Notably, numerous students lost strategic direction expected during the empowerment process. As a result, studies became difficult and eventually frustrating.
By MWANGI WANJUMBI
The Education CS Amb Amina Mohamed recently issued a directive requiring universities to establish career guidance departments, that would be expected to guide students on available opportunities in the marketplace, including what needs to be done to have them secure unfilled jobs after graduation. The truth, however, is that whereas the interventions are welcome, they will be coming too late in the day, when disempowerment has already taken shape. As at now, more than 50 per cent of the graduates being largely unemployable. In addition, more than 80 per cent of the employed join the list of those dispassionate about the work they do.
The truth is that people who are properly empowered with the power to read and do what appertains to the degrees conferred, never struggle for job opportunities. Instead, they easily secure rewarding jobs and if that does not happen, they create their own. So, why is it that the majority end up being unemployed or unemployable after being educated for a whole 18 years?
First, the world has continued evolving dramatically while in search of efficient utilisation of resources, including human capital. Further, the environment we live in has been subject to continually advancing technology. This has rendered some jobs or professions unattractive or untenable.
Take accounting for example; most accounting transactions are today highly computerised leaving the accounts staff with the role of keying in the data and interpreting the same. Ironically, this activity does not have to be executed by trained accountants. In that regard, the glory associated with the accounting profession is continually declining, even as universities continue churning out numerous commerce graduates, who have specialised in accounting.
Secondly, the operating environment is continually becoming competitive even as opportunities decline. Could the trends of globalisation have a hand in this? In recent years, we witnessed demonstrations in Nairobi, by small business operators pressurising the government to kick out Chinese business people for invading most sectors of the national economy. However, is kicking out these foreigners practical in today’s free world?
Thirdly, the dynamics of conducting business have become quite disruptive. Until recently, gaming and betting machines presented profitable business opportunities, all over the country. The same has now been outlawed, after being found to influence the society negatively.
The society is so fixated on opportunities that are beneficial only in the short term, therefore entrenching the continued disempowerment.
Blame it on education system
The truth is, Kenya’s education system may not be up-to-speed with global trends. This is so because the same extrinsic factors that influenced education in the 70s, 80s and 90s have not changed with changing market demands. We may be in the 21st Century physically, but still making choices based on the 20th Century dynamics. Students are studying and aiming to secure lucrative jobs, make money and become rich.
During the 70s, 80s and 90s students used to engage in arts and crafts even though there were no examinations on the same. Those who excelled in those areas were largely admitted to technical secondary schools that were then spread in the different regions. The students from these schools ended up becoming successful engineers and technicians in different fields. Are these technical secondary schools in existence today? Some were taken over by universities, whereas others have now become national polytechnics, which admit post-secondary school students for tertiary education. Has this served the country right?
Those students who were not academically gifted and could probably have excelled in technical schools had nowhere to go. Instead, they joined the available academic oriented schools, whereby the goal was to secure degrees and eventual lucrative jobs, as would have been expected. Alongside, many students ended up becoming academic underachievers. Notably, numerous students lost strategic direction expected during the empowerment process. Studies became difficult and eventually frustrating. Does that then explain the numerous discipline challenges experienced in the school system, as students vent their frustrations?
The good news is that the new curriculum rolled out up to Grade 3 could have captured the challenged direction of the education system. The competency-based education seems focused towards solving these problems, but from a futuristic perspective. What of those students who are beyond Grade 3? Should we not think outside the box and help them overcome the existing and well-known empowerment challenges, as they progress through the education ladder?
I believe that practical and tested solutions are within reach, but the mentalities of the 20th Century will not allow the education system to take full advantage of the same. As such, it will be unfortunate for this country to continue addressing symptoms, instead of uprooting the empowerment challenges in their entirety.
The writer is the Author of “Living Beyond Survival” and the KICD approved strategy guide titled “Career Dynamics in the 21st Century.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org