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Education – Gusii Diaspora Takes Action/Message Home

By Matunda Nyanchama

Kisii, Kenya

August 19, 2010

Participants at the 5th Annual Gusii Educational Advancement & Resources (GEAR) have called for improved standards of education in Gusii. They appealed to all stakeholders to play their rightful roles responsibly and be accountable for their actions. This would ensure that schools in the region do not continually underperform in examinations as has been the case for a long time now. Speaker after speaker reported that it is common to see a single school, outside the region, admit more students to university than would come from the entire Gusii region.

Causes of poor performance include poor leadership in schools, interference from religious sponsors and politicians, lack of teacher motivation and clanism. Mushrooming of schools across the region has not helped either as many of these are poorly equipped, or lack a critical mass of students to warrant meaningful teaching and learning.

Section Attendees

In a lively interactive session, the Provincial Director of Education in Central Province, Patrick Nyagosia, pointed out that most parents, including teachers, chose to send their children outside Gusii where they end up excelling. This characteristic, he argued, is similar to a mother cooking in her house but then sending her children to eat in a neighbour’s house! Moreover, this practice also contributes to resource migration from the region, leaving local schools that much poorer.

In Gusii, many clans vie for schools in their “land”. They further insist that the schools be ran by “one of their own”, regardless of performance. The result is that protected, underperforming teachers continue to ruin lives of hundreds of children. Clan members, it was said, appear unconcerned with the plight of the hundreds of their children that fail from year to year at the expense of protecting “one of their own”. A former PDE in Nyanza, David Siele, recounted how delegations used to flood his office seeking removal of teachers from schools for reasons other than performance. Usually the reasons were tied to clanism and decried this practice and its impact on lives of children.

The meeting also heard that there is a proliferation of ill-equipped schools, often poorly planned but approved nonetheless. This phenomenon also indicates poor resource utilization, yet there are perpetual concerns with lack of resources (infrastructure and supplies) for schools in the area. It is important that available resources be utilized optimally. A paper presented by Prof Joshua Bagaka s (interim GEAR Chairman) suggested that there are schools in poorly-endowed regions that continue to do better than schools in Gusii.

In this respect there was a call for proper planning in approving schools. District Education Boards were asked to observe strict adherence to professional advice on the viability of proposed schools. Professionals were urged to ensure that recommendations they made were based on population projections and available capacity in schools in the environment. As well, other stakeholders, including religious leaders and politicians were asked to refrain from interfering with decisions that have been reached through sound professional advice.

Dr Matunda Nyanchama, a founding member of GEAR, called for consolidation of schools for teaching effectiveness and a critical mass of student to warrant meaningful learning. He proposed that vacated facilities, following consolidation, could be used for vocational and technical training.

Kisii University College

In his opening remarks, Professor Joseph Nyasani, Chair of the council of Kisii University College, asked teachers to be dedicated and serve the community and nation. He said that if all stakeholders played their roles accordingly with the welfare of the child in mind, we stand to see improvements in school performance.  The MP for Kitutu Masaba, Hon Walter Nyambati, reported progress made in his constituency on education, which includes connection of a number of schools to the national electricity grid and a commitment from teachers in the area to raise the examination mean scores.

The PDE Nyanza, Geoffrey Cherongis, called on school heads to improve their management and leadership skills. That way, they can become adept at handling the myriad of issues that arise from day to day running of their schools. He also urged for continuous education for teachers, especially through in-service courses and other forms of learning such as teacher exchanges with schools that perform well.

A member of the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) Mokamba outlined the challenges faced by commission in meeting teacher demand. There simply is not enough money allocated to hire all the teachers required in schools. This is compounded by the proliferation of schools, and especially when experienced teachers are promoted to head newly approved schools and, in return, leaves vacant positions for which there are no ready replacements.

Religious sponsors were urged to play their roles as stipulated in the Education Act and not overstep their charge. It is common for religious sponsors to reject teachers that don’t adhere to their faith.

Following proceedings

Following Proceedings with Hon Nyambati

The meeting resolved to form committees to take the message to the grassroots. The committees would also coordinate feedback and work with GEAR on practical solutions. It was further agreed that the meeting be an annual event.

The event also saw the launch of the GEAR “Kabati Project”. Each “kabati” (cupoboard) donated through GEAR would be equipped with wide-ranging reference books, bought locally in Kenya, to complement school text books. In many schools, such a kabati would be an effective school library. (NB: each unit is appropriately priced to be affordable by a sponsor. Send a note to should like to be a Kabati Project sponsor.)

Kennedy Gisemba, another GEAR founding member, announced the future arrival of books for schools in Gusii, donated and shipped courtesy of Gusii Diaspora and Books for Africa. Further, he said that the same team had initiated discussions, now at an advanced stage, on collaboration between Kisii University College and University of Minnesota.

Seasoned retired educators, John Bosco Mboga and Joshua Nyaboga attended the conference. Others were Alice Mayaka, retired permanent secretary and Vice-Chair of the council of Kisii University; and Jared London Mairura and Margaret Obaga, both founding members of GEAR.

Check GEAR website for further updates.

Related stories:  The Launch of GEAR

Gusii Diaspora Takes Action on Poor Education Performance in Gusiiland

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