Rating Kenya’s Presidents

Jomo Kenyatta’s regime was corrupt, illiberal and competent. Moi’s was corrupt, illiberal and mediocre. Kibaki’s was corrupt, liberal and competent. So, Moi scores zero out of three. Jomo scores one out of three. Kibaki scores two out of three. Now it adds up!

Jubilee’s [Uhuru Kenyatta] stock has fallen not just because it is seen as corrupt, but because it comes across as also illiberal and incompetent. Like Moi’s regime, it scores zero out of three.

….. Which is more harmful to society, mediocrity or corruption? Mediocrity is by definition below average. It stands to reason that all other things equal, mediocrity is more costly than corruption.

It goes without saying that a corrupt mediocracy is even more deleterious. When mediocre rulers are also corrupt even their corruption is mediocre. Because they are unable to generate sufficient returns, they eat into the capital. That’s what the decay of our infrastructure during Moi was — they ate the capital.

What’s more, what mediocre corrupt leaders steal they squander. Mobutu’s billions have never been traced.

That is the ever-insightful Kenyan economist David Ndii writing in the Daily Nation.

And of course Kibaki was the best president Kenya ever had. He went to Mang’u High School (along with many other key people in his government).

But on a more serious note, can Kenyatta’s administration be redeemed?

I think so. Part of the problem has been the total breakdown of constructive communication between the moderate elements in Kenyan society and State House. The ensuing siege mentality at State House has left the president open for capture by the thuggish elements that are rapidly criminalizing the Kenyan state. But progressive Kenyans need not concede the presidency to these corrupt, incompetent and illiberal characters. There is still room for constructive engagement.

Unlike Moi President Kenyatta appears to have an instinct to delegate (some say he is clueless at Government). The challenge is how to make sure he delegates to the right people.

We Must Free Our Imaginations — Binyavanga Wainaina

A great thinker. A great artist. A great Kenyan.

Part One (see also Parts Two, Three, Four, Five and Six)

[youtube.com/watch?v=8uMwppw5AgU]

Joyce Nyairo of the Daily Nation has written a stinging critique of Binyavanga’s short documentary. Nyairo takes umbrage at Binyavanga’s bashing of Pentecostals and giving a dumbed down, even simplistic, account of Kenyan history over the Moi years. 

The ultimate tragedy of Binyavanga’s documentary is the ease with which he slides into a diatribe against Pentecostals — as if homosexuality can only be popularised by bashing something or someone else’s conformity…..

Each one of the titles of this six part “documentary” is a quote from Binyavanga’s long and frighteningly convoluted tirade against the hypocrisies of Africa’s discourse on homosexuality.

The quotes are as clever as they are memorable. But they represent isolated flashes of brilliance in a text that is neither articulate nor lucid. Binyavanga struggles too hard to be profound, repetitively swinging from mimicry and lazy stereotyping to banal imagery that does nothing to enlighten. His style is unworthy, an injustice to his subject.

I think Nyairo has missed the point of this short “tirade” by miles. The style of delivery and everything about this documentary show that Binyavanga’s intended audience is not the class of Kenyans who go to Blankets & Wine. He is not trying to preach to the choir – most upper middle class Kenyans already have liberal views on homosexuality and those that don’t often have to hide them behind their middle class civility. Neither is he trying to engage in an enlightened rebuttal of the claim that homosexuality is “un-African.” No. What Binyavanga is trying to do is to take the conversation to the streets, and the homes of regular Kenyans. He is aiming at the middle middle class and lower. Binyavanga knows that this is the demographic that will matter the most in changing Kenya, whether it is economically or in the further expansion of human rights.

Yes, Binyavanga has hoisted up the Pentecostal movement as his ultimate straw man. But that’s just in reaction to the hijacking of the conversation on homosexuality in Africa by religious moralists. It is hard to see how one can have an open conversation about homosexuality in Kenya today without addressing the question of sin and hell and Sodom and Gomorrah. This precedes even the macho talk of “natural African” (read heterosexual male) and “un-African” sexual habits. The language of “rights” alone will simply not fly, and when attempted will most likely result in an ugly backlash. This is what Binyavanga is speaking to.

Is our children learning? (Credit to Bushism)

The Guardian reports:

More than two out of every three pupils who have finished two years of primary school in east Africa fail to pass basic tests in English, Swahili or numeracy, according to a new report, Are our children learning?.

The differences in performance vary both across and within countries:

The report found large differences in average test scores between countries in east Africa. Kenyan pupils perform best in literacy and numeracy. Ugandan children perform worst in the lower school years, but slowly overtake Tanzanian children and outperform them after six years in school.

But it is the within-country differences that are cause for a rethink of education policy in east Africa. Kids in private schools appear to do much better than those in public schools (the gap is most stark in Tanzania, 28 percentage points). The Ugandan school system appears to be the worst, with barely half of EVEN the private school kids passing.

