Obulala an Amani

How giants have fallen

By Julius Bosire, March 09 2008
In the 1970s and 1980s, the mention of some school names immediately brought to mind academic success. Agoro Sare High School in South Nyanza, Shimo la Tewa School at the Coast, Kerugoya Boys’ High School in Kirinyaga, Cardinal Otunga in Kisii, Kagumo High in Nyeri, among others, were schools that made parents confidently believe their children would excel at the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination.

Other schools that generated this kind of confidence included Tengecha Boys’ High School, St Peter’s Kapropita High School, Sawagongo, St Mary’s Yala and Rapogi High. Girls’ schools that shone included Ng’iya and Lwak high schools in Siaya district, Tumu Tumu and Bishop Gatimu Ngandu high schools in Nyeri, Kereri in Kisii, Nangina Girls, Mukumu Girls, Star of the Sea and Nyabisawa.

Today, however, most of these schools are hardly heard of. In fact, some parents turn down their children’s admission to some of these fallen giants. In the 1980s, these schools were scrambled for and, if a student was not admitted to any of them, he or she would look for and read notes from students who had found a place there.

Students interacted with their counterparts from these giants with one aim; to borrow ideas on how to perform better in KCSE. Mock examination questions were exchanged during the holidays, something that students hardly do today. Various reasons have been cited for the decline, ranging from indiscipline to dilapidated infrastructure, while some head teachers feel that the problem lies in the ranking system.

“How I wish we didn’t rank schools. We have stopped training our children to competitively handle world challenges and we are tutoring them for examinations,” one teacher said. Most teachers who talked to the Sunday Nation expressed concern about the worrying trend of cheating in examinations.

Although evidence indicates that some schools have been penalised for cheating, most teachers said that the Kenya National Examinations Council needs to do more.

“We urge the Kenya National Examinations Council to guard against examination leakage which is one of the causes of the ranking discrepancies,” another teacher said. However, the principal of State House Girls’ High School, Mrs Sera Ndege, said her school had maintained its mean grade of B- for the past four years and the ranking of the school did not bother her as long as the individual students performed well.

Ms Ndege said her main concern now is to ensure that the mean grade improves, as every student performed well and got a mean grade that would allow them pursue university education. Some teachers who spoke on condition of anonymity said the ranking system had caused some head teachers to allow their students to cheat to raise the ranking of their schools. They claimed that some schools were directing their energies towards drilling students purely for the purpose of getting the school a high national position.

Although some schools are not well equipped for science subjects, this does not seem to offer sufficient reason for the giants’ fall. Some schools performed admirably, even though they did not appear in the list of top performers, raising questions as to what the ranking criteria are.

The introduction of the quota system has also been blamed for the declining performance of provincial schools. Under this system, students are drawn from the province these schools are located. Before this policy was introduced, students were drawn from all provinces of the country.

Teachers argue that before the introduction of the quota system, students used to compete for excellence. The standards they sought were much higher than they are today. The quota system, however, killed this spirit and made students lax. The teachers also blamed political interference for the fall of the giants. They said the process of selecting school heads was hijacked by powerful politicians and sponsors.

The result of this was that head teachers were selected depending on who backed them, rather than on who was best suited for the job.  This demoralised teachers and the schools lost momentum in their quest for excellence.

Source: Nation

Khaemba to take final bow at Alliance

By Antony Njagi, Sept 23 2007

Alliance High School Principal Christopher Khaemba is leaving for South Africa to be the pioneer head of the continent’s unique institution — the African Leadership Academy. Mr Khaemba had emerged the best among top scholars after seven months of head-hunting, short-listing and interviewing candidates for the prestigious job. The Johannesburg-based academy opens its door next February. 

