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Education, its Value & Examinations – A Perspective

By Matunda Nyanchama

Nyamira, Gusii, Kenya.

December 27, 2008

Speech to students attending counseling session on examination performance in Nyamira, Gusii, Kenya.

Pastor Mouko, convenor of this examination counseling session, fellow panellists, invited guests, examination counselees, ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to be here today, as part of this distinguished panel on the matter of education; and specifically on the issue of examination performance and the techniques that may help with success in examination performance.

Pastor Mouko Makes Opening Remarks

Pastor Mouko Makes Opening Remarks

Before I speak, however, I will tell you a little about myself.

I am an engineer and information technology (IT) professional; I have also, on occasion, taught at various universities, specifically the subject of computer science. As well, I am engaged in matters of the Kenyan Diaspora, in respect of which I was once the president of the Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA).

I was born, brought up and schooled here in Nyamira. Then it was a small administrative centre that appeared a substantial distance from what was then the market: Nyabite, which is now completely subsumed by Nyamira Town.

I went to Nyamira Primary School, later studied in Kisii and Nakuru High schools before proceeding to the University of Nairobi where I studied electrical engineering. Later, after close to 8 years of work at the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecoms Corporation (KPTC), I went to Canada for graduate studies whereupon I completed my masters and doctoral studies in computer science.

Why do I tell you all this?

Part of the audience

Part of the audience

For the reason that my background is similar to yours and, despite the changed times, you probably face the same challenges I did when I went to school here. It is a story that should let you know that you can do as well, if not better than, I have done to date.

The subject of discussion today is examinations and how you could possibly get good results in examinations. I would like, as part of addressing this subject, to speak about the value of education and what success in education means. In fact, passing examinations is only a small component of success in education.

Education has the capacity of making you a better human being, one that can appreciate broad concepts and our position as human beings in this universe. This broad mindset allows for the ability to confront many issues with better a informed perspective.

As a citizen of Kenya, education can empower you to play a better role in the country. Educated citizens understand the value of common destiny as a nation; they understand the rights and obligations of the citizenry and the context in which citizens operate. For example, on the right to vote, an educated citizen understands one’s role in the democratic process: voting accordingly and holding to account those on public office. Education would inform you that selling your vote to the highest bidder is really betraying the cause of democracy.

Education also better prepares one to contribute effectively to the society in which one belongs. An educated person has the chance of knowing his/her place in the universe and using this knowledge to better advance the cause of humanity.

Nyandusi Motanya Speaks

Nyandusi Motanya Speaks

As well, education can lead to better earnings. Statistics have shown that there is a correlation between the level of education and lifetime earnings; this of course assumes that the system in place is fair and that people earn their roles based on merit. But as we know, especially in our country Kenya, some rich people have earned their wealth via short cuts such as embezzlement and corruption.

From a community perspective, an educated person has a chance of representing the community in places one works, places one travels and be the community’s ears and eyes wherever one is. In other words, the person has a chance to become, the community’s ambassador wherever the person may be.

The analogy I use is this: suppose an elephant were killed some place out there; and that there was no one from your home to help bring along some of the meat! Would you have a chance to enjoy the elephant’s meat? Perhaps not!

The world economy is like a BIG elephant; yet we cannot partake of a share of this wealth without people from amongst us representing us in this global village and in difference roles as such.

The foregoing is not an exhaustive list of the values of education. However, you get the gist of what I am saying. In general, education can contribute immensely to someone’s well-being, which can also lead to the nation’s well-being.

So how do you go about studying, getting educated and passing examinations?

Kidogo Kidogo hujaza kibaba!

Make sure to study whenever you have time; it could be the few minutes there may be between many other chores/things you are doing. Remember, as they say, a stitch in time saves nine! Kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba. The one hour you invest in studying, especially what you have freshly been taught, can save you a lot of time downstream (say) around revision or examination time!

An attentive audience

An attentive audience


Study consistently and ensure that you have a rhythm to your study. Learn from the example of athletes and their training. Effective athletes have been shown to train very hard after which they take a good deserved rest. So study hard but also take time off study so that your brain can have a rest as you ready yourself for next day’s study.

