Inequality once again rears its ugly head in national exams


By TEE NGUGI

Kenyan children completed the Kenya Certificate for Primary Education (KCPE) exams last week even as various counties were plagued by security and humanitarian concerns.

In Baringo, we were first told that the insecurity was caused by cattle rustling, which would be stopped immediately. However, what we have seen on television points to a much more serious situation. We saw images of women and children fleeing their homes, taking whatever they could.

These children fleeing for their lives also had to pass the exams. Even if the authorities were able to find alternative test centers for them, were they in the right frame of mind to take the tests?

In the northeastern counties, drought has forced people to move from place to place in search of water and pasture. This movement disrupted the children’s learning. Even if the children were able to pass the exams, it is unlikely that they had learned enough or were in the right frame of mind to perform well.

In some places in Kwale and other coastal counties, children study under trees with minimal learning materials and no chairs or desks.

In the sprawling slums of Nairobi, children go to bed hungry, yet they too have to pass the same exams. To all of these cases, add additional vulnerability due to gender discrimination and disability, and you begin to get a sense of the impossible distance some children have to travel to escape the cycle of extreme poverty.

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Kenya has the dubious distinction of being one of the most unequal societies in the world.

A report by Oxfam showed that fewer than 10,000 super-rich Kenyans own more wealth than the rest of us combined.

Another study indicated that most wealthy people in Kenya are either politicians or are linked to the political class.

The other day, we learned that the political class had ordered hundreds of helicopters in preparation for the campaigns despite the difficult economic situation.

In other parts of the world, the wealthiest are businessmen, computer innovators or those in the entertainment industry.

In fact, in developed countries, people who leave their jobs to enter politics lose a substantial portion of their income. In Kenya, people get rich when they enter the civil service.

Yes, there is money in politics. The problem is that it is money that should have been spent to ensure that children like those in Baringo can enjoy adequate security in their homes.

This is money that should be spent on securing water in drought-prone areas so children can stay at home.

It is the same money that is supposed to ensure that every child in Kenya learns in an appropriate environment with adequate learning materials.

Corruption therefore perpetuates inequalities.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator

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