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Gusii Education Advancement Resource – GEAR – Launch

Gusii Education Advancement Resource – GEAR – Launch
The Way Forward
Matunda Nyanchama

Minneapolis, Minnesota
June 30, 2007

A year ago, we gathered here on a day that coincided with MKIDA (Minnesota Kenya International Development Association) Graduation Gala; we had participants from across North America: Ohio, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ontario (Canada) and from here in Minnesota.

This was a MKIDA initiative; and we must thank MKIDA for taking the initiative; in doing so, they demonstrated leadership!

Our charge was the subject of the state of Gusii Education; as you know, in Gusii, school performance continues to be extremely poor. All the Gusii districts rank near the bottom in the performance list across the country. Year to year, Gusii is taking less and less children to university and colleges since very few of them qualify. At the rate of failure we are experiencing in Gusii, we could end up as bottom feeders in the national and global economy

Clearly, this is a problem!

Questions were asked to try and understand the problem of education in Gusii. So what really is wrong? Why are children from Gusii not doing well? Is Mogusii innately stupid and cannot do well? Yet, across Kenya Gusii children are doing well? Outside Kenya, we have successful people from Gusii.

The next question was: what is the nature of the problem? What are the root causes?

These questions were necessary to make sure that we understand what we are dealing with? How big was the problem? This is because we know that only if and when we understand the problem can we attack it successfully.

The issues of Gusii Education are complex; they are intricate and have to do with:

  1. Poverty & Lack of Resources
    1. Lack of resources; it also inefficient of resources
    2. Poverty and lack of employment opportunities
  2. Leadership, politics and mentorship
    1. Too much political interference
    2. Leadership and management in schools and the role of HMs and lack of accountability
    3. Lack of model schools, excellence standards
  3. Cultural practices like those favouring boys over girls “and yet we know that women are the foundation of society“ and this is not simply a statement for Gusii
  4. Motivation
    1. Student motivation  – are our students motivated enough?
    2. Teacher motivation and their commitment
  5. It has to do with the nature of education: our education is tailored to passing examinations so that one can become someones employee! How about entrepreneur – the people who create businesses and jobs?
  6. Disease: AIDS continues to have a huge impact
  7. Lack of Model schools:
  8. Economics: lack of jobs in sight is a demotivator.
  9. And more!

So we know there is a beast with respect to Gusii education? We know a little about the nature of the beast; and we know what could be done?

Now the question is HOW??

Given the complexity of the problem, a select committee was appointed to help guide us address this and make recommendations on the way forward. The following were appointed members of the select committee:

Gusii Education Select Committee

Dr Joshua Bagaka

Dr Tabitha Otieno

Dr Kefa Otiso

Dr Harrison Koroso

Dr Omari Onyango

M/s Orpha Ong’iti

Ms Margaret Obaga

Mr. Kennedy Gisemba

Mr. Jared London

Dr. Meshack Sagini

Dr Justus Ogembo

Dr Matunda Nyanchama

As you can see this is a team of accomplished individuals; and expectations were high!

Since then, the team has worked diligently for the last one year; we have met faithfully every 2nd Sunday 3:00 PM CST. In the process, the committee developed proposals to MKIDA on the way forward for education in Gusii; we also planned and partially implemented an award program for students at KCPE, KSCE, best schools and best teacher. Awards for Nyamira and Kisii Central have been given for a boy and girl each with the best marks at KCPE. The one for Gucha will be given in the future.

Yesterday, we reconvened again for the entire day for the 2nd Gusii Education Conference. The participation was impressive. We sat for a marathon 13 hours! Amazing what motivated people can do! The outcomes and recommendations include the following:

  1. The size of the problem: The issue of education is Gusii a LARGE BEAST; we need to define it well! We need to understand it so that we don’t act like the ten blind men and the elephant.
  2. We need to know who to work with – stakeholders: and they are me, you, and every Mogusii; they include the teachers, students and parents; they consist of politicians, school headmasters/mistresses; and they embrace everybody interested in Gusii education
  3. Resources: What resources do we have: the people, the material, the cash, the facilities? How do we access these resources?
  4. What are the short term priorities: Sensitize and popularize this initiative to ALL stakeholders; identify target group of schools to work with on specific activities that would have the BIGGEST BUNG for the BUCK; define those activities we can initiate right away with the target groups of schools; develop resources – especially financing for these.
  5. Management Structure and Approach: we need a vehicle that has a national outlook and global reach to drive this initiative.
  6. Economic environment: what is it we can do to improve the economy of Gusii to provide jobs and employment

And we need a good vehicle to drive this initiative!

Yesterday, in this very hall, the team that was selected last year proposed, and it was accepted, that we launch a new initiative for advancing Gusii education. It will be called Gusii Education Advancement Resources – GEAR!

GEAR’s mandate will be international; it will embrace each and everyone keen on advancing Gusii education. It will embrace organizations like MKIDA, DELKA and all others that exist or may exist in the future. It will engage our leadership in Kenya – education leaders, politicians and teachers. In a word, GEAR will harness the effort and goodwill of all that are interested in advancing education in Gusii.

There is a song sang in Gusii about a bird, called egetinginye, which diligently prepares its nest to shelter it from rain and make a home for its young! Egetinginye is always forward-looking! In the same spirit, GEAR will help us become proactive and forward-looking in matters of education. The song goes thus!

Egetinginye ekeng’aini kerigia oboundi keagache
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye
Egetinginye ekeng’aini kerigia oboundi keagache
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye Baba
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye

There have also been more recent songs. For example, the singer Nyang’au Bw’Onsoti – emansamu y’egetonto – sings about the value of education; in one refrain he regrets that he didn’t go to school because when he is with friends, he cannot understand what they are saying. For example when they say: “Thank you very much” he interprets it as “etangi eyio beria amache”

The singer wishes he were literate to understand the language; it is a worthwhile and important concern. You can say that he wants to be linguistically literate! Our community yearns for education; the need today, though goes beyond linguistic literacy; it is to do with being functionally literate and participating in the economy!

