Some eye-popping statistics came out of the exercise by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service for students who completed Form Four in 2017.
Focus was on the figure 606,394, the total number of students who sat for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2017.
Out of these 62,851 were selected to join universities. A further 28,866 students were placed in diploma courses, while only 5,324 students expressed interest and were placed in certificate courses.
This adds up to about 97,000 odd students who will proceed for tertiary education from that class on government-sponsored programmes.
Of course, others will enter the many other colleges that dot the country, but two things stand out here. The first is the sheer scale of the numbers involved.
Even by the most optimistic estimates, it is unlikely that those who will proceed to tertiary level on self-sponsored basis across the country will approach even half of those sponsored by the State.
This means that, again being very optimistic, that 450,000 students are out there in the “wilderness.” Where are they? What are they doing? Where are they going? What avenues are open for them to gain any productive skills?
These are likely to be the youth we will find idling in town or village shopping centres around the country. They will be the ones filling up political rallies even on Monday mornings.
The ministries of Labour, Education and Youth need to put their heads together and start working to crack this alarming “wastage.” To get a better perspective, imagine the same proportion of youth “wastage” has taken place for the last five years, and those young people are still trying to find their feet, and also project the same into the next 10 years unless something drastically changes.
These ministries must understand that unless they take far-reaching action, this crisis will only grow. In another 10 years, the country will be swarming with a sea of youth with no skills to offer the marketplace.
It will be a country of millions of young people working as hawkers, exhibition stall operators, boda boda operators, matatu drivers and touts, stage “managers” and all other occupations that operate at the lower rungs of the food chain.
The country’s leaders need to think very hard! In the meantime, the increasingly few professionals will become an elite far removed from their contemporaries whom they will have left behind. The country’s economy is rapidly growing, and equally as rapidly transforming.
These school-leavers are not acquiring the skills the economy will be needing going forward. So, the country will have to import these skills. And Kenyans will lament that foreigners are taking over their jobs. But this is where this situation is unerringly headed. Is it too late to turn back the clock?
The other dynamic that emerged from the placement results was the evidence of glaring misalignment of courses being offered by some universities to student expectations.
Some universities were barely able to attract a handful of students, while in others, some courses received no applicants at all. Students are probably stating that they will no longer spend more than three years in study of courses that are a dead end.
There is nothing wrong with being a “boda boda” rider, but that is not what the country spends millions of shillings educating university graduates to become.
The newer universities seem to be particularly affected if one goes by the placement results. Clearly, they must invest heavily in faculty, facilities, and course design.
Otherwise, they will die a natural death, whether they insist on remaining open or not. The last dynamic is the apartheid that has steadily been creeping into the university system.
As university education went to the dogs, employers responded by being very picky about the universities they select their employees from.
This response has placed some universities on the frontline in terms of their graduates being acceptable in the marketplace, while graduates from other universities face an uphill task.
The country must not let itself wake up one day and start asking when the rain started beating it. It might have drowned by then. [email protected]