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Welcome aboard the education train, child, don’t ask questions

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SUNNY BINDRA

By SUNNY BINDRA
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Hurry up, kid, don’t look so nonchalant.

You nearly missed the train — and that would have been catastrophic for you. You must take this very, very seriously. Your entire life is at stake.

I am your ticket inspector. Show me your ticket, please … Very good. It seems you have been getting good grades so far.

And your parents can afford the ticket. Consider yourself lucky. Most don’t make it to this point. Look at all the faces peering in outside the train station. A life of poverty and misery awaits them.

Now then, pay attention. You have a couple of minutes before we board. Listen carefully to this briefing.

You are about to board the Education Express. This is an exclusive train open only to those with the right credentials. Please board carefully and go to your designated seat.

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Once boarding is complete, you will meet your teachers. You must study many, many subjects on this leg of the journey.

You must pay attention at all times. When the bell rings, you must stop what you are doing and start studying something else, as per the schedule. The schedule is sacrosanct. Don’t question it.

What’s that? No, you can’t choose your subjects. Most are compulsory. Your betters have deemed them necessary for your edification.

Teachers? No, you can’t choose your teachers either. We have chosen them for you. I see you have a questioning nature.

Please control it henceforth. It does not help you in any way to ask too many questions.

The train will chug through some very interesting landscapes, but you must not look out of the window. Look only at your teachers or your books. The scenery is a distraction.

Your job, your only job, is to get the top grades in the examination that will come your way at the end of this leg of the journey.

The train will come to its first stop at the end of the examination. If you get good grades, you will be allowed to proceed with the rest of the journey.

Most passengers will not proceed — they will be forced off the train at that station, and will be sent back into the wilderness.

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Please don’t be one of them. The wilderness is for dropouts, hustlers and criminals. It’s wild.

If you are one of the few still proceeding, you will now prepare for a new examination. This entails fewer subjects.

Before you ask, yes, you get some choice in your subjects this time. But not much. We have crafted the correct combinations for you. We know best, remember.

Again, don’t look out of the window, don’t dream, don’t speculate. Follow the bells. Absorb what you are told. Answer questions in the way taught to you.

Don’t try your own way of answering. Do lots of practice questions. The whole point is to clock the best possible grades in the examination that will come at the end of that leg. Because?

Yes, you got it. At the station after that exam, a whole new bunch of you will be moved to the back and thrown out of the train.

An even smaller number will proceed on the rest of the education journey. After that, more examinations; more stations.

If you mess up at any point, you leave the train. Got it? All clear? This train runs on fixed tracks, laid a century ago.

We still run on the same ones. The trains are little more modern, sure, but the train sticks to the tracks. All the stations are known in advance. You get the grades, you get to keep going.

At the final station, your education journey will be complete and you will be given a new ticket.

This ticket is very valuable — don’t lose it. It is the ticket of life. It will provide you with entry into the interview halls of the biggest and best organisations.

It will give you consideration for the best jobs and careers. Without that ticket, no one will give you a second glance.

Right then, you may start to board. What’s that? More questions? Really? No, there is no alternative railway — just the wilderness, where the savages roam.

Will the studying you do on the train help you later in life? Irrelevant. The process is a test, to weed out the undeserving and let the most obedient ones proceed. There isn’t space for everyone at the end.

Off you go. Straighten your tie. Do as you’re told, and you’ll be just fine.

Sunny Bindra’s new book, The Bigger Deal, is now on sale. www.sunwords.com

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Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus

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By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

Last year in December, Nation Media Group held its first Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali. The festival tried to peer ahead the next 60 years in Africa.

There were many Brave New World ideas about how that future might look like, and also the perils that progress almost always brings. Needless to say, no one saw Covid-19 coming.

A futurist curtain-raiser in The EastAfrican, titled Africa in 2079, came close to outlining a mirror universe to the one Covid-19 is bequeathing us.

Between London, Zimbabwe, and the corners of Africa where Econet’s fibre optic network reaches, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of Econet Wireless and former chair of the board of AGRA wrote:

“I recently invested in a tech start-up that has created an Uber-like platform for tractors, enabling farmers to link up with a central database and order a tractor via SMS…freeing the farmer from the drudgery of the hoe. This service is particularly valued by women farmers, enabling them to circumvent social norms that might otherwise hamper their ability to hire a tractor.” From wherever we are hiding from the virus, unable to roam the farm, Uber farming could be the new way a lot of our food is produced.

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From Tanzania, Aidan Eyakuze, who is executive director of Twaweza East Africa and has been confined in-country as an elegant prisoner for nearly two years because of his love of inconvenient data, painted an intoxicating but strange utopian-dystopian picture of Africa at the end the century.