‘‘The academy’s aims to develop the next generation of African leaders. Its mission is to educate and develop outstanding students,’’ Mr Khaemba told the Nation at Alliance High, where he was overseeing his final Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination candidates.  He is also supervising his last Alliance High school project — a three-hostel complex — at a cost of Sh45.7 million. The hostel will accommodate 400 boys, who will be moved from the schools old and dilapidated dormitories. The other 450 are already in fairly modern hostels that were built between 2002 and 2004.

The South African academy will admit the best high school students from Africa and the rest of the world. ‘‘At the end of the year I’m expected to leave Alliance High School and relocate to South Africa’’ he said. ‘‘The academy will have assembled its first class of about 100 students selected from across the world,’’ he said. For the past 81 years, Alliance High School has produced the leading crop of students and is the most successful school in Kenya in terms of performance.  The school has consistently performed well in national examinations, being among the top three schools. Many of the current leaders in politics, business, the civil service and other sectors were nurtured at Alliance.

It is the dream of many pupils to join this prestigious institution, which over the years has gone from strength to strength.  However, the school does not lack problems. Many of the structures built when the school was started are now dilapidated and require replacement.  The school has over the past 37 years grown from a population of 520 boys to 850. ‘‘There has not been a commensurate expansion in facilities,’’ says Mr Khaemba. Funds are needed to renovate dormitories, laboratories and libraries. 

Mr Khaemba says that the school also needs funds to educate boys from poor homes.  The school, unlike Starehe Boys’ Centre in Nairobi, has no programme for catering for needy students. Mr Khaemba says he will not throw a boy out of the school for because his parents cannot afford school fees. ‘‘Out of the total student population of 850 students, 300 cannot afford school fees,’’ says Mr Khaemba.  To offset the cost of expansion and to put in place a needy students’ endowment fund, old boys has organised a major harambee for October 13 at the school.

The fund-raising committee has organised a series of events to achieve its goal.  There will be the Alliance Royale Car Raffle, in which a Hummer 3 vehicle worth Sh6 million will be up for grabs. Vice-President Moody Awori is expected to launch the raffle this Thursday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi. The committee has also organised dinners for old boys in Nairobi, Eldoret and Mombasa.  There will be a marathon, which will be open to the public. The committee is headed by Mr Mugo Kibati, the chairman of the Old Boys Club and the guest of honour at the fund-raiser. 

The ambitious project is the last in the school calendar for Mr Khaemba, before his departure in February. The African Leadership Academy was set up with the intention of ‘‘developing the next generation of African leaders’’ and it will open its doors to 250 students aged 15 to 18 years next year.  Mr Khaemba says that he will tackle the challenge of heading it in the same way he has done in Alliance and previously, Friends School Kamusinga.  While at Kamusinga, he oversaw the rehabilitation of the school’s administration block, staff room and classrooms. He also introduced Information Technology at Kamusinga. 

Mr Khaemba’s life revolves around education. He says he believes in teamwork and giving everybody a chance to use their abilities to the full.  Education is a primary need that should not be denied anyone, he says, full of praise for the Government for introducing free primary education in 2003. Last April, Mr Khaemba travelled to the US to seek chances for his students at prestigious universities and to source financial support for his school.  He visited Harvard University, where he consulted with the institution’s officials on creating chances for Alliance students there.

Mr Khaemba says that the money raised in the planned fund raiser will give poor pupils a chance to join Alliance.  His parting wish is to leave the school a better place than he found it. ‘‘Through these efforts I hope to leave behind a school with a sound financial base when I move to South Africa,’’ he says.

Source: Nation


Teachers' college to cost Sh1.7bn

By Simbi Kusimba, July 29 2007

About Sh1.7 billion will be used to build a teachers training college offering diploma courses at Kibabii near Bungoma Town. Tenders for the project will be awarded in September while construction will begin in October, said a report by the Bungoma South district education officer, Mr Riungu Wanjau.

According to him, the Ministry of Roads and Public Works had committed Sh600 million to fund the first phase of the project, which is expected to be completed in April, 2010. An administration block, classrooms, hostels, dining and multi-purpose halls, a learning resource centre, senior staff houses, a lecture theatre and sports facilities will be built under the first phase.

