REMARKS OF RT. HON RAILA ODINGA AT THE AFRICAN PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP CENTER ROUNDTABLE 2018
TOWARD A CONTINENTAL STRATEGY FOR EDUCATION EXCELLENCE
Four Seasons Hotel, Westcliff, Johannesburg, South Africa
OCTOBER 30TH 2018
Education has always been viewed in Africa as a tool for liberation and a requirement for national development.
It has also been viewed as a possible tool for subjugation by the authorities if not carefully watched.
In Kenya during the colonial era, freedom fighters sought education as a tool for empowering the Africans to enable them confront the colonisers and eventually manage the affairs of the nation once the colonisers were forced out.
But the view of education as a possible tool for subjugation made some people create independent schools, just like they did, independent churches.
At the centre of this contest was the question of what type of education do we need and what was the education for?
In the years that followed, Nelson Mandela came to describe education as “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.
So the centrality of education to human progress has long been acknowledged at the highest levels of Africa’s political leadership.
The challenge, however, has been actualization.
The question however remains: how inclusive and equitable is education in Africa?
What can we do to promote inclusion and equity ensuring no one is left behind, particularly with regard to post-primary education?
Today many institutions are yet to come up with workable modes of delivering higher education programmes that take cognizance of individual learning and physical disabilities, cultural diversities; and technologies which reduce the existing divide between rural and urban areas; high income earners and the poverty-ridden segment of society.
Two weeks ago, I presided over a graduation ceremony and I made the point that we need to start giving dedicated focus to three things that are critical to the development of Kenya and Africa at large.
These three things are; One, research, Two, research, Three, research.
Without research, we are sitting ducks in a rapidly and constantly changing world.
I believe we can and must use our experience and influence to push our Continent to invest in and support more basic research that can be used to innovatively enhance our lives.
As a continent, we need to agree that each year; we will devote more money to research and a clear list of the projects to be financed and why they matter.
But first some basic adjustments must take place. There must be a level playing field for girls and boys in access to education.
As much as girls’ chances of beginning the quest for education are almost as high as that of boys, they lag behind in progression and completion.
Studies have shown that a good number of challenges faced by girls in their school life creep up just before teenage hood and persist.
Some of the factors that account for girls’ poor performance in the long run include long distances to school, insecurity, religion, lack of sanitary facilities, parental illiteracy and neglect, strained communication between parents and their daughters, sexual predators and broken families. We must protect our girls right to education
While it is beneficial to have an educated populace there is need to ensure that massification is not achieved at the expense of quality.
Finally, and most importantly, the time has come for Africa to confront the dark reality that all the education that the Continent has given its daughters and sons has failed to address; this is the specific problem of corruption or Governance more generally.
It is a fact that the huge corruption scams that pull Africa down are conceived and executed by some of the best brains in the Continent.
Africa must confront the culture of short cuts, deals and quick wealth and deal with it today and not tomorrow.
We are not merely staring at great moral decay as a continent. We are deep in the middle of a great moral decay.
The belief that the end justifies the means is taking deep roots in our society with encouragement of leaders and well educated elite.
And so we go back to the initial question: Education for what?
My response would be that we need to go back to President Harry Truman over 70 years ago and what he thought about education.
In 1960, Truman said:
“Our children are our greatest resource, and our greatest asset–the hope of our future, and the future of the world. We must not permit the existence of conditions, which cause our children to believe that crime is inevitable and normal.
“We must teach idealism–honour, ethics, decency, the moral law. We must teach that we should do right because it is right, and not in the hope of any material reward.”
Africa must start teaching idealism if education is to be the force for good that it is meant to be.