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Daily Nation : February 10th 2014
DAILY NATION Monday February 10, 2014 Opinion 13 PEDAGOGY | Othieno Joseph Our vernacular languages are the best method to teach our children effectively which knowledge is transmitted. In the education realms, it is a fact that pupils perform better when the language of instruction is familiar to them as it greatly improves the quantity and quality of information transmitted. Countless researches have confirmed this and many countries in Africa have indeed piloted and implemented the use of vernacular languages as vessels for transmission of knowledge in the lower classes. I was thus surprised by the L great opposition from the public when this worthy idea was tossed our way by the Ministry of Education. I am tempted to believe that we have been brainwashed to believe that our diverse vernacular languages are inferior and cannot be used to enhance the learning process for our children. Our children need to know French, English, Spanish, and Arabic to compete in the contemporary globalised world. They also need an effective learning methodology that assures them of good grades. Teaching them in vernacular at the formative stages does not take this away. Instead, it enhances it. Pedagogy has it that for early learning to be effective the teacher must start at a anguage is a key component in learning since it is the vessel through performed better the conventional pupils in a standardised examination. They completed their primary school syllabus in four years instead of the conventional six. Surprisingly, the girls performed better than the boys. The students using the Moore language developed better skills in French and a better grasp of their vernacular language. To domesticate this ap- Standard One pupils in Kisumu during a lesson. point familiar to the pupil. In a rural setting what is more familiar to a child than his/her language? Take the example of Burkina Faso’s case that was published by World Bank and widely disseminated to stress the importance of incorporating indigenous knowledge in all development initiatives in Third World countries. Alarmed by high illiteracy levels in the Nomgana community, an NGO working with the government and a university professor developed a primary school curriculum in the local dialect — Moore. Primary school pupils in Nomgana were taught using Moore instead of French. In fact, they were taught French in Moore. Pupils understood mathematics and even French faster and proach, the debate should not centre on demonising our vernacular languages but look at the social, political, economic, and linguistic factors that can affect its implementation. These factors have impeded the development of our vernacular languages into vessels of transmission of knowledge. This has been worsened by tribalism, which evokes negative connotations, thanks to our political history. In a multi-lingual state like Kenya, this approach may not be applied wholesome. That is why the Ministry of Education was categorical that in urban settings, Kiswahili and English be used since most pupils will already be familiar with these languages. However, this approach will have to overcome a number of challenges and the Ministry of Education should evaluate whether it has a critical pool of teachers in the respective communities that have the skills to teach in vernacular languages and an appropriate curriculum. Our colonisers introduced the Western style of learning, which criminalised the use of our mother tongues as a scholarly language, a model that we perpetuated after independence. This has brought about misconceptions about race and tribes. The Rwanda genocide was blamed on such inferiority complexes. Knowledge is power, but in as much as knowledge and power are bed fellows, power tends to steal the show. Therefore, the powerful determine the type of knowledge and in which form the poor will “forcefully” assimilate. Detrimental superiority complexes reign — the rich despise the poor, the powerful do not regard the weak, those who have formal education perceive those who acquired their knowledge informally as ignorant, modernity is seen is the panacea and indigenous knowledge is termed backward. Where complementary methods should yield better results, divisions triumph. That is the reason I am sad that such a good idea might fail to see light of day. Dr Othieno teaches agricultural information and communication management at the University of Nairobi. (email@example.com) THE CUTTING EDGE BY THE WATCHMAN WELCOME DONATION. The criticism of Pope Francis’s donation of an equivalent of Sh1 million to the starving people of Turkana is uncalled for, says Boniface Mouti. “John Gitau should know that the Pope, unlike Bill Gates, does not own the wealth of the Catholic Church. And, after all, how many Catholic humanitarian organisations are in Turkana sponsoring schools and hospitals? That the Pope could remember Turkana amid so many other suffering communities around the world is commendable. But how much has John contributed?” His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT. Having Presi- dent Uhuru Kenyatta flag off a food relief convoy to some hunger-stricken regions from State House, Nairobi, 50 years after independence is a huge national embarrassment, remarks David Motari. The government, he adds, has a duty and an obligation to ensure that its people have food and shelter. “It should have taken measures to avert the situation such as introducing irrigation to boost food production. What happened to the talk about having a healthy, well-fed nation?” His contact is email@example.com. Residents of Chokochok in Turkana receive relief food. ROAD RUINED. Nairobi resident Alfonso Gribaldi is not amused that Kamburu Road, once a motorable dirt road he and his neighbours have