The fact is that we don’t query the value of education in Gusii any more; we know it; we have experienced it; we have seen its benefits. Another fact is that the nature of education counts: consider a child schooled in the world of hammers and nails; suppose this child is taught that whenever he sees a nail or something like it, he hits it with a hammer. Now suppose that we take the child out of that world and expose the child to other worlds with screw drivers and the like; the first instinct – to treat the screw driver as a hammer or a nail!

It means we need to reorient education. Part of that is embracing enterprise! I read somewhere that in America, for every one technical person trained, there are four business-related people! These are the people that take an idea and out of the idea create goods and services, which in turn provide employment.

The issues of Gusii Education are complex; they are intricate; they need a sophisticated approach; they need commitment; they need ownership; they need you and me; they need you as a child, parent, brother, sister; they need you as a politician; school teacher, headmaster and education officer; and yes, they need the Kenyan government.

And these issues of education cannot be divorced from the economic realities that exist today. We need economic opportunities for all those kids that drop out Standard 8, Form IV, Universities and Colleges! Our efforts in advancing education will come a cropper were we to ignore this reality.

In 1963 there was a rallying by the newly elected independence government of the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Kenyatta’s started a “back to the land movement” aimed at increasing agricultural production! Yaani turudi mashambani. The idea was that we all go work our shambas to feed the nation, sell the surplus and all would be well. There was even a song with a refrain going thus: Mzee kasema rudi mashambani hakuna vya bure! Mzee kasema rudi mashambani tuijenge Kenya

In 1963 there was fair land size holdings per family that one could turn to; contrast that with today, as you know, ense yaakirwe omoroka! Oboremo bwabeire chincherere. Gose inaki! In fact, if everybody in Gusii decided to work the land, there is NOT enough of it to keep our people busy enough, let alone feed all those mounts and stomachs in the region. As a friend, Edwin Okong’o said on another forum, Gusii is a giant urban landscape without associated urban infrastructure and services – no roads, piped water, sewage, etc.

This is NOT 1963! We need a new rallying cry. And as Mogusii said: gakiaborire ‘nchera rogoro, kerigerie ‘nchera maate! We need new thinking to find that ‘nchera maate. For example, how can we improve economic opportunities beyond what we have today?

World over tourism is a great money maker. Can we have tourism that taps into Gusii culture to showcase to the rest of the world? How about a Gusii museum of history and culture of Mogusii in which we could display such things as traditional iron works that allowed Mogusii to make metal implements for spears, hoes, arrows, etc. How about cultural industries that tap into our music, centred on obokano and songs of events like amabina. Gusii is blessed with good soils, despite the shrinking land sizes. Is there a way we could do food processing as added value to increase economic opportunities? Here I am thinking of much of the seasonal harvests that go to waste. How about an industry around the banana which is a major crop from our region? Can we learn from the Tanzanians and Ugandans who have learnt to add value, create jobs and increase economic gain for their banana farmers?

There are more possibilities for economic development. Suppose we diverted some of the money sent home to ventures that could create jobs. Here is a good example: we consume a lot of cement and iron sheets for construction. Yet there is neither cement nor iron sheet factory in the region. Can our entrepreneurs get together and start one such factory? How about horticulture? With improved communications we could be airlifting flowers and French beans out of Gusii for consumption in Europe and North America. There is more. With the coming of the optical fibre, it is feasible that in future one can offer outsourcing services in Gusii for companies in the Western world! India has done it! The Philipines have done it. How about us in Kenya? And this doesn’t have to happen in Nairobi!

There is more that we can do! And we all need to think about these possibilities. Let’s us remember that, as big a problem as it may be, nothing is insurmountable; and there is strength in numbers and that half the problem is solved if it has been fully defined. As we tackle this mammoth of an elephant called Gusii Education, let’s imagine the end and the means to that end. Those means to the end must be consistent with age-old wisdom that if you give someone fish, they will come for more fish; however, if show them how to fish, and they will go fishing on their own.

The deterioration in our education did not happen overnight; I don’t expect that it can be solved overnight. So your task, my task and every stake holder’s task is to do the following: own this issue; evangelize about it and GEAR and MKIDA; and embrace the vision to a better end; for without vision people perish; and if you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there! Contribute ideas, materials (money – e.g. for GEAR Awards). And also remember that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step.

MKIDA, GEAR and the entire Mogusii calls for your support; it is you and I and everyone that will make this a success.

Dr George Agoki used the correct term yesterday: we need an army of energetic committed people; we need foot soldiers with a mission to transform Gusii Education. That army is you and I; that foot soldier is you and I; with GEAR at the lead and supported by organizations including MKIDA, Mwanyagetinge and all other Mogusii organizations in the Diaspora and Kenya, we will win.

Also remember that there is no mountain to tall too climb; there is no problem too BIG for a committed army.

So let’s go forth and own this issue of Gusii Education; let’s go forth and evangelize about it; let’s embrace the vision to a better end. And let’s support GEAR for a better education for our children; and for a better future for us and our country. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step.

Once more!

Egetinginye ekeng’aini kerigia oboundi keagache
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye
Egetinginye ekeng’aini kerigia oboundi keagache
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye Baba
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye
Embura egotwa geseo mwaye

Nyasae oyio!

See some pictures from the 2007 2nd Gusii Education Conference & MKIDA Graduation Gala

Join Gusii Education Yahoo Group.

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