MONICA NGANGA: Education should result in growth

Illustration./COURTESY
Illustration./COURTESY

Education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility—Unesco

Education is a process of enlightenment. Some arguments in the social sciences suggest that the human mind is a tabula rasa (blank slate) at conception. Others suggest a human is born with innate knowledge of an inherent truth. Out of contending schools of thought about the methods of acquiring knowledge emerged the need to create methods of instruction, such as formal education, apprenticeship, story-telling and so forth, to create social structures to govern human and institutional relationships.

The process of learning creates education, which is institutionalized according to the context in which it is offered.

Education is important for human growth yet, with progress in civilisation, it increasingly became a privilege for the wealthy few. Worse still, there has been adoption of an education aimed at suppressing the rights, freedoms and will of others, such as Hitler’s Nazi ideology of intolerance and hate towards minority groups in Germany during his reign.

Education, whether formal or informal, may serve as a tool of destruction and stagnation, or a tool of growth and development. For this reason, the global community recognised the right to education as a fundamental human right, which was enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

To this end, countries have been obligated by international laws and institutions to provide inclusive, quality and accessible education to all their citizens. This aspiration has been mirrored in the global agenda for eradication of extreme poverty, with education being the second priority of the Millennium Development Goals of 2000-2015, and fourth on the revised Sustainable Development Goals of 2015-2030.

It was observed that education was the key to achieving these goals. This has however not been the case, particularly in developing countries in Africa, Latin America and other peripheral regions. In the 2017-18 Global Education Monitoring Report, it was established that in sub-Saharan Africa, 87 per cent of pupils did not reach the minimal proficiency level in reading.

In Kenya, Unesco estimates that the adult literacy rate is at 78 per cent, with a transition rate of primary to secondary school for girls at 100 per cent and 98 per cent for boys as of 2015. A high literacy level in Kenya has however not translated to productive capacities, with an increasing youth unemployment rate of 22 per cent in 2007 to 26 per cent in 2017.

This indicates an asymmetrical relationship between level of education and employability capacities, indicating that the problem may lie in the relevance of the content in educational institutions, and the job market need. It also shows that the quality of education being offered is not progressive enough to spur innovativeness towards harnessing opportunities presented by the 21st Century and adapt to its challenges.

For this reason, there is need for governments to foster public-private partnerships to fill the gaps left by governmental limitations in managing the quality of education in learning institutions. One such initiative is the Know Your World Initiative by the Center for International and Security Affairs, a research and think tank organisation in Nairobi

It offers co-curricular programmes using education, public and cultural diplomacy; to offer international relations programmes to public high schools, as well as some private institutions, aimed at creating a critical mass of a globally-thinking young population, better equipped to adjust to 21st Century socio-political and economic dynamics.

As the world marks the International Day of Education on the 24th of January in Dalian, China, it must put emphasis on the capacity of education to spur not only intellectual growth, but also innovative capacities, curiosity, critical thinking, tolerance and oneness of purpose of the human race.

Consultant, Centre for International and Security Affairs

@Mona_Nganga