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Education new vehicle of a class society



By X.N. Iraki, Muriuki Mukurima

Any child’s dream as it grows up is to have an education that inculcates in it the real virtues of life. At ten years of age, every child has his or her school of choice, which he wishes to pursue in his later education. It is worth noting that the particular school one attends shapes the life of the particular individual. American writer Maya Angelou wrote that “We are all creative, but by the time we are three of four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.”

Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and for the same reason to save it from that ruin. An education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, or to strike from their hands their choice of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them for the task of renewing a common world.

In Britain, you need to either belong to the royal family or pass through, Eton College, Oxford or Cambridge Universities to be a ruler or a leader, both in the private sector or the public sector. In Japan being an alumnus of Waseda, University of Tokyo or Keio gives you a huge advantage if you aspire to be a leader in any sector. In USA, going through any of the seven, Ivy League Universities ensures that your path to leadership is much smoother and shorter, forget about grades for now.

Moreover, going to these schools is not accidental, parents start glooming their kids early in life. Kids put on attires with logos of such schools and accompany parents on special days. More importantly, they go to elementary and high schools that have a record of taking kids to such prestigious schools. You may call that social engineering but it works.

Few countries do not have flagship institutions where the next generation of leaders is prepared.

History more than anything else plays a role in determining the evolution of elite institutions, they are often the oldest in the country, with unique traditions and a solid base of successful alumni who ensure the name is maintained, and the new graduates, get into the system with ease-the old boys network.

When Narc came to power, there was a popular observation that having passed through Makerere or Mang’u greatly increased your probability of getting a plum job in the government or a seat in the board of directors of a major firm. This observation cannot be 100% untrue.

From a marketing point of view, public schools in Kenya have reached the shake-up stage. It is unlikely that new pubic schools will reach the stature of Alliance or Mang’u or other national schools that have a tradition of excellence.

The shift to market economy in the ’80s came to education sector late. It started in the elementary and high school. The next move will be in the Universities. Currently, public Universities still predominate and take the best students, because of history and the fact that they have lucrative courses like medicine, law and engineering.

Private universities have definitely tried to build a reputation of discipline and philanthropy; they have outdone public universities in public relations. However, public universities have lately become less prone to strikes; may be the democratic space has expanded and the gap between schooling and reality has narrowed.

Another interesting change that has been taking place in Kenya is entrenchment of class-consciousness. For a long time, Universities in Kenya were classless; you could go to class with a minister’s daughter and even date her. Today, people are doing all they can to show their class, and schooling is one such avenue.

This has greatly benefited the private universities. Nevertheless, the public universities thwarted that by introducing the parallel programmes, another class matter.

So who will rule in future? Where will the new elites come from? The answer will be surprise to you. In Kenya, we are yet to get the Bushes or the Kennedies. Therefore, for now, self-made people must continue ruling us, at least politically. Economically it might be a different story altogether. Could the high salaries MPs awarded themselves be a realisation of this gap between political leadership and economic leadership?

Without favour or prejudice, self-made Kenyans are more likely to go through public universities. With some, neglect public university students mature faster, and get the motivation to pursue the power, prestige and wealth that comes with political offices.

The University has now become universities. These universities are in a cut-throat competition for students. And so are the elite private high schools that are salivating over the decline of some national schools, courtesy of mismanagement.

The next phase will be competition for prestige and production of leaders, the shakers and movers in the country’s political and economic leadership. Marketers may call this positioning. Which schools and universities will these be? Which schools will produce members of the cabinet and captains of the industry by 2050? My bet is that these schools may already be there; you are free to name them and take your children there.



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