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By JONATHAN WESAYA
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Three weeks since schools started the New Year; more children are still out and the ministry is still not able to use technology to disburse funds to schools. There we are on the precipice of even a bigger crisis greater than the Form One admission with schools bursting at the seam over numbers the ministry insists they admit the status of infrastructure notwithstanding.

The Form One admissions were recently thrown into a spin by the requirement brought to the fore late in the day by the Ministry of Education that all admissions be centralised. It has become typical of the ministry to give directives and guidance on processes late in the day. Last minute is becoming the sectors surname.

Although the intention looked good at face value, and inasmuch as it is popular, as stated by the ministry that it will ensure head teachers do not sell the admission places to those with money and deny the needy their deserved places by opening up the spaces for all, a deeper look at the directive, however, points to the decision being lazy, ill-conceived and reeking of lack of any iota of thought.

Technology is supposed to make work easier and not to introduce confusion and a new layer of bureaucracy. It was thus baffling to many when the explanation given was for purposes of managing the admission data for future consumption by the ministry.

Look at it this way. Imagine a Safaricom client in Suguta Valley who has made a mistake during an M-Pesa transaction and wishes to reverse it being told to go to Safaricom house in Westlands or seek the guidance of the area client relationship manager in Eldoret!

The scenario above never happens with Safaricom because when they decided to be a technologically enabled company offering different services; they invested in the technology to give their clients options to choose from.

In creating the National Education Management Information System (Nemis), the ministry needs to have made substantial investment since this is a project that has been in the pipeline for more than ten years. The system should not have traces of bureaucracy for education administrators to carry papers from Nyando to Nairobi to input.

Technology helped the Ministry of Education and the Kenya National Examination Council to produce results, get candidates schools they were admitted to; it should help them change the admissions or provide platforms for parents, guardian and care givers to exercise choice.

While establishing a management system for a sector like education, the implementers have to check it against a criteria of three elements: functionality (Does it server a real need?), Desirability — is it likely to be appreciated by the users and flexibility/dynamism to serve the function for which it is being designed.

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Nemis, as a tool, should help in the reduction of paperwork and reduce the opacity that has defined Jogoo House for a very long time. The system needs to help amalgamate the disparate date points in the sector by literally introducing a shelter for all critical components of data and information about the sector.

The investment into the system should be such that it carries the weight of the entire education system; but also flexible and friendly enough to serve everyday needs of the local education administrator and not just the of Jogoo house honchos.

At the point of service delivery. Teachers and school heads should be able to check on attendance and enrolment trends, the academic history of their learners and identify any unique attributes of learners at a click of a button.

More than 45 per cent of children who join secondary schools in Kenya are on some support initiative by family members, well-wishers, a corporate or a charity organisation. Nemis needs to be robust enough to help all these diverse groups get accurate information on the children they support in school from wherever they are at any one time.

On the other hand, this system should be able to show what materials are approved for use in schools and for what grades or classes. It must be our one-stop shop for education resources and not just statistics.

For the Competency Based Curriculum, the systems should be able to show pathways particular learners are likely to take well in advance for purposes of futuristic planning.

If this system is designed and categories, sub-categories of the data are coded properly it will help the sector in planning and costing for education in Kenya — something we have been lacking making the sector largely work on estimates.

This year, stakeholders are expecting a lot more from the office bearers in the ministry of education and if those charged with reform and setting up of systems resist even admitting that they have fallen short in the previous years — and if they reject all criticism as politically motivated — observers and stakeholders who discern a lack of real progress in the sector may lose faith and abandon the reform dream.

The writer is the Lead Education and Strategy Consultant at Tathmini Consulting. [email protected]



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