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By Jaymo Wa Thika

Yesterday we had a conversation with a friend about the deplorable state of our public service and the lack of professionalism in virtually all spheres. One thing boiled down my mind…. Things have fallen apart in this country. Be it in the public or in the private sector, there is nothing to smile about.

Have you ever come across a situation where you have preferred to be served by an elderly professional rather than that youthful and energetic graduate? Have you ever come across, say a patient preferring to be attended by an elderly doctor rather than a young doctor? Have you asked yourself why companies hire the services of old and experienced lawyers?

There must be a reason for all these preferences to the old guards.

Gone are the days when a doctor was regarded in great esteem. Neither the teacher, police officer, lawyer, media personalities ….. name it. We can no longer take pride in what comes out of any of these professions. Majority of what we have today are incompetent paper giants; very colourful academic papers but zero to show for this.

In the early and mid 90s, policy makers in this country changed the focus of our education sector to examinations-oriented approach. All the energy and focus was turned to exam results (KCPE and KCSE) and people put too much pressure to teachers and learners to “produce good results”.

Success was measured on the grades one scored rather than the skills gained in their 8 or 4 years in primary and secondary schools respectively.

Everyone started glorifying exam results… The government, the media, churches and even family gatherings started celebrating “exam giants” and despising those who scored low grades without considering the circumstances that contributed to their low grades nor their own individual strengths.

It didn’t matter how one attained those grades as long as they were good. Teachers started training children to cram for exams and recite answers to questions. The modus operandi in the teaching profession changed from teaching to comprehend to coaching learners for exams, what is popularly known to many as spoon-feeding for exams.

Other vices such as exam cheating and parents or schools bribing KNEC exams officials to have the results of their children and schools doctored in their favour started creeping into the system.

The results of all this was that so many unqualified candidates took up the university slots and eventually into the job market.

The universities were no better…. Remember the famous sex for degrees saga?

It was during the same period that we killed middle-level colleges and village polytechnics. Most of these were either transformed into universities or died a natural death. This meant that anyone who missed university admission had nowhere to go and was considered a failure.

Eventually, we ended up with so many paper giants who were unqualified to hold the responsibilities bestowed on their shoulders. It also brought people into the service whose parents could bribe their way into a job regardless whether that was their dream job or if they qualified for the job.

These are the majority who are running our public affairs today and making policies that are meant to make Kenya a super power in the future. It explains why we have so many frustrated people in the workforce. Most of them are frustrated because they have been assigned duties beyond their capabilities. This anger and frustration is usually directed to the people seeking their services, their employers or their own families. These are people who claim to be underpaid because they feel that the job is too hard for such a salary.

Yes, we have wasted over 30 years producing a generation of bookworms rather than skilled thinkers and problem solvers. Those are the people that we have entrusted with developing policies to make our lives better.

A generation that can’t solve any problem without referring to the books or to Google Search. A generation that just copy-pastes the ‘one-size fits all’ policies. Yes. That generation that believes that just because a formula worked in the US, UK, China or wherever, it will definitely work in Kenya. A generation that believes that every Kenyan solution is backward just because the Mzungu says so.

Luckily, the government has introduced the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) into our education system. Let’s hope it works out this time round and mend the errors of yesteryears.

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