and find out which schools did better, to give parents a sense of where they ought to send their kids and to expose poor performers.

Competition breeds excellence, bwana Minister. And in any case you can’t erase the disparities between the ‘big schools’ as we know them and the smaller ones. The former still remain better funded and attract the best teachers. What the government should have done is not eliminate the rankings, but instead strive at improving all schools in the long run so that they can all compete fairly. Eliminating the ranking will not solve the problem, it is a shameful attempt to hide from the problem of inequality among Kenyan schools.