Education, an overrated phenomenon!!

Kenyan students in public schools.

Education is the Key to Success.” Well said and I do not doubt it, but I have a problem with how we interpret this. It’s been a month since the 2011 Kenya Certificate of Primary School (K.C.PE) results were announced. Young boys and girls have killed themselves citing reasons that they could not meet performance expectations, from their parents and their teachers.

Teachers have killed themselves, reason being that their schools did not perform so well in the national examinations as expected.Many parents and sponsors have been on their feet, running up and down to ensure that they get all the necessities for their children as they join High School this month and early February. At the same time, others are still mourning the death of their children, at least 8 pupils are claimed to have killed themselves after the results that were announced late December.

Kenyan Primary School pupils

It’s at this point, I sit down and ask, why will 13,14 or even 15 year-old pupils kill themselves for not having made it to their targets? One thing I can say for sure is, there is serious lack of mentorship programs in our schools. Be it, primary school, high school or even higher education levels. Honestly, we should not have Kenyans killing themselves for not performing to their best.

Its your future

Watching the news, one of the deceased boys wrote this to his parents, “I am sorry mum, I couldn’t make it to 400 marks.” This tells me where part of the problem is. Many of us are in school not for our own benefits, but for the benefits of our parents, teachers, relatives and even our peers.

Kenyan Primary School pupils.

There has been too much emphasis on achieving specific targets set by the people “above” and failure to meet such targets, we feel miserable, enough a reason to warrant us to end our lives. I love what our dad told us when we were in school. At the end of the term, he will carefully go through our report books and he will say, in very short words, “You need to pull up your socks, especially in these subjects (xyz). You need to work hard, it’s your future.” I have always said I will use the same tactics on my children one day. You know why, this alone, gave me the responsibility to know that my future lies in my hands. Whatever I do with it, it is all upon me. I could decide to work extra hard in school, so as to make way for a brighter future ahead, or I could decide to lazy around and mess up my future. I have never and I will never live my life meeting societal expectations.

Students at Mombasa Aviation.

Many of you will agree with me, that our parents were always number one in school. I wish we could go back and verify this. I hate and I am using this word hate, to express my sincere feelings for such parents, who keep reminding their children, how well-behaved and bright they were in school. “You have to work hard like I did when I was in school, I always excelled and topped my class all the time. Your target should be 400 marks and above, anything less than that, you are a failure.” Such parents are within our midst. We have overrated education in Kenya. We are to blame for the loss of the young boys and girls who might one day be the greatest people in this country, who knows? But what do we do, instead of nurturing such souls, we kill their dreams even before they are old enough to do anything on their own.

Scholarship Opportunities

Students at Mombasa Polytechnic

The truth is, many of our parents are too quick to see us achieve some of their dreams through us. If your dad, never made it to the university and he has excelled as the best businessman in this country, why the pressure to see you go to the University? Your mum, actually has no idea, what a High School door looks like, how does such a parent get the guts to tell her own daughter or son, “Couldn’t you perform better than this, you are such a failure”.

There have been many scholarship opportunities for those joining form one this year. Corporate organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations’, NGOs’, private individuals and sad enough all these want students with a given cut off points, specifically 400 marks and above out of the possible 500.

Last week at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi, together with my friends, we attended the screening of a film, a small act. The film features a story of a very poor boy from a rural village in Kenya, with his education sponsored by a Swedish stranger named Hilde becomes a human rights advocate at the United Nations.

Students at Mombasa Aviation

Later he starts his own scholarship program to replicate the generosity he received and calls it, Hilde Back Education Fund, HBEF. This was a very good story, if you schooled in a public school in Kenya, you will relate to the story quite well. I loved the idea of giving back to his community and Kenya at large. “I know if it was not for the scholarship I received from this stranger Hilde, I will not be here today. That alone motivated me to help other students who are in a similar situation like I was,” said Chris Mburu, Founder HBEF. That was a great initiative; I only wish he expands his horizons beyond the K.C.P.E results.

Nurturing Talents

I realize many people are in a similar situation, really want to help bright students from needy families, but why should it be, only students with 400 marks and above. Having done the 8.4.4 education system in Kenya, I can confidently say, K.C.P.E results will never be determinant of one’s success in life. K.C.P.E, is a little of brains, a lot of cramming and a bit of guess-work.