In a finding likely to fuel the debate on public versus private schools, the report said students in private schools perform better than pupils in state schools in all three countries – a difference particularly marked inTanzania, where the pass rate among 10 to 16-year-olds for numeracy and literacy tests was 47% in state schools, compared with 75% in private schools.

“In part, the difference between Tanzania and the other countries is likely to be driven by the much smaller share of pupils attending private schools, even among the non-poor, suggesting they must be particularly selective,” said the report. In Kenya, the pass rate in private schools was 83%, compared with 75% in government schools, while in Uganda the gap was 53% to 36%.

As a product of the Kenyan public school system (and a Wazimba for life), I believe that public schools are the way to go. With some thought and innovation, public schools can be made to work – and in the process serve as the best chance for inter-generational SES mobility. The debate should be about how to improve public schools, as opposed to over the false choice of quantity vs. quality.

A possible model could be something akin to the Kenyan National Schools concept in which select schools across the country get extra resources not only to boost performance but also to act as testing grounds for new learning tools – which can then inform policy to help “Provincial Schools” catch up. Of course this would ineluctably create a multi-tier school system at the beginning, but it is arguably better than a system in which most (if not nearly all, see Uganda and Tanzania) public schools are failing.

It is important to note that in Kenya the best high schools have historically been public. With investment and openness to experimentation and innovation this tradition can be maintained.

H/T @AAA_ipregroup 

kCSE results to be released tomorrow

The 2011 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results will be released tomorrow. The exam is a make or break affair for most students since it is the key determinant of whether they will continue on to college or drop off the education ladder and join scores of unemployed youth with limited economic prospects.

These results will be the first since the 2008 introduction of subsidized high school programmes.

This year’s high school leavers will still have to wait for about two years before they can join university – an artifact of the Moi Administration going back to the early 1980s when universities were shut down for an extended period due to political unrest.

I do not have the exact numbers but know that the duration of time between leaving high school and joining university for the average Kenyan student (who does well enough in high school) is closer to 6+ years than 4 years. Both the Moi legacy and intermittent strikes by lecturers and students are to blame for this massive waste of young Kenyans’ time.

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.

2009 kcse results out

UPDATE: The KNEC system seems to be down, judging by the amount of comments and requests I have received in the last few hours. I guess the cell phone thing is not working after all. Even the Nation went down at some point last night.

The 2009 KCSE results are out.

The best student in the country in last year’s national examination was David Ndung’u of Mang’u High School (yours truly’s alma mater. Congrats David!!! Jishinde Ushinde!!!). The top 100 list of students is largely dominated by students from public national and provincial schools. More on this here…

I am yet to read the entire report but the one thing that jumped at me is that no girl made it to the top ten nationally. Only 27 girls were in the top 100. The best female student was Grace Wambui of Moi Girls School Eldoret. She came 11th. Additionally, although overall performance went up this year the pass rate (C+ and above) was a dismal 24.56%. Mr. Ongeri clearly has more to answer for than just the cash scandal that hangs over his head.

more on the kcse: PB-Riruta 1st, Mang’u 4th nationally

Many thanks to the Nation. The newspaper reporters tabulated the mean scores of several schools and came up with a tentative list of the top schools in the country in last years KCSE exams. Top of the (unofficial) list  is Preciosu Blood-Riruta. In second place is Starehe Boys Centre. Alliance Boys is third. Mang’u High School, last year’s best performing school is in fourth place with a mean of 10.2350, a drop from the school’s leading average of 11.2634 (out of 12) last year. The other leading schools according to the Nation’s tally were Kenya High, Moi Girls Eldoret, Bahati Girls, Maseno School, Strathmore and Nairobi School respectively. Among the top ten schools, only one, Strathmore, is a day school. Four of them are girl schools and none is a mixed school.

As pointed out by Prof. Ongeri (edcuation minister), this year’s performance was less than ideal. The pass rate, those with C+ and above (hence technically qualified for university) was 24%. Only 0.27% scored straight As. 34 percent scored Ds and Es.Yes, 34%!!!

The minister for education blamed the poor performance on last year’s post-election violence and the strikes that affected several schools during the mock exams season.

I say this is hiding from the truth. The fact of the matter is education in Kenya continues to be grossly under-funded. I know this for a fact because even in my high school – a well regarded National School – the PTA had to step in through fundraisers to pay for improvements of the facilities and extra motivation allowances for teachers. You can only imagine what other schools without such enterprising PTAs have to contend with.

My question to the minister is: who should we hold accountable when a whole 76% of high school students cannot score C+s in the KCSE ??????

And here is a piece by Philip Ochieng’ on the Kenyan education system….