The above is a tip of an iceberg – it began being reported one week ago. Coincidentally, I resigned my position where I was teaching: I did not feel that I could be a signatory on screwed up bank accounts at a private school due to areas of book keeping concerns and lack of paper trails. In addition, there were far too many unreasonable problems related to direct health and safety concerns – water, electricity and construction defects.
I have no idea if any of this is related, and most likely two separate instances of poor accountability. What I do know is that people interested in education do not go looting from the very people they are to serve and they are accountable and are open to the concept of transparency.
Once you have been in a developing nation, you become much more keen at sensing things sliding down hill. I learned well from my sojurn in Namibia. There had been many ongoing complaints in recent months in the media and just general conversation amongst people about how to keep the momentum of free, compulsory education in Kenya at the primary school level. Each complaint I read or heard was vague but worrisome – everything from food to supplies to physical plant structure to the quality of teachers. All things under the direct control of the Ministry of Education. When I attempted to seek help from the Ministry of Education for various situations at my school, it was always delayed and no one ever seemed to know what was going on. I would receive mail one or two months after an event occurred and then be told by my DEO (district education officer) that he was (1) new and (2) the office area of coverage was being split up – sorry for the confusion, we will try to sort it out in the future. I asked to be put on their cell phone list so they could just call me as it was embarrassing to me to not attend an important event because I was not made aware of it.
Never mind the fact that two teachers I was desperately trying to get rid of seemed to have an amazing amount of blank receipts….things they could fill in and submit for cash even though they never used the product/service. One of the male teachers who was at the school the longest had a uniquely interesting ‘relationship’ with the female students at my school – and I had not been the first principal to observe this situation. Although the situation made me and other principals uncomfortable, he had been hired for good KCSE scores so his behavior was of no concern to parents or administrators at the school. No matter what lurid details I uncovered, Kenyans are much more concerned with test scores than the reality of the problems the same individual is causing. If I could not prove test scores from teachers were declining, the teachers could plunder the school funds and have ‘fun’ with the learners since the test scores demonstrated what a great teacher they were. No one understands score manipulation.
Asking for things such as a copy of a memo so I could order the correct books for my school was nowhere to be found at my DEO’s office so some one in the DEO’s office would walk me to another school in the area that supposedly kept records. If I called and asked for information, calls were not returned (perhaps in hopes I would find the information some place else and stop expecting the Ministry of Education officials to do their job).
Sharing teacher reviews with my DEO, so I could get rid of a teacher with poor skills and who was intractable to change, might well have been asking him to share in a meal of defiled food. The DEO wanted no part of knowing and would put off my questions to some future time when something called ‘quality assurance’ could come and review the school.
I knew that what I was observing and going through at my school was not unique – there were issues of ‘where the money went’ daily and since the paper trail had run out/cold in the three years of my school, all I could do was go on my gut instinct. When I saw the initial newspaper articles after I resigned, I knew deep inside I had made the best possible choice for myself.
Staying in a country that says it values education but has the ability up and down the ranks to use the money for some other purpose (personal and political) is too disturbing. This kind of national fraud is only one part of why Kenya can not quite climb its way out of the hole from colonialism.
As a whole, the miasma that is the education system in Kenya is designed to frustrate the very best people, intimidate some, cause untold misery and on rare occasion, educate.
I have actually talked to people who stated it would be great if the U.S. would loan Kenya our President Obama when we are done with him in seven more years. I told these people that Kenya is not ready for this type of president – one who is into the truth.