Alarm as millions waste away after KCSE exams

An estimated three million youths have wasted away in the last decade after sitting KCSE exams. Most of them are graduates who scored Cs and Ds, grades that condemn them to a life of misery.

The huge numbers renew debate on the role of education in soaring poverty and crime levels. University of Nairobi researcher Joshua Kivuva notes that over 300,000 Form Four graduates miss places in universities and middle-level colleges every year, which translates to a low transition rate that complicates the unemployment crisis.

"It is easy to see where they end up. They are in slums, on the streets... everywhere you look with nothing to do," says Dr Kivuva, a political scientist.

His estimates of the ‘lost generation’ have been supported by various studies that have shown a majority of the youth neither find employment nor further education after completing Form Four.

In the class of 2013 for instance, only 123,000 candidates attained the minimum grade required for admission to university.

But even then, most of them would still not enrol for university education owing to limited spaces. More than 78,000 students scored Ds, the most common grade among the 445,000 candidates. Another 71,800 candidates managed D+ while 61,000 had C-.

More than half of the candidates scored less than the average grade of C, and do not, therefore, qualify for any professional courses.

Typically, technical and vocational institutions would arm these students who miss university admission with skills in courses such as engineering and plumbing.

But dozens of these institutions have either been closed down or elevated to stir a major crisis for students who do not find places in universities.

Kivuva blames the social crisis that the country is facing on wrong policies, whose focus has remained to enable students get white-collar jobs.

The crisis has been exacerbated by the small number of vocational training colleges after the killing of polytechnics, and universities put up in their place.

Cause of poverty "Developing economies need technical skills, which these polytechnics would provide but we have shut them down," Kivuva observes, referring to the elevation of Kenya and Mombasa Polytechnics to universities.

Kenya Polytechnic is now The Technical University
of Kenya, while Mombasa Polytechnic was elated to become the Technical University of Mombasa.

Kenya has only 1,000 institutions of higher education, including 47 universities, 755 youth polytechnics and teacher-training colleges.

Lack of training opportunities in post-secondary education has been found to be a major cause of poverty. A recent publication from the Kenya Institute of Public Policy and Research Analysis (KIPPRA) noted that better educated people generally have better income.

"In Kenya, poverty has been found to decrease as the level of education attainment increases," Boaz Munga of Kippra said in a recent presentation that sought to understand the relationship between education and poverty.

In the face of rising poverty and unemployment among the youth, social experts have warned of a major crisis that the country could be facing, in the form of millions of young people who are not engaged in productive activities.

Those who miss out on the limited opportunities will now be part of the piling youthful population that lacks any useful skills but are expected to be part of human capital required to power the country through the projected industrialisation and exploitation of the vast natural resources.

Legislators are now drafting new laws that would push the national and country governments to set aside funds to develop polytechnics, which could be the only hope for the millions of the lost youth. "We want every constituency to establish a polytechnic for its youth if we are ever to solve this crisis," said Rev Mutuva Musyimi, who chairs the budget committee in the National Assembly. - The Standard March 5 2014

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