Some thoughts on ‘Education in crisis: An insiders perspective’

Great conversation here for all those that are interested in education- I assume that is EVERYBODY. A few points that stood out for me as I watched it.

Education in crisis: An insiders perspective


  1. At independence, the new flag independence government wanted to fight poverty, disease and Ignorance. Dr. Wandia Njoya argues that we should problematize the use of ignorance. This got me thinking…Who was ignorant? What is ignorance? The way you define a problem determines on whether you can resolve it or not.  Was Mekatilili wa Menza ignorant? How about Mary Nanjiru?Were those who fought the British colonial murderous gang in the forests, in the cities, in the concentration camps, etc ignorant? This conceptualization of ignorance as an attribute of anybody who has not come into contact with the western forms of knowledge is Primitive. Some of the most brilliant people I have ever met have never stepped into anyone’s classroom. But they can theorize, philosophize and so on – of course they can, because there is knowledge beyond what is taught in classrooms. It is called Indigenous Knowledge – and it is in this knowledge system that you arrive at the very pinnacle of intellectual sophistication.


2. During colonial occupation the goal of education was to equip the natives with skills to do low-level clerical jobs – mainly to serve the European morally bankrupt occupying force. The goal was not to get Africans to think. It was believed that the brain of an African stops growing at 9 years old. So, why should you engage the African in anything more than just counting and learning how to write. On writing – this is one thing that has been used to make Africans feel inferior. The truth of the matter is that there were many forms of writing in African cultures, but since it was not writing using a pen, or pencil, or chalk, and it does not involve writing using this alphabet that I am using to type this, then it is not writing. That kind of thinking is PRIMITIVE.

pexels-photo-256541.jpeg3. One of the troubles with the new curriculum, according to Dr. Wandia Njoya is that children from poor families will end up being directed to the “talent stream”, because of amongst others, the carryover of some of the colonial attitudes discussed above.

pexels-photo-46274.jpeg4. Education has been so tied to exams that there is no joy in learning. Students are only interested in learning about what will be in the exam. The result – no room from critical thinking at all. Speaking of exams, it is exams that were used to destroy what I consider the first attempt to decolonize education in Kenya. That is the independent school movement. The colonial government introduced exams forcing teachers to tailor their curriculum(s) to that. That is why education remains A for Apple education and Ludwig Krapf (Crap?) and other discoverers education.

books-education-school-literature-48126.jpeg5. Everybody should seek to educate themselves. If you rely on the school and formal education system to educate you, you will remain very uneducated indeed. Read, read, read. Listen, listen, listen.  Now information is much more easily available than the past. I have learnt more about African history and conservation, from facebook that I have learnt from the formal education system.

pexels-photo-207662.jpeg6. Wandia Njoya suggests that we should be more imaginative in the utilization of resources. Why should every school have its own sports infrastructure& its own library, for example? Can’t these resources be shared, including with community members? Some people who are stewing in colonial juices will find this idea repugnant.

tulips-flowers-fish-eye-red-66896.jpeg7. Finally, you will not find these kinds of conversations in Githeri media. Thank you, the Elephant, thank you Wandia Njoya, and thank you, Gathara!


Nairobi’s talking circles

talking circles

This is a Nairobi phenomenon.  I call these circular congregations ‘Nairobi talking circles’. I was curious about the discussions that go on in these circles, because they always draw quite some good audience.  I have stood in two of these circles. What issues are discussed there?

Circle 1

This one was a group of acrobats. They began by showcasing various stunts. This is how they attract people. The circle starts to build up. Then they throw in some humour. More people join! They continue with the acrobatic stunts. Then they get into what must be their core business. The transition is so seamless, you really do not notice how they move from performing stunts to saying that they are selling some kind of medicine. One of them launches into an explanation about how this medicine is good for indigestion. They say the price is 100 bob. Other members move around the circle to sell to their new found customers. I turn to the guy standing next to me.

Me: What is this medicine made from?

Guy: It is from a root of a tree

Now I am intrigued!

Me: Which tree?

Guy: I do not know.

Me: Have you tried it?

Guy: Oh yes!

Me: Did it work?

Guy: Yes! Nakwambia/I am telling you, it works!

The first round of selling comes to an end.  More acrobatic stunts, more jokes. The circle is bursting into huge laughter after every few moments.

Then the guy standing next to me says: Just watch, they are going to reduce the price to 50 bob.

And sure enough, after a short while, the lead guy says Kwa sababu umenunua yako na 100 bob, nunulia rafiki na 50 bob/buy for a friend at 50 shillings! More people buy the medicine.

Talking Circle no 2

This one was discussing politics and governance. The guy who was the centre of attraction had chalk which he would use to write on the ground to emphasize the points he was making. This is what I recall.

  1. He pointed to the monument of Tom Mboya and said: “Do you see this man? This is one of the greatest Kenyans that ever lived.” He then spoke about how Tom Mboya was so intelligent, how he was once on the cover of Times Magazine, and so on and so forth. He then spoke about JM Kariuki, Pio Gama Pinto, Robert Ouko et al., and argued that Kenya kills its best and brightest. He said that if Tom Mboya was running for president today, he would not win. Even Obama would not win if he ran for elections here, he thundered through the microphone! Why? Because Kenyans are stuck in the ethnic paradigm.
  2. He then spoke about economic injustice. He talked about how a Kenyan will be paid KES 200 per day, and that person has to eat, travel, raise a family, etc. This same Kenyan will completely ignore candidates who have an economic recovery strategy, and politics that is anchored on social justice, and vote for their respective ethnic lords.
  3. Then he said something that I cannot ever forget: That in the colonial period Kenyans thought that the white man was a God. He said that if a white man defecated, Kenyans would go to see what colour it was! Then somebody in the circle yelled! Hata siku hizi/even today!! And the crowd roared in laughter!