“The initial work scope plan was for a primary teachers training college but this has now been amended for a diploma college in line with the Kenya Science Teachers Training College model. Preliminary architectural designs and plans have been completed and approved by the Roads Ministry”, a copy of the report read in part. The report was tabled at a special District Education Board meeting chaired by Bungoma South district commissioner Osman Warfa. 

Those invited to the talks endorsed the proposal to build the college on the 28.3 hectare plot bordering St Mary’s Kibabii High School, about five kilometres from Bungoma Town. The project was earlier scheduled for funding from the African Development Fund, but was shelved after a contractor took off with a Sh33 million advance from the Government in 1987. At the time, it had been estimated to cost Sh338 million.

240 trainees

According to recommendations by a technical team from the Ministry of Education, which toured the area last week, the college can be started at the Family Life Training Centre at Tuuti with an initial 240 trainees. The Kanduyi CDF committee has committed to spend Sh2 million to refurbish facilities at the centre. The principal of the college is expected to be posted soon to facilitate its opening. The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education and his counterpart from the Gender, Sports and Social Services are expected to finalise the transfer of the centre to the Ministry of Education.

====source: The Nation



Bungoma gets lions's share of teachers

By Samuel Siringi, Nairobi July 13 2007
Bungoma District has been allocated the highest number of slots in the new teacher recruitment that begins tomorrow across the country. It will hire 410 primary schools, 100 more than Machakos with the second highest number at 323. A total of 8,630 primary school teachers will be recruited this year and 2,300 in secondary. Nakuru District will hire 310 primary school teachers followed by Makueni (293), Siaya (288), Kakamega (275) and Kitui (263).

Nyambene (Meru North), Migori and Butere Mumias with 254, 238 and 235 respectively, complete the list of top 10 districts allocated the highest number of places in the country. Thika municipality was allocated only three slots and was identified as among areas with sufficient number of teachers. Second from bottom is Kitale municipality (11), Eldoret municipality (13), Ijara (16) and Nakuru municipality (20).

Teachers Service Commission (TSC) secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni says the 11,000 new staff will replace those who have left the service through natural attrition. It had been widely held that only 7,000 teachers were needed to replace those who had left the classroom, but the extra number indicates that the employment embargo slapped in 1998 may have been lifted. “Applicants are, therefore, invited from professionally qualified teachers,” Mr Lengoiboni says in a media advertisement appearing in the Sunday Nation tomorrow.

Interested candidates are required to submit their applications, together with photocopies of academic and professional certificates, to district education officers. They have been given up to July 27 to tender their applications. District selection panels will select the candidates and forward merit lists to Mr Lengoiboni by August 13, after ratification by district education boards. For primary schools, applicants must be qualified teachers holding P1, P2, S1 or diploma in education certificates and be under 45 years.

He said preference would be given to those who have not been previously employed by the commission. Mr Lengoiboni warns: “TSC will only deal with DEBs in this exercise and no individual application to the commission will be entertained.” He said the 74 districts and municipalities allowed to recruit new teachers were those that were severely understaffed. Nairobi Province has not been allocated any vacancy, on the grounds it is overstaffed.

Normally, various districts declare their total shortage which is considered when allocating places.  The 11,000 new teachers who are expected to be in the TSC payroll are, however, a drop in the ocean as government statistics indicate the shortage stands at about 35,000. Kenya National Union of Teachers puts the figure at 60,000. According to the guidelines issued by Mr Lengoiboni, Nyanza Province has been allocated the highest number of slots for new teachers in secondary schools. The province, said to have lost many teachers to HIV/Aids, will recruit 574 new secondary school staff.