Ask Questions

The Bible says that “he how asks shall be given”! Always ask questions of your teachers, fellow students and all. And don’t shy from asking questions for as they say, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

Ask questions of your colleagues and classmates; ask questions of your teachers and seniors; and always learn from those that have gone through the system. Learn also from those that are attempting the same problems with you. They may help you to better understand the problem(s) you face.

Group Study & Healthy Competition

In all my life, I found group studies to be the most effective way I could learn. Typically, in the group, there was someone who knew the answer to a question I had.

This also reminds of the value of sharing. And a good example is this: suppose it were (thank God!) to “rain money” some day in a marketplace. And you managed to grab some money. Would you keep your hands closed for fear of losing what you have? Or would you open your hands with anticipation of catching some more?

Sure, you may drop some while opening your hands. However, you have much better chances of going home with a lot more if you opened your hands. That which may drop will land on some other hand. And that too is fine.

Mwalimu Bernard Osumo, a panelist, listens attentively

Mwalimu Bernard Osumo, a panelist, listens attentively

There is always value in sharing and putting more than one head together. In fact, when you add knowledge from one head to that of another head, you obtain more than the sum of knowledge in those two heads! Put together three of these heads and you have, not a geometric progression but an exponential one.

Learn from others! And let others learn from you.

In my days in school I used to see people that wanted to excel; and their approach was to deny you the ability to compete with them. In the process they also denied themselves the chance to learn from you. Collectively, such people left the group worse off than otherwise it would have been.

Remember this; you can defeat your classmate using any underhand techniques. However, your classmate is not really your problem! Indeed, your problem is global competition from the kids in China; the children in the USA or Europe and anywhere in the globe. Or don’t you know that we are a global village?


In the long range of things, examinations are landmarks in your journey of education. Do not treat them as ends in themselves! It would be tragic if you passed examinations and never learnt much, for there are people that remain uneducated even as they pass examinations!

And never lose hope if you fail on trying because, as they say in Kiswahili, kuteleza sio kuwanguka! People fail examinations for a number of reasons. However, that should not be the end of the world for them. Many of us failed examinations in the past. However, we tried and later passed. Personally, I sat my CPE (as it was then called) twice before passing to join Kisii High School.

If you fail, try again! And try harder, every time learning from the previous experience.

Beyond Examinations

There are many things you need to learn in the process of your education; schools offer you this opportunity. These are skills are of lifelong use that you better start internalizing, for they would help you succeed in life.

Examples include teamwork, i.e. learning to work with others; including sharing and caring for those that you work with. In Kiswahili they say that “kidole kimoja hakiuwi chawa!” In other words, you cannot kill a louse using one finger!

Communication, written, verbal and presentation, is also important. There is little point in knowing a lot that you can communicate to, and hence share with, others. As you speak to classmates, teachers and other people always try and understand what you are communicating and ensure that they understand what you are saying. People with good communication skills, on the overall, do well in life.

Critical thinking is also important for success in life. Don’t simply ask why things are they way they are. Ask why aren’t they another way! Only through critical examination of life can we find ways of improving it. And never feel constrained by the boundaries society has placed on you. Some people call this “thinking out of the box”! So beat convention and, perhaps, find better ways to deal with society’s problems and challenges.

Lead where you can and when opportunity presents itself. When I grew up those ahead of us, especially elected leaders and appointed administrators, used to urge us to work hard in school as we were “leaders of tomorrow”! Now as you know, “tomorrow never comes”! So rather than wait for your turn to lead, tomorrow, lead now!

For our Girls and Women

I want to make special mention on the education of girls and women. There is a saying, and I paraphrase it here, that when one educates a man, one educates an individual. However, when one educates a woman, one educates a society. Example: given a woman Kshs 1000.00 and she will use it to feed the family. Give the same to a man and he would probably make the bar his first stop!

And this is not to slight to fellow men; nor is it to say that we don’t educate our boys and men. We should and must do both! When we fail to educate our girls and women, we fail to take advantage of the potential present in our female-folk.

