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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Revamping educational system (Part 1)

Albert Einstein once described insanity as ‘doing same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. Similarly, education in Africa has had little transformational effect to the continent because largely it remains irrelevant to the development needs of the continent and nothing much is being done to align education programmes towards the development needs of the continent.
Our curriculum today still remains what it was five decades ago! In short, for the past fifty years of post independence Africa our education system has remained more less the same what it was during the colonial days. 

The western incursion into Africa brought with it a repudiation of everything original to the African continent. The African way of doing things are always regarded as backward, unscientific and barbaric. 

Indigenous African knowledge is regarded as baseless and summarily dismissed as superstition. Such mentality could be traced from colonial era. Be that as it may the African governments that followed did little or nothing to change the status quo to value and restore African heritage and confidence. 

For example, up to date, in schools we are still taught or we still teach that it’s the white explorers who discovered all great African physical features. 

Imagine teaching a Musoga child from Jinja in Uganda that it is John Hannington Speke who discovered the source of River Nile or that it’s Mungo Park who discovered Niger River in 1876! 

Indirectly, you are teaching this child that his great grand fathers who lived around these areas were blind and good for nothing lot who could not know there was a river within their vicinity!’... Ashamed of his lineage, the African child considers the Europeans heroic to have traveled thousands of miles to ‘discover’ a river just by the nose of his own people. 

He dreams of being like the Europeans, the great discoverers, and understandably loses any regard for his ‘ignorant’ people. 

The deep rooted inferiority complex leads him to dismiss whatever is African; cloth, food, culture, values, speech, technology and medicine as inadequate and in that same mindset, he rears his children’( Dr Chika Ezeanya, 2011). 

The fact that Education systems in African did little or nothing to transform the continent was compounded by the emphasis on qualifications with little regard to skills. 

Because the European colonial administrators wanted Africans whom they could use as administrative assistants, they taught basic clerical functions but not education to transform their lives! This is what translated into today’s white collar jobs and education system that produces job seekers not job creators. 

This mentality or approach has not been changed to this day! Our curriculum is heavily entrenched with a lot of theoretical subjects and our focus is on paper qualification than acquisition of skills. 

Although skills and qualifications may be used interchangeably, these two words may not necessarily have the same meaning. A skill may be defined as ability and capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to smoothly and adaptively carryout complex activities or job functions involving ideas (cognitive skills), things (technical skills), and/or people (interpersonal skills”. 

On the other hand,  qualification is the capacity, knowledge, that matches or suits an occasion, or makes someone eligible for a duty, office, position, privilege, or status. Qualification denotes fitness for purpose through fulfillment of necessary conditions such as attainment of a certain age, taking of an oath, completion of required schooling or training, or acquisition of a degree or diploma. 

Qualification does not necessarily imply competence. Different dictionaries may give different definitions about skill and qualification, but what is apparent is that qualification does not mean competence! 

It is this thin but significant difference that our education system and the labour market today seem not to be paying attention to. On one hand, we have an education system that gives paper qualifications, and the labour market that demands such qualifications regardless of the skills. 

No wonder the minimum qualification for any job position in any organisation in Rwanda today is a degree. No matter where you got it from, including buying it from streets! Since having the paper qualification in a name of degree one is assured of a good job, no matter the skills, people have resorted to acquiring these degrees, no matter from where or how! 

Those who do not buy these degree certificates from the streets have joined the Candidat libre centers irrespective of their previous school levels. 

It’s not surprising that we have many primary leavers and secondary school drop outs that have joined universities! This is what some scholars have termed as “Financially generated degrees”. The fact that our education system emphasizes paper qualification with little regard to skills has made people to take short cuts. 

By Stephen Mugisha

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