In 2003 when primary education became free, 84-year-old Mzee Kimani Maruge fought his way into the classroom to learn how to read. His gripping story is portrayed in the movie “The First Grader. and although it’s a little heavy on the Hollywood sentiment and the Uhuru outcries, it raises a valid point about the unequivocal power of education.
Kimani was driven to the classroom because without an education he was left as a spectator in society—a bystander unaware of how to participate in the rumbling arena of the modern world. A wall of knowledge separates the educated and the uneducated; which side you are on greatly determines the ability to control one’s own life. Free primary education is trying to bridge that gap, but at the same time it is putting an immense pressure on the education system, and perhaps even widening the distance between those at the top and the bottom (See our stories on this subject in UP Front and Urban Presence).
Those who do manage to leap over this gap often seem to be closely acquainted with discipline. This comes from many different sources. Surely, in everyone’s childhood there lurks a version of a hawkeyed, bamboo stick totting old teacher with an encyclopaedic knowledge of one’s full names, age, height, exam results, home address and effective mode of punishment. This punishment seemed dealt in different measures, ranging from a vicious pinch in the soft, fleshy inner side of the arm to the relatively tame strokes of the cane to the bizarrely hilarious acts of replicating the pages of a newspaper in an exercise book. No school reunion is complete without a nostalgic trip back to the knocked-knee and tunic-sporting days spent ducking these discipline masters.
Even though the lashing induced discipline is a phenomenon somewhat of the past, the ideals of strict (non-lashing) discipline and duty is very much alive in the creed of the Starehe Boys Centre . The school is widely known for churning out excellent results in the annual Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations. The boys (and more recently, girls) in black, red and blue come from all walks of life, using the school as a springboard to a better future. Hear from the “wonder boys” themselves in this issue. We also pulled up a seat in a dusty Science laboratory with a primary school teacher to hear her version of what needs to be done to ‘fix’ our classrooms.
And as always, get your regular serving of the hottest names in music, arts, culture and the food industry. Not forgetting our humor and street life columns. Keep an eye out for the profiles of the new fashion bloggers for UP’s “What The Fashion?” blog. Join us in welcoming these eight talents to the UP stable and make sure to read their work online.
Also, the just concluded “Innis and Outis” science fiction competition run in partnership with Lesleigh produced interesting reads with Alexander Ikawah’s “Afropolis-The Child of Prophecy” taking the prize home. Read an excerpt of the winning story in the magazine and find the rest online at www.upnairobi.com.
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