It is followed by Rift Valley with 564 teachers, Eastern (501), Central (288), Western (227) and Coast (100). North Eastern will recruit 46. Fifty technical teachers will be employed and 20 tutors for teachers training colleges. The commission says recruitment through the decentralised and demand-driven method has greatly helped alleviate shortage in the “difficult-to-staff” areas such as North Eastern and Coast, according to public relations officer Kihumba Kamotho.

Although Nyanza does not have as many schools as Rift Valley, Eastern and Central, Mr Kamotho said, it would receive the highest number of teachers due to higher attrition rates. In secondary schools, the teachers to be recruited will handle languages, sciences, humanities and technical subjects. Applicants would, unlike in primary schools, send their applications to school boards by July 27.

Mr Lengoiboni ruled out change in combination of subjects designated for schools where the vacancies have been identified.  Selection panels are advised to exercise the highest degree of transparency and accountability as required by the Public Officer Ethics Act. To ensure no deserving candidate is locked out of the recruitment, Mr Lengoiboni asks DEBs to prepare a record of all qualified applicants. “Any candidate with complaints related to the recruitment should write to the local DEO and send a copy of the complaint to the TSC immediately,” Mr Lengoiboni says. Under the centralised recruitment for primary schools, district boards are required to present a merit list to the commission for ratification after the interviews.
Source: Nation Media


Luhya schools performing poorly

By Education Writer, March 16, 2007
While Friends School Kamusinga, Lugulu Girls and Bunyore Girls high schools did Western Province proud in last years Kenya certificate of Secondary Examinations( KCSE), certain schools with similar stature failed to live up to their respective promises. The schools in question have similar endowments in terms of learning facilities and teachers but for some reason which I have long refused to understand, they did not posit excellent results commensurate with the human, material and financial resources at their respective command.

Some of these schools were academic giants in the 1980's and 90's. The schools have the capacity to reclaim their pride of place in the academic map of this country. They admit equally bright students in Form One; they have impressive laboratories, well stocked libraries as well as well trained teachers. They still have the capacity to mould future doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, communication technologists, teachers at graduate levels and professionals as they did in years gone by.

And they can do it. Effective school management, a management system that delivers excellent, not simply good results does not need the knowledge and peculiar skills of rocket science. It is transformative management of the financial, material and human resources at the disposal of school heads that ultimately returns excellent results.

Big provincial schools in the league of Friends School Kamusinga, Lugulu and Bunyore Girls should, every year, send off a minimum of 20 students who go to university to study Engineering, Medicine, Law, Bachelor of Commerce and a minimum of 60 students who could join public universities to study whatever it is they want to study.

Transactional leadership style, a management style that simply plods on from day to day, obsessed with procedures and not on results has become outmoded and the earlier school heads in Western discarded it the better. Sending off less than 30 students out of over 150 students to public universities is a big shame. It should shame the head teachers of such a school because ultimately, he/she alone counts by virtue of the management style he/she brings to bear on the resources the school has.This is particularly so when the students were admitted into the schools having passed very well in their Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations (KCPE).

And this can be done. If school heads can work with their respective teacher-colleagues whom he/she should regard as fellow professionals; if they are not taken in with their status and preoccupied with authority and privileges the office confers on them; if they separate themselves, as individuals from their offices, and willingly assume their purely ceremonial obligations and honours of the position; if they have any vision worthy talking about and effectively communicate it to everybody having a stake in the school( the students, the teaching and non-teaching staff, the parents, members of Board of Governors, the school neighbourhood), then, theirs is the glory that will inevitably return through the resurgence of their schools in national examinations.

This is the ultimate magic. Indeed, management is the ultimate magic. Oh yes; Leadership is the thing. American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man (woman) Not reading Riot Acts to the teachers; not complaining about fees arrears, political interference of the schools by politicians, rude teachers, indiscipline among students and other excuses.

An effective administrator will mould all these into one whole and make it work towards one direction, towards one goal. Western Province needs its own indigenous doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers and oh yes, Rocket Scientists. What do have to show to demand a place at the High Table? ET

Source: Kenya Times