Using a lantern to find a good man, but the light reveals youth huddled in dark corners

Wednesday March 13 2019


Youth participate at a leadership forum in Nyeri, central Kenya on February 19, 2018. Devolution will continue to suffer from stunted growth as long as the young people are not the focus of its implementation and ownership. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG 

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Kenyan children have, since the beginning of the academic year, been herded into classrooms, even before the new National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) was fully functional.

I understand that the government is all about 100 percent transition from primary school to secondary school, but there are several hiccups and hurdles.

Somehow Kenyans have been made to limit themselves to education that is received in institutions of learning. If I did not have a personal interest in reading widely and a natural curiosity to know more, I would have had no chance of being able to reason or think the way I do today. Socrates said it best: The more I learn, the less I know.

If we were to survey a group of young people of university-going age, between the ages of 18 and 21, and asked them whether they liked learning, do you think most of them would answer yes?

When we think deeper about this question, do students equate learning to schools and institutions where only formal education is taught?

We tend to view learning as a period when one is in school, being drilled rather than being allowed to be inquisitive inside and outside the set school curricula. So many students end up doing the bare minimum just to sail along.


This brings me to how this system of education also affects our governance.

The country just concluded the devolution conference, one of the annual highlights of our devolved governments, where social audits and scorecards for the governors are discussed. There was talk of public participation and how it has worked in some counties and success stories and challenges were highlighted.

However, youth participation, (18-24 year old) was wanting. It is obvious that the older one gets, the more involved or engaged they get in matters of governance.

But when and how are young citizens expected to learn about devolution and its functions? It is not quite taught in our schools, we are not really told how public participation works and what an Annual Development Plan or a County Integrated Development Plan for that matter, works. If the average citizen hardly understands the cycles of government, how do we expect our youth to?

Our education is about drilling formulas and memorising phrases to impress the examiners. We are not taught about tax and the fact that each one of us has a debt to pay to government, and that now every citizens owes Ksh100,000 ($1,000). We are not taught about the responsibility of being a citizen and a good one at that. For some reason, we assume that it will be taught to us by the world and apparently, that is the best teacher.

The youth are still confused as to what devolution means to them. There are county executives for sports, and youth affairs and their mandate is not clear because the youth function was not devolved.

So whereas vocational training is still a national function, every county is expected to have vocational training institutions.

Devolution will continue to suffer from stunted growth as long as the young people are not the focus of its implementation and ownership. We will continue to hold conferences, comment on the lack of youth representation and still toast our under achievements.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is the executive director of Siasa Place. E-mail: @NerimaW