Students at Mombasa Polytechnic

Putting off students at such a tender age in Kenya, is sad. Saddens my heart and I wish someone could raise up and say, ok, even though you did not make it to 400 marks, I will sponsor you, as long as you are ready to work hard in High School and the years to follow.John F. Kennedy said, “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”

Prior to sitting for the K.C.P.E examinations on those 3 days, many things might have happened to that could elicit poor performance. The final results alone cannot be used as a litmus test for support of students who want to join higher education. What about those with exemplary talents in athletics, singing, acting, electronics, broadcast, engineering, name it all. What happens to these talented souls, do their dreams die because they could not manage the so coveted 400 mark point. Lets rethink our strategies dear Kenyans, over to you!

Kenyan primary school pupils in a rural setting.

Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”Plato


10 thoughts on “Education, an overrated phenomenon!!

  1. sad, sad, sad that young souls commits suicide due to the weight of family expectations. i think its highly unfair to subject a 13-14 person to a do or die alternatives thats our primary examinations. to the proud parents, with their egos inversely the size of their brains, they tag these childrens as pets and as a source of inter-parents competions. the results is a child who spends their young lives living within the dogma and expectations of other people. Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, 1845-1923, the first Nobel prize winner in chemistry(discovered xrays) said in his acceptance speech, ” school examinations generally furnish no basis for evaluating aptitude…the true test of aptitude for a profession does not come until later in life…”

    1. Newton, it is indeed very sad! If we only knew that we can nurture talents in our society, then we will change a few things. We shouldn’t subject these young ones into meeting family expectations, some of our parents have never been to school. Very sad when the same parents make it mandatory for their children to meet some extreme targets so that they can be of help in their old-age!!!

  2. Did you know that 30% of the people on Forbes list were school dropouts? but nobody likes to talk about it so i will just leave it at that hmm see your blog is powered by word press which was started by Matt mullenweg who dropped out of The University of Houston at 19 If we continue living in denial then our children continue to go to their society imposed exile we will only have ourselves to blame

  3. Harsh competition and publicly brutal exposure of exam results has always been a reason to rip ones heart off. Parents expectation plays a small part in this extreme emotional distress that leads pupils to kill themselves. Due to our general understanding of failure young people get very depressed after GPA’s and Exams. If the dictionary would switch failure for “lessons” every school kid will learn from that particular tender age when ego is not a stand in the way of progress that a bad exam is just a way to find out their personal aptitude. Failure aka lessons will serve as useful information. But how can our youth have a good sense of self awareness and Identity without possessing that killer ego? Teachers and parents MUST take into account when motivating the youth that exams are general unions of measurements of what our kids know or thought they knew up to that particular moment. They actually have a great advantage cos now they know what they are missing and can start the next day as a hopeful brand new day ahead of the game. Tell me folks am I drunk? Is this happening right now for the youth? Society has laid the rules and children have no way of breaking the rules without severe punishments. The rules are boxed in in failure and limitations. Why frustrating and killing the spirit of young men/women between 8 and 23??? No one can really measure their curiosity. Exams can’t tell kids what they can and will do later in their lives. If we use measurements and research evaluation please let us allow the youth to re-evaluate what they already KNOW, HAVE and what THEY really want and can achieve in life. The school system as we know it, is unfriendly, harsh, demanding and doesn’t give the youth the time to develop their individual abilities in their own time. The mass production school system prepares our kids for a life of burn-outs, depressions and suicides due to our general understanding of failure. The school exams we are familiar with are for one reason and one reason only: “TO BE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE…if you can’t, your gone…and our ability to be able to fit in the group. Swim or Sink is the credo. Thanks for the post Patience. Take care.

    1. Marleen,

      I read this and had to take a few hours to absorb this. I coudn’t have written and reflected on this better than you have done. Our education system divides on on first, second class humans and of course future beggers based on our marks. We seem to promote and exhalt all those with flying colours and the rest, seem to be considered as good for nothing even if we dont say it verbatim, we seem to do so by our actions.The ranking of the students and schools as well and the expectations set by the society, makes these poor souls kill themsleves.They are judged too soon even before they are old enough to be given a second chance to proove that they can do it. It is very sad!

      Thank you Marleen for sharing your thought on this. I am very happy to read your reflcetions!! Stay well.

  4. This is thoughtful. I like this article because it highlights the hard facts in our education system. The education system we have now has made the natural/culturally oriented education systems that it replaced seem kind of obsolete, backward and all the negative names we may call them. This is actually where the problem may have started. If only there was someone with powers to prevent this mistake then the current education would not be based on competition but on the needs every human being will achieve on getting it. Rather it would have been blended smoothly with the one that existed such that the end result we have would be a beautiful advancement that everyone benefits from. Now, how do we bridge this gap… Patience you have tickled my mind.

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