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The East African : October 21st 2013
6 OCTOBER 19-25, 2013 CELEBRATING KENYA@ 50 #WeAreOne The EastAfrican By EMMAN OMARI Special Correspondent U nknown to many today, Kenya’s primary educa- tion system went all the way to standard eight before retired president Daniel arap Moi introduced the current 8-4 -4 system of education from the 7-4 -2. At Independence, founding presi- dent Jomo Kenyatta appointed a commission headed by Prof Simeon Ominde of the then University Col- lege, Nairobi, and tasked it with re- viewing the country’s education to transit from colonial era to that of an independent African state. Part of the assignment was to make the country’s education re- flect African socialism and the aspi- rations of African culture. Ominde was also to remove the racial under- tones that lingered in the education system from the colonial era, and recommend a system that would ac- celerate rapid creation of manpower to take over from the colonialists. Kenya did not have an independ- ent university at the time as the Nai- robi College (the current University of Nairobi), former Royal College was part of the University of East Africa grouping Dar es Salaam and Makerere universities. Neither did the emerging coun- try have tertiary in- stitutions to provide mid- dle level manpower. Prof Ominde was given a crash programme to produce the report in the shortest time possible. The team was appointed in January of 1964 and handed in the report to president Kenyatta in December of the same year. The commission began with se- vere criticism of the Kenya Prelim- inary Examination (KPE) done at Primary Standard Eight. Just at the dawn of Independence, examinations were set along racial lines, KPE being called Kenya African Primary Examina- tion – K APE . The criticism was that as a final test for majority of Kenyan youths, it did not serve the purpose as it was only a gate pass for few, leaving many pupils who did not get secondary places as vagabonds. But the Ominde team decided to retain it with radical changes. First, it was the only test for the selection process to various post- primary institutions – teacher training colleges, Form One, terti- ary institutions and polytechnics – at the time. Second, it was the only way a Kenyan youth could get a certificate to show how far he or she had gone in school. The rider was that in the Ominde team lays foundation fo≥ ≥adical changes in education The commission was to remove the racial undertones that lingered in the education system from the colonial era THE OMINDE COMMISSION INTENDED TO MULTIPLY MANPOWER PRODUCTION AT ALL LEVELS WITHIN THE SHORTEST TIME POSSIBLE. OBJECTIVE The commission opened up basic education to the majority. Picture: File long run, the ministry of education should find a way of testing that ac- commodates aptitude tests and con- tinuous assessments or report cards as a way of selecting students for post-primary. Then, the system of awarding KPE certificates was also criticised. Good certificates were only given to those who “passed” KPE . But there were papers called “Failed” which were given to those who did not pass. Ominde recommended that there must be a paper to show that some- one finished primary education. In 1967, all primary school leavers were given KPE certificates. This was after the phasing out of Standard Eight in 1965 when the class did the same examination with Standard Seven. Ominde also recommended Kenya Preliminary should change to Kenya Primary Examination (KPE) and eventually Certificate of Primary Education (CPE). But the drastic part was the sys- tem of education the team recom- mended to reflect the country’s im- mediate needs for manpower. It was the Ominde Commission which eliminated the colonial Stand- ard Eight class, reducing primary school to seven years, for the good reason that there was a shortage of teachers in primary schools and by extension in secondary schools. The one year reduction was a crash programme to get pupils graduating at Standard Seven get to TTCs to train as P3 teachers. This was aimed at boosting teach- ers’ manpower especially in arid and semi-arid lands areas. Then, the same graduates would enter into polytechnics to train and provide middle level cadres for en- gineers. This way, the Ominde Commis- sion intended to multiply manpower production at all levels within the shortest time possible. Other areas the Ominde Com- mission touched was to harmonise schools that existed on either racial, class or religious lines to reflect the spirit of Independence. Schools hith- erto referred to as Government Afri- can or Asian were simply called by their names without the racial tag. The schools that had been named European names or British Royalty were given African names, these in- cluded Lenana, Nairobi and Jamhu- ri schools in Nairobi for example. Thus the Ominde Commission laid the very foundations on whose Kenya education system exists to- day.
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