The media should highlight gains in education
This year has been a good one for teachers in Kenya! The Kenyan teacher has staked claim at the high table of honour, with two international awards in 2019. Much of this happened on the back of sheer grit on the part of the teachers who gave their all without much of the infrastructural support that the State should have put in place.
First, it was Brother Peter Tabichi from Njoro, Nakuru county, who won the Global Teacher Prize in March. Tabichi, a religious man, is more than a teacher, by all standards—his dedication has seen him donate his income to support his students and the community.
Then came the story of Erick Ademba from Homa Bay. Competing in a pool of over 50 teachers drawn from across Africa, the mathematics and chemistry teacher at Asumbi Girls High School was crowned the best teacher on the continent.
Is it time to pause and ask what good is happening in the education sector that our teachers are gaining global recognition? The story from the teaching profession has not been all rosy.
Our society has been obsessed with a completely different agenda with respect to the teaching sector. If it is not about some strike Knut could be planning, then it is about the divisions in the union.
The story of teacher strikes over pay is familiar. It appears that the Kenyan government has perfected the art of short-changing the teacher, dragging Collective Bargaining Agreements that run for a long time, yet when it’s time to implement it, the government finds an excuse to renege. The bottom line is, for the work they do, Kenyan teachers are still not well taken care of.
The other stories are just as difficult to comprehend. There is the ongoing debate over what curriculum best suits Kenya and the loudest voices coming out do not help clear the muddled ground.
When we are not debating curriculum then it is the sorry state of the classrooms across the country and lack of critical infrastructure. Yet in the middle of this focus on what ails our education system, nearly each one of us can point to a teacher who made a difference in their life. Seldom does that dedication seep through the media, until now.
Few recall 2017 when teacher Philip Kalweo from Turkana, for example, waded through floods under the escort of a police officer to deliver exams. There were calls for him to be recognised, but it is not clear whether that ever came. There are many selfless teachers across the education system, right from early childhood education to universities, who sacrifice their comfort to ensure their students turn out right.
If the recognition of our teachers by outsiders is anything to go by it, should teach us one thing—in the middle of the din and hue about what is wrong with our education system, there are some things we are doing right. The challenge is to identify what those things that we are doing right are and how we can isolate and ride on them.
It is equally true that in the discipline of education, we have some unfortunate characters and their stories are there for all to hear.
But we have heard enough of the bad characters and what is wrong with our education. It may be time to reflect on what is going on right with our system that is producing these global award winning teachers who put Kenya on the map and seek to exploit them.
The media has its work cut out.
—The writer is the Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University