The education of women has also been shown to reduce infant mortality rates and the quality of life of society. A well-educated woman is better placed to rear healthy children than one who is not! She is likely to understand how to (say) invest any meagre resources for the benefit of the family. And this is all to our collective benefit as families, as a community and as a society. Moreover, some have claimed that in societies with educated women and where women play leaderships roles, those societies are far much better than ones ran by men only! (May be Kenya could be a much better country if we had more women in leadership; and we can get these only if we educate our girls as well as we educate our boys.)

A Parent Speaks

A Parent Speaks


Education in Gusii

For a long time now, education performance in Gusii has been wanting. Too many of our children as failing examinations and that doesn’t portend well to the future of our region. And in a system that seems to value only those that pass, one wonders what happens to those that do not make it past examinations.

And it isn’t that Gusii people are dumb, otherwise we wouldn’t be seeing many of these do well in other circumstances. I believe that the poor performance of our schools is partly due to the way schools in this place are managed.

One example is the role of clanism! Often teachers will be appointed to schools in clans they come from. Some do well while others do not! For those that do not, it is often the case that people continue to protect them saying “omwana oito” (our child) and that “monyene tana gweitera”!

I beg to differ!

If the person isn’t performing and is the cause of potential doom for hundreds of others, should the person be protected because s/he is our daughter/son? What of the hundreds of our sons and daughters that fail in his/her hands?

Teachers should be subject to merit; and should be held accountable for what they do. And it is better to sacrifice one teacher and save lives of hundreds of potential victims of the teacher’s ineptitude!

I could give more examples but time doesn’t allow me to do so. It suffices to say that we in the Diaspora have watched this situation with interest and got concerned enough to start an initiative that may help with improving education standards in Gusii.

Speaking to attendees

Answering Questions

As result, we have an initiative terms Gusii Education Advancement and Resource (GEAR – Key objectives include sensitizing the community on the need for action, getting the community to initiate and implement solutions needed to fix the problem. We collectively believe that such an approach can help stem the decline and in the process save the future of many Gusii children.

Among things we have planned include recognizing and highlighting good performance by students, schools and teachers. Note the operative word: recognition! These awards are not monetary but rather inspirational; it is our hope that by highlighting excellence, we have an opportunity for others to learn from those that are successful.

Other initiatives in the works include support for early childhood centres, for as you may know, this is crucial in shaping the future of many children. And then there is the village polytechnic initiative to address the case of those that may not proceed with further education but who need practical skills to earn a living.

There are many other initiatives that I don’t have time to mention now. However, I need to add that we also plan to convene a major event in Gusii to discuss and chart the way ahead for education of our people. We are hoping that in the year 2010, we can have education leaders, teachers, parents and other stakeholders come together at a major conference to (a) examine the nature of the problem of Gusii education performance; (b) the solutions to these problems and (c) an action plan to fix those problems.

Personally, I am excited by this initiative; and if we realize the challenge we have placed in front of us, I am sure we can have substantial impact on the lives of many, today and in the future.



Let me thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about education. I hope that I have been able to communicate to you some food for thought and that the information I shared with you would be useful for you and help you, not just in your examinations, but also as you seek further education.

The value of education lies on the creation of a better being, someone able to contribute to and represent society effectively; someone who understand his/her role in this universe. Education can also help us earn more than we would otherwise have earned.

To realize your potential through education, make sure to work consistently; share with others and ask questions of others (students, seniors, teachers and all); always be inquisitive asking not simply why things are the way they are but why are they are not in another form; examinations are not the end of the world; if you fail once, try again, each time learning from the previous time; we live in a global village and your competition could be anywhere in Kenya, Africa, America, Europe, China or even Timbuktu!; it is thus important to think globally and act locally.

As well, acquire communication and team skills; and remember to lead today for you are leaders of today, not necessarily tomorrow!

Finally, there is no end to education! This is a lifelong experience and always strife to be better educated than you were the previous period!


© December 27, 2008 Matunda Nyanchama


Matunda Nyanchama, a Canadian-based information security professional, is a past President of the Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA). He can be reached at


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