been hoping will one day be tarmacked, has been terribly messed up. Lorries carrying soil and boulders from a construction site have in the past month been dumping the stuff on the road, mostly at night to avoid detection. As a result the road has become so bad that only earth movers can use it. Alfonso wants the county government to take action against the contractor. For the details, his contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. WAITING FOR ELECTRICITY. The people of RonCHECKS AND BALANCES | Subiri Obwogo Constitution clear on separation of powers D r Joyce Nyairo’s article (published on this page last week) suggests that the Constitution of Kenya 2010 lacks checks and balances and has, as a result, failed to define the limits of the powers to be exercised by the three arms of government, leading to conflicts I do not agree and will use her two examples where the High Court issued orders barring Parliament and the President from debating or appointing a tribunal to investigate the conduct of members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The Constitution has very clear checks and balances for the three arms of government based on the doctrines of supremacy of the Constitution, separation of powers, and sovereignty of the people. Constitutionally, the formal separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial authority is meant to distribute powers between the different arms and ensure that power is not concentrated in a few hands. This also means that the various branches are not supposed to interfere with the exercise of one another’s powers. Although the doctrine of separation of powers implies that branches are not supposed to interfere with the exercise of each other’s powers, in no system does a rigid separation exist and some measure of overlap is always present. Thus, As Africans struggle to build constitutional democracies based on the rule of law, we should be guided by the letter and spirit of the law. although legislative authority is vested in Parliament, apart from making laws, the House has a vital function of maintaining oversight over Executive authority, including powers to impeach the president. However, judicial authority, unlike the executive or legislative one, is vested in the courts and the courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, which they must apply impartially and without fear, favour, or prejudice. Therefore, in the stated examples, it was wrong for Parliament to seek to establish or to even debate a proposal that a tribunal be appointed to investigate the members of the JSC against a court ruling. It is wrong, therefore, to argue that because Parliament is elected by the people, it was wrong for the courts to halt the debate. The court has powers, in a legal dispute, to determine the law and to apply it in the resolution of a dispute. It was wrong for Parliament to disobey the High Court ruling. Instead, Parliament should have appealed this decision in a higher court. Moreover, Parliament is not a “supreme organ” just because it is elected by the people. It is equal to the other arms of government and subject to the people of Kenya, who are sovereign. The Constitution is also clear about the process of appointing a tribunal to investigate the conduct of JSC members. Therefore, the President erred in purporting to set up this tribunal and the High Court was right to step in and stop it. So, the problem is not the Constitution or personalities within the courts, although sometimes judicial “activism” can be unbecoming. Rather, as Africans struggle to build constitutional democracies based on the rule of law, we should be guided by the letter and spirit of the same law we trample upon and support in equal measure. Otherwise, we will be subscribing to the rules of the jungle. Clearly, we should not use the Constitution in the same way a drunk uses a lamp post; more for support than illumination. Dr Obwogo is a senior quality improvement adviser in health policy and systems strengthening at an international organisation. (email@example.com) gai in Nakuru County were elated when a rural electrification project was initiated in the area and rushed to do the fittings and installations in their houses in readiness for electricity connection, recalls Gideon Mwaura. Well, their optimism appears to have been unfounded as a year later, there is no indication that they will be enjoying this service soon. Though electricity poles were erected and cables fitted, they are not of any use, simply because a transformer has not been installed. Gideon’s contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. SERVICE MISSING. Startimes pay TV subscriber Donald Oluoch is upset that the company has not been providing him with its “basic bouquet” service for which he paid two months ago. He claims he has made numerous calls to their hotline, No. 0719077077, to no avail. Unless the company provides him with what it promises in its marketing promotions, Donald warns, he will have no option but to look elsewhere for better value for his hard-earned money. His contact is email@example.com. THE BEST CAMOUFLAGE. The explanation for the supposed Kenyan criminals’ obsession with white cars during their missions, which Jim Webo alleged, citing the 1990 killing of former Foreign Affairs minister Robert Ouko and a recent robbery in Kiambu Town, is quite simple, says valuer Matumbi, adding: “It is because 50 per cent of all the cars on the road are white. Therefore, this colour is the best camouflage. So, next time you see a white car with more than three men inside, take cover because you could be the next victim.” His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a common day, won’t you! E-mail: email@example.com or write to Watchman, POB 49010, Nairobi 00100. Fax 2213946.
February 9th 2014
February 11th 2014