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Daily Nation : February 1st 2014
32 | Weekend Readers corner Literary Discourse Do not discourage our budding writers BY PETER MUONGOYA As a budding writer, I have come to learn that penning down a book and having it accepted for publication is not a walk in the park. It truly invites investment of both time and money. Frequent writing and rewriting of manuscripts, submitting and re-submitting them without success, has almost become my literary daily bread. Retention of such manuscripts for a long time by publishers only compounds the problem. If one is lucky to have their manuscripts reviewed, letters are sent to them to decline the requests for publication on account of ‘poorly developed’ plots. Payment of royalties from the sale of published books can sometimes be hell. One wonders what is really wrong with our Kenyan publishers. I almost gave up my dream of writing after experiencing these challenges. It was until I read Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write that I garnered a liberating experience. She posits, “Your odds of being published become one hundred percent the minute you are willing to self publish…. If we keep thinking about how nice it would be to be published by other people, we are leaching ourselves of power. Instead, we need to decide that we will one; write no matter what and two, share that writing no matter what.” Her words inspired me a lot. It is unquestionably evident that several manuscripts whose publications are declined end up as award winning books after self publication. Ng’ang’a Mbugua’s Different Colours is a good example. I must extol the recent move by Muthoni Likimani, Kinyanjui Kombani, Binyavanga Wainaina among other writers, of establishing a literary course at Daystar University to empower the youth to nurture their authorship talents. If this is what publishers did, in conjunction with renowned writers, then it would be a revolutionary frontier to our literary landscape that is currently mediocre. Peter Muongoya is a teacher, a poet and a creative writer The many reasons for high failure rate BY PETER ICHARIA Many factors contribute to the poor performance of pupils in KCPE and KCSE. However, oftentimes, teachers end up as easy targets of barbs from parents, politicians, and even the students. What is forgotten is that many pupils learn English as their third or fourth language after mother tongue, Kiswahili, and Sheng. Kenya’s language policy is that pupils in primary schools should be instructed in the language of the schools catchment area for the first three years, after which English takes over. Teachers in class four hence receive pupils already badly affected by their mother tongues. Secondly, the entry grades of teachers to training colleges are a factor. It is asking too much to expect a teacher who scored C- in KCSE to assist a pupil to be proficient in a subject in which he himself performed dismally. Thirdly, there is a worrying lack of a reading culture among our pupils. English, like any other language, requires practice both in speaking and writing, yet there is little evidence to show that our students read outside the syllabus course books. Fourthly, induction courses for teachers of Eng- lish are needed. Any time there is a change in the syllabus, the ministry of Education should conduct in-service courses. Fifth, teachers themselves need to teach the writ- ing process as a skill. The common practice is for teachers to ask the students to write a compositions, with the teacher underlining the pupils’ mistakes and making corrections in red. This only breeds frustration among the pupils. The writer teaches at Kiambu High School Universities no longer source of ideas that will change the world BY JOSEPH GITHU MWANGI P rof Egara Kabaji recently argued that scholars, especially university students, are not feeding the government with ideas that can change lives. I second the professor on that. A man embroiled in darkness cannot lead his immediate colleague to the light. University students have failed in their duty. Many are sycophants of powerful leaders, following them blindly, not scrutinizing their ideologies. They turn a blind eye to problems in society. They are politically unconscious, if not dead. They wait under the scorching sun in rallies for hours only to be fed with prevarications. We have many ideologically unprincipled leaders whose ideas are far fetched. The few students who vie to be student leaders, where do they get the finances to buy booze for their comrades as they solicit for votes? They mostly get finances from politicians. How do you expect them to criticise the same leaders when they do wrong? They cannot raise a finger to the ones who feed them. They are being taught how to hold the spear and any rebellion could be termed as insolence and lack of gratitude. The others who don’t vie shout all over about whom they are supporting, just like their cohorts in the villages. There is little to expect from such minds. A student born in Kinangop, sity students, students from western Kenya should be sent to the coastal areas. Those from central Kenya should take their brains to Nyanza. This way, they will experience the difficulties of life in different parts of the country and they will come up with ways of addressing the calamities. Many will learn different tactics of survival. Many students don’t do research at all. Take-away assignments are done at the last hour (thanks to goggle and Wikipedia, otherwise many would never graduate.) There is quick reading the night before the CATs and the main exams. Libraries will be full when- University students have become sycophants of powerful political leaders. Nyandarua County (food rich country) who grew up and studied there, then went to Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, is unlikely to think of solutions to help his dying brothers in Turkana. Such students have not faced any hunger; they do not know how it feels to miss a meal for a couple of days. You cannot expect a man whose stomach is full to think of researching on how his country brothers will plant millet. The fellow will just doze off in satisfaction. On the admission of univer- ever there is an exam or an assignment. Many stream to the libraries to access internet, mainly for downloading entertainment stuff. That’s not bad. But it’s killing the reading and researching culture. They don’t read beyond the outlined courses. From that reading, I bet there is no sound helpful idea that can be generated to help the 40 million Kenyans. We expect things to be done but don’t take the initiative ourselves. My lecturer says that “we are like those fishermen who wait for fish to come back from Uganda so that we can have a meal, or those who follow a chicken for a whole week around the bushes waiting for it to lay an egg.” Githu Mwangi is a student at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology There might not be much evidence, but debates really did take place in 1960s BY RICHARD MWANIKI Dr Tom Odhiambo was wrong to say that there were no debates that originated from our single citadel of knowledge in the 1970s, and which spilled-over into the public domain. Evidence? Not much may have survived. When the Special Branch got cracking, even ordinary copies of daily newspapers carrying certain stories became ‘seditious material’. Words like Sedition, Special Branch and Marxism may not mean much today but there was a time in this country when a visit by the Special Branch meant a “disappearance” in the family. They left with books and papers — anything to pin you down as an agent of foreign masters. You may find it hard to believe now but there was a time here when “imagining” the death of the president was a treasonable crime. Those were the days a newspaper offices could be raided and all copies confiscated and destroyed. Our police turned every citizen into an enemy to be fought. Scholars and their students became soft targets. Those who had to die died, and those who had to leave left. Arrest led to trial and jail, if you were lucky. Detention was the usual destination for non-conformist scholars and their students. Trying to explain this is like tying to explain the Emergency (19521960) to anyone living outside the affected areas. Prof William Ochieng had the same problem with Mau Mau — he could not find the evidence that it was a liberation movement. Lacking evidence, he dismissed it as a non-issue. The likes of Dedan Kimathi should have had a command post with staff and files that historians would refer to after the independence. When it became obvious that Uhuru was imminent, government offices became busy places — shreding, burning, destroying files. To date, nobody knows how many Mau mau were killed, or even where Kimathi was buried. Evidence? When Kenyans learn to write their memoirs, then evidence will begin to flow. The tragedy is those with the damned information are dying with it. Where is the evidence? Ask Mailu, Wanjala, Ochieng, Kahiga, Mulwa, Meja Mwangi, the list is endless. We talk of these old debates because the digital scholars are so mesmerised with their laptops, tablets, and phones that they are not producing new knowledge. They google for anything they want, and laugh at yellow notes read to them by scholars who worked to produce that knowledge. We shall continue talking about the ideas generated in the late 1960s and 1970s until new thinking comes up. richard.mwaniki@rockfinancialc onsultants.co.ke SATURDAY NATION February 1, 2014 Colleges offer good alternative education BY HAROUN MIRARA Franklin Mukembu (Sat- urday Nation, January 25, 2014) should note that KCPE graduates are not drop-outs since they have already completed one of the cycles in our education system. Despite the tireless efforts of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology every year, there will always be the challenge of accommodating all the KCPE graduates in secondary schools. However, each pupil has a potential that needs to be tapped. The issue of revamping youth polytechnics should not be interpreted to imply that the Education Cabinet Secretary looks down on those who fail to make it to secondary schools. Polytechnics are an alternative to equipping a particular lot of KCPE graduates with skills, regardless of their ages. Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know, it is meant to bring about a positive change in behavior. Investors should also be aggressive in establishing private secondary schools. The writer works with the Ministry of Education Refresher training is crucial BY FRANKLIN MUKEMBU It is true that there is knowl- edge explosion in the education sector. Many teachers, both in primary and secondary schools, are busy studying. We hope the quality of education is going to improve. It is, however, disappointing that many of these efforts are more inclined to job promotion than imparting knowledge to our students. It would be good if we kept students in mind whenever we enrolled for further studies. Teachers should always be better than their learners in terms of knowledge. The government should also revive refresher training programs for all teachers to promote the quality of education in our country. I look forward to a time when all teachers in primary and secondary schools will be degree holders. The writer teaches Kiswahili and geography at Munithu Day Secondary in Meru To contribute to this page, please send your comments to email@example.com a.com or write to The Editor, Saturday Nation, POB 49010, Nairobi 00100.
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