Garissa bright boy and the Education Conundrum
By Guled Haji,
Mohamed Abdilatif emerged the best KCPE student in Ijara Sub-County of Garissa County with 390 points and was admitted to Nairobi School but as of many others before him, he could not proceed to take his place due to lack of school fees. Mohamed hails from Ijara Constituency and it must be confusing to parents why a pupil like Mohamed cannot pursue his education in a country where governments and parties publicly announce free education in every electoral cycle. Besides, there was something called Constituency Development Fund last time I checked. It is very difficult for ordinary mortals like us to scrutinize what this fund develops but it is increasingly certain that it is not developing the constituency much as the name suggests. Among the priorities of this fund is to help bright students who excel in their studies to pursue their learning without a hitch. It confuses when Aden Duale of Garissa Township constituency who is also the Majority Leader comes to the rescue of this boy. Where is the Constituency member of parliament? Where is the constituency development fund? Probably digging a non-existent dam in the middle of nowhere. Probably developing an estate in the suburbs of Nairobi, very far from where the constituents who should be benefiting from it live.
Formerly a pupil of Hara Boarding primary school the boy was assisted by the Garissa Township MP, Hon Aden Duale. He hosted the boy and his father at his office and promised his continued support throughout the 4 years he will be studying at Nairobi school. This is commendable, however, should not education be free for all? Is Duale inadvertently misplacing government responsibilities or deliberately appearing philanthropic by doing what elected representatives ought to be doing with the public money entrusted with them for students like Mohamed? Pupils like Mohamed and indeed all others should not stay away from schools because of lack of fees. The CDF is there for a purpose. It is neither pocket money for elected representatives nor bribes for their cohorts. It is not charity by them but citizens’ taxes that ought to benefit the public and pupils like Mohamed. In fact, Mohamed and his parent should not be going from one office to another begging for fees. It is a scar on the conscience of all of us that there are many more like Mohamed who cannot pursue their education because the money meant to assist them is in illegal accounts or pockets of people who do not qualify to get it.
Duale’s assistance may just be a sticking plaster solution to a perennial problem that requires a lot more concrete and well-thought out long term solution. The government has the money, the CDF wastes a lot more money on inanities as Members of Parliament either treat it as their pocket money or do not have the financial skills to prioritize its use and the system in general is set to fail the poor in the country. What if there is no media to highlight the plights of the many like Mohamed? Just because they are invisible does it mean they do not deserve to benefit from their own money, the CDF and other government allocated funds? More than anything else, its injustices like this that breaks up a society, a country, a nation.
What does it take this government that loses over 400 billion from its annual budget according to reports by the Auditor General to corruption to say any student who scores 350 points in KCPE or a C in KCSE will get hustle free education in any school or university? What does it take for a county government that probably misappropriates over 70% of devolved funds to say any student from its county who scores a certain percentage point will be allowed to pursue hustle free and absolutely free education? It does not take much but misplaced priorities and dire lack of strategic leadership skills stand in the way.
Guled Haji is a commentator on socio-political affairs.