The fate of “underperforming” pupils

Jancan Limo, Education Consultant

30 January 2019

There is no doubt that Kenyans are very philanthropic. Only this week, while form one admission is going on, I have seen numerous occasions were Kenyans have teamed up to secure opportunities for the bright but underprivileged students to join the schools that they were lucky to be called. Behind the Mshenzi hashtag, social media is a breeding ground of kindness as gestures of good wishes are shared across. From the deserts in the up north, through the ranges and mountains of central past the rift valley all the way to the lakeside and surrounding regions. Kenyans are supporting their next generation in all ways possible. Governors are also busy launching scholarships worth millions to bright students. students are smiling all the way as parents shed tears of relief. Thanks to everyone. Sincerely.

So, today, looking at this wave of kindness shared across the social media I sneaked myself sometimes off the calls and summoned myself for a meeting. I have been making a lot of calls of late and if am not on a call, am busy updating my progress with the principals on pipe drive. The agenda of the meeting with myself was to try to find out answers about all these scholarships and sponsorship going around. I always have a lot of other pending questions but due to their scary nature, I normally avoid talking about it with myself.

The meeting was called to order and the first question was raised. Have I ever been part of those people who are there for others? Have I ever lent my financial aid to whoever deserved it to finance his or her education? Have I ever trusted someone on social media enough to give my contribution? This question left me with a lot of questions than answers but one thing I concluded is that those people who help others are genuinely kind. It takes a lot of courage and sacrifice to offer financial aid bearing in mind the fact that we can never satisfy our own needs. And from that, I genuinely appreciate those guys.

The second question. What about those students who are from poor backgrounds and are not bright? What happens to them? I arm myself with imaginary armour and sail to the imagination. A student from a poor background who his or her parents can only afford to be alive for their children. They lack food, just like those bright ones claim on TVs and social media, they live in the deplorable state and if lucky to go to school, they go to the neighbouring poorest school that they can be tolerated. The schools with nothing but a name of the surrounding environment as a school. They are absent most of the time as they are busy looking for food or taking care of their parents or siblings. They give their best and score below 150 marks or even worse below a hundred. This is their dead end. No school fees to proceed or let me be honest and say no one is willing to admit them.

The scholarships, the sponsorship is strictly for “bright” students from poor backgrounds. Sometimes it is easier for bright kids from well off families to secure scholarships, than those from backgrounds in abject poverty and they did not perform well. I will describe these scholarships as selective empathy whereby others are extolled while others are dragged publicly in shame by the same system. I can imagine how they feel. Unlucky in every way.

What do we need to do then? For sure we don’t have enough resources to assist everyone. But some of these students need whatever help possible to at least help them help their families and siblings. But since we are not looking at that need, then I suppose that after forcing them to attend poor schools, eating poor diet, clothe in tattered clothes, embarrassing them by being always the last in every exam, frustrating them by offering selective empathy, we rank them and display their names in public, praise those who are better than them and denying them the scholarships and sponsorships. I don’t wish to imagine of the emotional torture that they are subjected to.

Our actions make it seem as though we don’t need them nor care about them. We should then ensure that all of them are in the graves resting in peace rather than being subjected to public ridicule. These are the people we always suspect of being thieves, loiterers, accuse them of being dirty and having bad manners. We are quick to wrap them in the tyres and burn them when they seek solace in the theft. I thought at least the person who need help the most is the one who is struggling with poor grades. But we have done the opposite. Support those who are at a better position to help themselves and kill whatever glimpse of hope that was existing on the people who needed us the most. Kill them.

I believe it is high time that we stop social media PR and antics and concentrate on making quality education accessible for everyone. We should never allow the squandering of potentials of our children to happen again. Not in this century. It might not ring a bell to you because it may not affect you at your office, you are not a teacher, you are not a decision maker in education, you are not poor. One day though, you might need to face the consequence of neglecting the poor who are not bright. We better act and act now. Let us join hands and support whatever initiatives that are there to improve the access  to education quality education.

What about those students who are from poor backgrounds and are not bright? What happens to them?

30th of January 2017

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