What a great illustration of white supremacy and coloniality in Kenya?

These two talking circles were located near or around the Tom Mboya monument area. There is another talking circle that happens opposite City Hall or outside former Nakumatt City Hall area. This one happens very early in the morning. It is always a group of men huddled close together. It is a much smaller circle than the one in this picture. I think the person in the middle has a newspaper? I am not sure. Anybody knows what this one is about?

Now I am really interested in these circles. These are a good way to read and understand the issues affecting society. For those who are looking for research topics, there is plenty of angles to look at this from:

  1. Urban planning/Use of public spaces
  2. Health and public health –access, Indigenous Knowledge Systems & health
  3. Gender dynamics of talking circles
  4. Theatre and performance
  5. Governance, access to information, the people’s politics
  6. Language and other forms of cultural expression




The philosophy of the Kiondo

The Kiondo is a basket that is native to Kenya. Embedded in the Kiondo are teachings and philosophies about life, environmental consciousness, social organization, and so much more. What is the philosophy of the Kiondo?

  1. The Kiondo teaches us that to understand anything you have to go to the very beginning, or to the root of the matter. A kiondo is woven by joining several strands of sisal and thread to form the navel, followed by the base, which then supports the cylindrical section. Nobody makes a Kiondo starting from the rim. The Kiondo teaches us that history is important, because history is about going back to the beginning. And the beginning has a bearing on the present.
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2.  The Kiondo encapsulates wholeness/completeness. The Kiondo is essentially a circle, and circles are very important in African cosmology. They represent continuity and connectedness.

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3. The Kiondo is woven by interdependent threads and sisal strings. Nobody weaves a Kiondo using a single thread or sisal rope. Hence, the Kiondo teaches us about interdependence, as expressed in the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which is the belief that you become human in the midst of others, and also that all of nature (including humans as part of nature) is interconnected. In that sense, it teaches us respect, responsibility, and the need to cultivate peaceful co-existence.

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4.  The Kiondo is a good representation of reciprocity. In many cultures the Kiondo or equivalent is what you use to carry a gift/offering when visiting someone. The person you are visiting also puts something for you in the Kiondo before you leave. That is reciprocity. NB: Some of these practices have been watered down by capitalistic ideologies that encourage exploitative relationships.

Mifuko-IMG-Kenya04-Kiondo-baskets-upcycling5. The Kiondo is about nourishment. It is the carrier of food. When you go to the farm, you carry a Kiondo and use it to carry food. When you go to the market, you use the Kiondo to carry food. Food production and associated practices are arenas of knowledge production.

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6. The Kiondo is about environmental consciousness. The Kiondo is about African environmentalism. It is made from elements of the land: sisal (or other fibres), wool, and leather. So, it is about plants and animals – all products of the Land. So, the Kiondo is Land, and Land is the Kiondo.

pikkukiondot2That is the philosophy of the Kiondo. The Kiondo has been largely relegated to the graveyard of primitive objects, and since we are now ‘civilized’, only elders carry Kiondo’s nowadays.  We would rather use plastic bags. What is the philosophy of the plastic bag? The philosophy of the plastic bag is environmental catastrophe. And environmental catastrophe=death. Hence, the philosophy of the plastic bag is DEATH, both for human beings and other living beings. Now, livestock and even the fish in the seas are swallowing plastic bags. Is it not time to return to the philosophy of the Kiondo or other forms of baskets?


Conservation Exposed

Reclaim Conservation

Conservation is failing worldwide!

Big international NGOs (BINGOs) spend increasing amounts of money on conservation initiatives that often do not have a direct effect on forest and species conservation or, in other cases, create antagonism and even retaliation from the local population. They present to the public varying narratives, some being doom-and-gloom situations focusing on mass extinctions and others are phenomenal conservation successes led by these same NGOs. Both of these narratives ignore the contradictions and challenges of conservation interventions and avoid any type of explanation as to why so many phenomenal successes add up to such devastating results.  

Smaller, national NGOs inevitably engage in perpetual competitions over branding and minimal, sporadic funds that trickle down from international organizations. Petty rivalries and the need to constantly produce rapid success stories for their funders make them unable to cooperate or to create  real, long term positive conservation change.

Neoliberal doctrines…

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Activists and Communities Vs. Mainstream Conservation Myths

“Conservation is compassion.” Absolutely. I would add that conservation is about livelihoods. It is about survival. It is a matter of life and death. Who can live without water? That is a conservation issue.

Reclaim Conservation

There are myriad definitions of the term “environmental conservation” and hundreds of ideologies and methods being utilised worldwide in an attempt to conserve habitats and biodiversity. At present, what is clear is that conservation efforts as a whole are failing. While  large-scale financial investments in worldwide conservation efforts is increasing, positive results from these investments remains to be seen. Indeed, the species extinction crisis, destruction of habitat and climate change continue unabated and pose increasingly severe threats to the natural world.

Mainstream conservation institutions (large, international non-governmental organizations – NGOs) are increasingly modelling themselves and relying upon commercial businesses. Being part of the dominant economic establishment positions these NGOs as conflicted in their ability and desire to take effective action against the root cause of environmental degradation which unarguably stems from uncontrolled capitalist exploitation, corruption, broken nation states and a burgeoning world leadership crisis. These large NGOs cannot challenge the…

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