Setbook learning has no place in real life

In Summary
  • The setbooks are colonial hangovers. We study them for lack of an alternative
  • The ministry officials are lazy so they cannot think of better alternatives

The new English Literature and Kiswahili Fasihi setbooks for high school will be released soon by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum and Development. This is a ritual that happens every four years.

It is high time this ritual was discarded, setbooks are unnecessary baggage. It does not serve the learners any good to moil and toil studying more than six titles so as to answer application questions in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam. I submit that studying Literature and Kiswahili Fasihi setbooks in high schools is a waste of time.

Currently, there are five English setbooks and almost the same number for Kiswahili Fasihi. KCSE candidates are expected to study close to 10 titles to answer questions in the final examination. That has been the norm since the inception of KCSE in 1985.

Sometimes we find things happening in a particular way and lack the conviction to ask why they are done so. We just follow them without understanding the rationale behind them.

It is time to question the value the many setbooks add to our lives, especially after graduating from school. How does studying them help us in our careers? The time has come for us to question the validity and the purpose these setbooks serve.

The world over conventions are being questioned. We can't just follow conventions blindly. We are not just questioning but seeking to understand why. Albert Einstein defined insanity as the act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This culture of blindly following things deprives us of creativity and originality. I dare ask, what value does Blossoms of the Savannah add to a KCSE candidate's life? Nothing. With all due respect to Henry ole Kulet and the message he tries to pass—women empowerment and fight against FGM.

However, I still have the courage to ask what value is FGM knowledge to a KCSE candidate who lives where such a vice is not practised? Just because one community practices FGM does not mean we all get sensitised about it. That is educational wastage. Candidates should study setbooks with captivating, global and challenging impact. No wonder even after years of studying setbooks, we still do not have global writers.

The setbooks are colonial hangovers. We study them for lack of an alternative. The ministry officials are lazy so they cannot think of better alternatives. They are not even studying their own competency based curriculum designs to change with emerging times. 

All the years I have taught KCSE setbooks, I have felt caged, deprived and enslaved to think in predetermined ways.

High school candidates should carry out writing projects, scripting their own stories. That way, they can utilise this skill after school. Supposing they script their own plays, films, soaps and novels that would help them eke a living.

How many students end up miserable after Form 4 yet they studied 10 setbooks? Many. Why? Setbooks are studied to pass exams and not as a skill from which students can earn a living after school. That is the greatest tragedy of our school system. 

Look at the literary bareness we are experiencing even after studying almost 40 titles since 1985. The quality of the novels in the Kenyan market is below standard. Most of them are cut and paste.

With 36 years of studying setbooks, we still have difficulty replacing Ngugi wa Thing'o and Chinua Achebe with contemporary writers. Setbook learning needs a rethink.