Why Schools In Coast Posted Poor Exam Results
The 2011 K.C.P.E results sent shockwaves with the placement of five out of six coastal counties at the bottom of the list. And as has been the trend, public schools in Coast region were once again caught napping. Despite the dismal performance by the entire region except Mombasa, it would only be fair to appreciate that each county has its own peculiar challenges and that such challenges can only be addressed by the leaders and residents of the affected county.
Take Kwale county for example. The county boasts of enormous natural wealth, some of which are either known, recently discovered or still hidden beneath the earth. Tourism—one of the major economic activities which earns Kenya a substantial share of foreign income is concentrated in Kwale’s Tiwi, Diani, Galu Kinondo, Chale, Funzi and Wasini islands, to name but a few.
A recent study carried out in the vast county presents mouth-watering revelations. In Poverty in the midst of wealth: The Case of Natural Resources in Coast Province, Ilishe Trust—a Mombasa based civil society organization, identifies Kwale as the second wealthiest county in terms of natural resources in the entire coast province after Taita Taveta. Some of such resources are concealed in land, water, wildlife, fishery, mining and forestry. Whether these resources are managed with the bias to improving the livelihood of the Kwale communities and how their availability affects the education development of potential beneficiaries is a story for another day.
Early in the year, Uwezo Kenya—a non governmental organization, conducted a national survey to assess the literacy and numeracy levels of children aged between 6 to 16 years. The study had damning revelations. Released in the second half of 2011, the report bears a very close relationship with this year’s KCPE results in the manner of ranking.
For example, Kirinyaga County which topped in this year’s national ranking appeared third nationally in the Uwezo-Kenya report after Nairobi and Mombasa in that order. At number 7 out of 47 counties, Taita Taveta came second in coast, followed by Lamu (13), Kilifi (18), Tana River (29), while Kwale held the tail end at position 36. The ranking was based on class 3 pupils who could do class 2 English, Kiswahili and Mathematics.
According to the report, nine out of ten children in class 3 cannot read a class 2 story written in English in Kwale; neither can 3 out of 4 children in class 3 do class 2 divisions. The report also indicates that the proportion of out of school children in Kwale is higher than the national average.
“Learning levels are very low. Only 1 out of 10 class 3 children can read class 2 story,” reveals the report. Learner absenteeism, says the report, is also very high. “Nearly half of the children are missing school daily,” says the report. The report titled: Are our children learning also indicates that the percentage of girls and boys aged between six and sixteen years who can do class two work is 41% and 48% respectively. While the Ilishe report advocates empowering the communities and establishing effective structures to safeguard ownership and exploitation of natural resources in the region, the Uwezo report urges all stakeholders to read, get informed, discuss, take action and make the difference.
Whereas the recommendations of the two organizations may not be the panacea to the challenges Kwale and Coast in general is facing, there is need to start from somewhere. One fact must not be taken for granted: Some of the most highly educated Kenyans hail from Kwale’s three constituencies of Matuga, Kinango and Msambweni. This challenge should therefore be taken up by Kwale professionals caucus whose membership comprises respected men and women both in the public and private sector.
As stake-holders in various parts of the country ponder on what steps to take after the not very good results nationally, all leaders in Coast region should perhaps start by addressing issues raised in the Uwezo-Kenya report as one way of enhancing education standard in the six counties.
Political and religious leaders must take the initiative of restoring confidence of the coastal residents that their children are no different from the others in the rest of Kenya. As much as it is important to advocate for land rights, it is equally imperative to look at the education sector. Let the parents, seek explanations from the schools about why things are the way they are. Let there be a consultative relationship between all parties. Otherwise, with its vast wealth of natural resources, the region needs an educated population more than it needs anything else.