Category Archives: education

Strathmore Masters 2015

Strathmore University had a cocktail event to introduce their 2015 Masters Program.

Some of the interesting programs include masters of applied philosophy & ethics, masters in public policy management and masters in healthcare management. They also have three new masters maths programs (biomaths – that can be  applied in healthcare, financial maths – that can be applied in NSE/capital markets, and a masters statistical sciences).

Strathmore also has executive programs  to short courses tailored for professionals like  business owners/managers, construction project managers, digital advertisers (a partnership with Google) and an upcoming summit for women executive leaders to prepare more of them to take up seats on company boards.

At the event, Joseph Sevilla said all masters classes in his program (masters at iLab are in information security and mobile telecommunications) are taught by PhD’s as they won’t compromise on that – though it meant they had to use distance learning as some lecturers could not be found in Kenya.

The Strathmore Business School was opened in 2005 so this is their 10th anniversary.

GEMS School Nairobi

In Kenya for the last two years is the GEMS Cambridge School on Magadi Road, just past Galleria Mall. They are part of the 55-year-old GEMS network, the largest K-12 school system in the world with 160,000 students and 13,000 teachers at with schools in Dubai, France, US, India, Europe and now in select African countries, offering different systems of education like IB and IGCSE.  Kenya will be their African headquarters and the school will soon be joined by others in Uganda and Nigeria then later by more in South Africa, Ghana, and Tanzania.

Interestingly, they price the English curriculum education they offer in Kenya as  ‘upper middle’ with fees ranging between Kshs 50,000 -120,000 ($1,333) per month, while in Uganda they will price themselves as a premium school that will command even higher fees. They also don’t consider themselves ‘expensive’ as other Nairobi schools charge much more in a curriculum system that has not had new schools in about 30 years.

The GEMS Nairobi school has facilities include ICT and science labs, cricket field, pool, full track, and library, for the almost 1,000 students who also include boarders. They work to transition kids from the Kenyan (8-4-4) system by doing assessments of new students and monitoring their changes in terms of critical thinking and habit changes.

Philanthropy is a big part of GEMS, and through Varkey Foundation, they have several initiatives including an annual $1 million teacher prize in which a Kenyan is a finalist this year. They have also rehabilitated a school in Kibera, donated 30 libraries to schools in 8 counties, and are collaborating with the iHub on kids tech camps.

Are Kenyan Engineers Capable of Building Thika Road?

Yesterday’s post at the Thika Road Blog sparked a response from @BridgeMkr

Having grown up in Kenya then gone to the US for college and worked there ever since in bridge design, I would say that the Kenyan education system was more than adequate in preparing me for engineering school and a career as bridge engineer.

Based on that, I would say that the civil engineering graduates from Kenyan Universities have the basic tools to succeed as engineers in this world.

I read a comment that Kenyan universities are preparing students for 1980’s style construction – and if that is true, then I would say that is a good thing. If one clearly understands how to design structures built in the 1980’s then they understand the basics of design and construction.

There are buildings and bridges built in the 1900’s that are still standing. Over the years, the basics in design & construction have remained the same, with the difference being how well/accurately we calculate the design loads, and how well we design the structure to withstand these loads, the safety factors we apply to them, and the materials we use to construct them. If one understands the basic principles, then the next step of understanding modern design factors, codes, and materials is very simple.

I would rather have an engineer that can design a bridge using the old code by hand, than one who can only design the bridge using modern software packages, (and who does not know how the program comes up with the solution).

China has over a billion people therefore they will have way more engineering graduates. The way forward for Kenya and Africa, is to continue to produce civil engineers who clearly understand the basics in design and construction. Some of these graduates can then go to universities aboard to get their masters and post-graduate degrees, and who can later transfer this additional knowledge back to Kenya and Africa. The graduates that remain in Kenya upon graduation should go work under the direction of more qualified engineers, who can give them guidance on how to design various basic structures at first, with the complexity of the structure increasing as their career progresses. In engineering, like most things, experience, with the ability to learn, counts the most. Those graduates that went abroad, on return to Kenya can start out designing more complex structures based on the experience gained, but should still work under the guidance of more experienced engineers.

It may surprise a few people but today in the US, there is a debate raging on whether a master’s degree in civil engineering should be the minimum qualification for someone to be a registered civil engineer. It is felt that the current undergraduate programs are not adequate, especially if the pay for civil engineers is to go up.

In order for Kenyan and African engineers and companies to compete for, and design, major construction projects like the Thika Road Project, there needs to be a requirement that Kenyan and African engineers and companies be involved in the design and construction of these projects. This can be done by requiring some portions of the project to be designed and constructed by local engineers.

Another requirement, which would add to the cost of projects, but would ensure the transfer of knowledge, is to have independent designs done by local engineers. This means, having Chinese /European/American design firms design the complex structures but at the same time have local engineers and companies independently produce designs of the same complex structure. The local firm’s designs can then the compared to those produced by the foreign firm. Another problem with design & construction in Kenya and Africa is having adequate QA/QC procedures in place to ensure that structures are designed correctly and constructed according to the engineers design using the specified materials.

Through this process, current local deficiencies (if any) would be revealed, and at the same time the local firms would learn how things are done differently by foreign engineers/firms. This design exercise cost is very small, compared to the actual construction costs and I have been involved in projects where two independent designs have been produced.

