I recently spent an afternoon with students from St. Luke’s Shanderema ACK Mixed Secondary School in Kakamega. Mr Joseph Juma Buluma, the principal, had invited me to speak to the students on the value of education. The session was designed to open minds to the great opportunities education promises beyond school learning.
The school was founded in 2014 as a mixed day school. It has a total of 189 students. This year, the Form 4 class will sit their national examination, a first for the school. Being a school tucked right in a village setting, the chance to speak to the students was an invaluable learning experience. I was happy, too, to note the area MP, Ben Washiali, had visited the school a few days before.
What does it mean to be in a school that an average Kenyan pays but little attention to? What future do you hold when you are the pioneer examination class? How do you set your targets and how do you seek to realise them when your own worldview is framed from the narrow perspective of the village that is also your home?
We spoke about these questions extensively and found ways of thinking beyond the narrow perspective framed by the environment in which the school is located. We spoke about hope, discipline, and confidence. We concluded by renewing our faith that education must remain the greatest equaliser. Being educated, we agreed, is not an option but a compulsory reality of life.
The coincidence of the staged attack on Governor Ali Hassan Joho regarding allegations of fake certificates was, however, not lost on me. There is no doubt that this attack has very little to do with the allegations. If indeed the allegations were the only reason for the summons to the CID, then two clarifications are necessary.
First, why did the relevant institutions wait until President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to sort Joho out to swing into action? We know the president is frustrated with Joho and the fact that the Jubilee Party is unable to attain the kind of traction it arrogantly expects from the coast. As such, in a feat of rage underserving of a President, his government has targeted Joho using all manner of attacks.
Second, any credible method of dealing with the menace of fake certificates cannot be as ad hoc and selective as this one. I have lived in Kenya long enough to know when a politically instigated attack is in gear. All manner of threats to extend the cleanup to others are issued but they never materialise.
Perhaps, the CID is not aware of previous numerous reports of River Road locations as dens for the manufacture of fake things, including certificates. Only recently, a sitting MP was deported from a European destination for having faked an entry stamp into Europe. Our responsible security agencies slumbered through that revelation.
What is astonishing is that the same political arena is littered with people who either have fake certificates or who are guilty of having attended schools that are anything but credible. Some of these people received presidential approval before assuming office. That the relevant security agencies have slept through this only to wake up to the realisation that Joho forged his certificates speaks volumes about our high-voltage hypocrisy.
We need to keep sanity in our education sector for the sake of the students in school. The students need to believe that learning is indispensable to progress and it opens the way for numerous future possibilities. They need to know that irrespective of what school they attend, fair assessment of their capacities will determine their place in society.
This basic expectation should not be subject to presidential decrees to sort anyone out. It must be a guarantee that the relevant institutions maintain the standards for all irrespective of political affiliation or mood of the president.
Godwin R. Murunga teaches development studies at the University of Nairobi.