A Talk on Leadership at Strathmore University

If you have been keeping up with international news you probably have heard  of the fire which destroyed the international arrivals terminal at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Wednesday this week. It is very sad and shocking given that fifteen years ago, on the same day, a series of terrorist attacks occurred in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania in which hundreds of people were killed. Investigations as to the cause of the dreadful fire are underway with the Kenyan Police and Criminal Investigation Department being aided by the FBI. Despite the inconvenience caused and revenue lost by planes diversion to the Mombasa and Eldoret airports in Kenya and Kilimanjaro and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, Kenyans are relieved that no one was killed. The mood in the city and country is generally calm as citizens await the findings from the investigation as to the cause of the fire.

On a more optimistic note, I traveled to Faraja Children’s home in Murang’a, in Central Kenya county, last week for the second time this summer and was accompanied by my close friend and former colleague, Muthoni Ng’ang’a. We made it on time to have dinner with the children and go through some of the books that we had brought along with us. We also spent Sunday morning with them and traveled back to Nairobi on Sunday.

On Monday, I received an invitational email from Strathmore University’s Student Council to participate in a Leadership Seminar where I will be making an hour’s presentation on Leading Academically. I intend to focus not so much on ‘how to achieve academic leadership’ but on the importance of academics to the social, political and economic well being of Kenyans and the role played by education in poverty eradication.

It’s a sad day when education is merely thought of as a means to the end of securing a job and where rote learning is implicitly encouraged and enforced in schools just to pass exams. In line with is and in the course of preparing for the presentation, I ran across the following thought provoking quote from a research report written on the Evaluation and Profile of Education in Kenya,

‘Kenya’s education system has not been able to tailor its contents to the socioeconomic and cultural realities of the people capable of developing local solutions for local problems. Instead it continues to uphold an education system that is centered around schooling rather than learning, consequently producing a people who consistently look to Europe for models of development that matches their own social and physical environment’ Ntrangwi M

Kenya’s education system is criticized on the bases of administration structures, the quality and relevance of curriculum, cost of providing education and its ability to develop citizens who are socially, politically and economically well informed. The current 8-4-4 system (eight years of primary education, four of secondary and four of tertiary) overloads the students and teachers alike. The system is also highly elitist and very competitive, picking only the best. It has not been successful in imparting the key values of democracy.

Though I will not lay the 8-4-4 burden on the student leaders, given that they are probably more of casualties of the system (as I was), I will stress on our part as leaders who will influence Kenya’s education policy in the future and the role we would have to play as agents of change in attitudes and values that have a bearing on the economic development of our country.

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