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By 2079, he foresaw the “vast majority of Africans earn their living through multiple micro-tasking (MMTs) ever since every ”job” was unbundled into its component tasks…leaving only those unbundled micro-tasks needing social intelligence, creativity or dexterity to be done by people. All ”taskers” are always-on private contractors who bid relentlessly for the privilege of tasking.

Incomes are kept low by the relative scarcity of tasks requiring the human touch.

“The unrelenting competition for tasks is both stressful and socially divisive — you are competing against everyone all the time…even marriages have renewable term limits, ‘in case someone better comes along.’” With work-from-home regimes, the former has come 78 years earlier.

Indeed, even for the latter, more people now probably think being cooped up with the same man or woman in the house “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,” is a very archaic model.

Between Italy and Kenya, the Society for International Development’s Arthur Muliro, peered into a what a truly borderless Africa might look. Among others, his gaze settled on, of all places, Libya.

“Libya…was now welcoming other Africans and allowing them to settle. The peace deal that had come after a decade of civil war was holding and there was new optimism, in part boosted by the arrival and expansion of new migrant groups who had settled there and were helping rebuild their adopted country.”

On a close re-reading, turns out Aidan hinted that Turkey, which jumped in the Libyan fray as the coronavirus made its way out of Wuhan, might have something to do with it.

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Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation

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By EDITORIAL

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Last week, the Sports ministry’s top officials, led by Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor Hassan and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo traversed the country to access the ongoing construction of stadiums.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also made an impromptu tour of the Nyayo National Stadium to ensure that all is well besides giving Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed full support. That has made sure that renovation works resume at all the stadiums — including Kasarani, Nyayo, Kipchoge Keino, Kamariny and Wote — and that everything is running on schedule.

Upon completion of some of these arenas, the country will have positioned itself to host major world events, especially in football, athletics and basketball. The ministry must, therefore, ensure that, while it has given contractors an ultimatum to finish their work, it also insists on quality delivery.

But there are concerns about work at county stadiums, especially in Mombasa, where those who redesigned the arena have done away with the internationally approved running track.

The new stadium has been designed for football only hence won’t host any track and field events. The four lane track will only be for warm up and this has raised eyebrows.

Mombasa County Chief Sports Officer Innocent Mugabe said Bububu grounds in Likoni and Kenya Ports Authority’s Mbaraki Sports Club will be upgraded for sports use. Mombasa being at low altitude, it is suitable for staging major World Athletics events, having staged the 2007 World Cross Country Championships.

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Kenya is bidding to host the 2025 World Championships in Athletics and Mombasa can easily be the venue with a good stadium in place. There is still time to build a county stadium.

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Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

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By EDITORIAL

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When Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced a fortnight ago the postponement of school reopening to January next year, he gave an exception. Universities, teacher training colleges and technical training institutions were directed to be ready to reopen in September.

Consequently, they were asked to put in place safety measures prescribed by the Health ministry, including reorganising classrooms and hostels to ensure social distancing. Just a month to the planned reopening, are those institutions really prepared?

In the past few days, Prof Magoha has convened meetings with the heads of the institutions to plan for the reopening and visiting the colleges to assess their preparedness. Preliminary reports from these engagements indicate that just a few institutions are ready.

POOR STATE

At the university level, so far, only Strathmore has been declared ready for reopening. Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

For teachers’ colleges, three — Murang’a, Kibabii and Kericho — have met the threshold. Assessment is ongoing for the technical training institutions.

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But the broad observation is that most of the institutions are not ready. Though not surprising, most of them are ordinarily in poor state and Covid-19 has just exposed them. Beyond the situation, long-term actions are required to revamp and revitalise them.

Reopening the colleges in September will be the starting point for relaxing restrictions in the education sector. The reason for beginning with colleges is that they have mature students who understand the health protocols and can, therefore, take care of themselves and minimise infections. Their experience would then inform plans for reopening primary and secondary schools.

REPEAT CLASSES

Closure of schools and colleges has dealt a huge blow to education. Learners in schools have lost a whole year and have to repeat classes next year. This comes with high social, economic and psychological. Indeed, this is the first time in history that schools are being closed for a year.

The last time the education sector suffered most was in 1982, when, following an abortive coup, the University of Nairobi and then-Kenyatta University College were closed for nine months. That created a major backlog and that took five years to clear. This is the reason steps should be taken at the earliest opportunity to mitigate the damage.

The challenge, therefore, is for the colleges to work on those health protocols to prepare for reopening. All other sectors, such as transport and tourism, are reopening and, therefore, colleges have no reason to lag behind. We ask the management of the institutions to expedite the required processes and get ready for reopening in September as directed.

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