By John Mugo
Despite COVID-19, the year 2021 has brought many blessings our way. Nearly two million children have completed primary and secondary school, after going through a really trying period of closing and opening. Many of them have passed well, while many others did not get the grades of their expectation. A week ago, a young lady texted me from Mpeketoni and told me – “I feel so bad. I failed terribly. I got a D+”. For a few minutes, I didn’t know how to respond to her. Then I wrote back, “You didn’t fail. You got a D+. Even with this, you can still become a great person”. This response was the beginning of a lengthy conversation, exposing her to opportunities in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
While examination grades are good for some, they could easily destroy others. It is true that good grades contribute to one’s success, but it is not true, that examination grades can determine one’s future. Just like a chapter is important to a book, the book itself is not the chapter, but a combination of many chapters. Similarly, it is important to view KCPE and KCSE as chapters, of a book that has many other chapters still under construction. Let our children know, that whether they got an A or a D, life continues.
Also a week ago, one parent asked me: ‘Mwalimu, you are now talking about CBC, what is good education?’ I thought there was a catch in his question, so I paused and thought first. I told him about educating the head, the heart and the hand. Good education is one that produces a whole person – sharpened mind, sound character, skilled hands. This is the person ready to face the uncertain future that we are all staring at.
I told the parent about importance of learning values and life skills. Values are a set of beliefs and principles we adopt, that govern our behaviour. For instance, two young mechanics are working in a garage. While repairing a vehicle, they come across a wallet. One picks from it, the other does not. What differentiates their behaviour is the values they have learnt and adopted. Similarly, life skills refer to a combination of competences that are important for daily living. For instance, problem solving is a skill that one learns, a process of thinking, trying, choosing and doing, and applies this everywhere to solve the problems of daily living.
Between May and August this year, most of the two million KCPE and KCSE graduates will be at home, some waiting to join Form 1, others waiting to join colleges and universities, and others looking for jobs. Rather than worry about what they will be doing at home, we should see this as the perfect opportunity for them to learn values and life skills. Mostly, values and life skills are learned through doing. Getting involved in a new task, like learning a new language could yield many benefits. Besides speaking the language, the series of trial and failure could teach perseverance and patience. Meeting other classmates to practice together could teach collaboration, and the achievement of speaking a new language could yield higher self-esteem (feeling good about yourself).
There are many things that we can expose our children to do, both at home and away from home. Assigning house chores is an important thing to learn. Those that finished KCSE could learn how to cook new dishes. This is a skill that they will need when they proceed to stay on their own away from home. Others can learn how to take care of the environment, tending gardens, re-using and even recycling garbage. Rather than spend the whole day in the house doing nothing, it may be better to pay some little facilitation to the person next who mends your shoes or clothes, for them to learn the skill in one or two weeks. Even if they got an A, this will be a useful skill. Sitting down there for several hours nurtures the spirit of work, but may also expose them to new ways of viewing and appreciating life.
If your work is selling mboga, this may be the time to construct a new stool for your son or daughter, to sit next to you, cut vegetables and get their hands to do something. Other parents can create work around home to keep the children engaged in learning through doing. Delegating some of the things you have been in charge of to children can create great opportunities for learning responsibility and other values at home, or different life skills at work, while ensuring that the tasks you assign them are appropriate to their age, and do not expose them to any risks of abuse.
The learning of values and life skills will contribute to a better future for this generation, and greater prosperity for our society.
The author is Executive Director of Zizi Afrique Foundation. For feedback – firstname.lastname@example.org