Education Moment: Is Our Children Learning?

The post is based on random thoughts on education in Kenya spurred by events like the Loreto Msongari bus accident, to talks with school administrators, observing universities take over libraries and nursery schools to expand their class sizes, reading blogs, and getting lots of press releases some of which touch on the education sector in Kenya .

Who will build schools?: With the cost of real estate going up in Nairobi (Kshs 100 million [$1.1 million] for an acre in some parts) it is getting harder to imagine how more schools can be built to cater for the young growing population.
Former Nairobi nursery school, now a university campus

Schools like Makini (profiled in this story in the Business Daily ) have grown from having 8 students to over 1,000 after many years of hard work and success, that they now have eleven (11) streams of primary school pupils. Also, due to demand for places, some nursery schools have long waiting lists, and advise parents to register/book places for prospective students , before the children are even born.

Value in education is found in other places, like the recent Hillcrest settlement, which concluded a decade-long running bank receivership by way of new investments by a venture capital fund and a private school chain (Rose of Sharon) who will continue to run and expand the school.

What about old schools?: This post by Rookie Manager further points out the waste of resources that parents throw by enrolling their children in newer private and expensive private schools and wonder if by channeling the same funds towards rehabilitating old existing public schools would go a lot further. These old schools have the advantage of being located in established neighbourhoods and have ample space for various educational pursuits

What about new parts of the city? Nairobi is growing driven by private sector housing developments, notably in the Kitengela and Southern parts of the City, but this s not being matched in terms of education.

One touted solution comes from the Bridge International Academies who offer a low-cost school model designed to quickly roll out in low-income areas and offer quality education at a cost of about $4 per month for each child. However a blog post was written that offered s contrarian assessment about the system and this elicited a comment in response and explanation of the program from the co-founder.

The anticipated demand for schools has also become point of controversy in China with a investment fund that plans to build 1,000 schools in Africa.

In terms of Curriculum & research, G33kdiary has a post on the current hunger situation in Kenya and she notes that Kenya’s food security is unlikely to improve as long as schools don’t teach agriculture and emphasize & promote farming livelihoods, while White African had another on the lack of Africa ICT research

Recent Financial incentives: recent ones of note include:

  • South Sudan is offering to pay loans for her nationals in the USA provided they have completed their education (bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD.) and are willing to return home to work (The pilot program is called the South Sudan Student Loan Forgiveness Program – SSSLFP).
  • Eagle Africa (former AIG Insurance) recently launched a low cost insurance plan to protect kids from road accidents playground incidents – it covers the entire time an insured student is in the hands of the institution including travel to and from the school.
  • Having adequate savings to fund education is one constant constraint, and financial funds like British American (who just had a 60% subscription in their IPO) is one of them; Britak offer education savings plans – called Super E plus, Elimu Bora, and Invest Plus, which all offer a variety of savings, insurance, and investments.

Use of technology: Encyclopedia’s for schools was the theme of a recent talk by a visiting Wikimedia team at the iHub. They covered the need to spread knowledge to the offline population – such as to remote schools with few textbooks (but perhaps a computer), and offered a solution in the form of a single DVD from Wikimedia can hold over 1 million articles, as well as a free software tool called Kiwix which enables the articles to be read offline to teach students in remote distant parts
Wikimedia in education
iPads and Kindles : E-readers will change the way the developing world reads is an argument put forward in this post based on observations from Ghana, to Kilgoris. However, a follow-up report notes that Kindle rule changes from Amazon mean that content cannot be loaded across multiple devices at one time and each kindle has to be tethered to its own account – both of which limit its potential as a mass education tool.

The absurd: The above post title comes from an infamous Bush-ism or slip of the tongue by former American president George W. Bush.

And finally, in the news today, is a Kenyan Member of Parliament who is about to lose his seat – because one of the allegations leveled was that the MP could not articulate himself in English and Kiswahili and may have falsified his language proficiency exam results.

Kenya Exam Results Online

This morning, embattled officials of Kenya’s Ministry of Education will release results of primary school education performance for over 700,000 students who sat the KCPE exam last year – and these will be posted at the Exams Council website (corrected site)

The exams council has also gazetted some rule changes that have been in effect for some years now, covering KCSE which is the next level of exams (high school) these students will take in four years time:

  • Kenyans may sit for may sit for the exam outside the country if an embassy/mission makes an application on their behalf, the exam is administered by a local exam body, and the candidate meets costs related to facilitating the exam
  • Students must do at least 7 subjects (best 7 will count)
  • Examined subjects can include sign language, aviation, drawing & design, building construction, Hindu religious education, and 2 alternatives of mathematics paper. Also, there are special papers in Braille and question papers for the hearing impaired.
  • Exams may be remarked at the request of school head teacher with justification.
  • The rules have been updated to cover exam offences and consequences such as exam results may be withheld or canceled – and students are given grade Y (as opposed to A B C D E) and may not sit exams for a subsequent two years. Exam centers can be de-registered if wide-spread malpractices are shown.
  • Allows students of other East African counties to take the exams.
  • Candidates may use calculators and state the type used (silent, non-programmable ones)  that may not store formulas or algebra, draw/store graphics, have dictionaries etc. If schools provide calculators, they shall be of the same make.
  • Candidates may re-sit exams as many times as possible.