8-4-4 was meant to create ‘hustlers’

Peter and Ominde [Photo: Courtesy]

The students who recently received their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCPE) national examination results were part of the 8-4-4 education system that marked 31 years of existence in 2016.

Spearheaded by retired President Moi in 1985, the 8-4-4 system replaced the 7-4-2-3 system adopted at independence from recommendations of the Ominde Commission that was chaired by Prof Simeon Ominde in 1964.

The 7-4-2-3 system provided enough time for male students to grow beards (in shorts) while girls turned into mamas - as they ploughed seven years in primary school, four years in lower secondary (O-Level), two years in upper secondary (A-Level) and three years in university.

Did you know that the Ominde Commission was the one that recommended the singing of the national anthem during the raising of the flag ceremony at parade time in schools as part of fostering national unity?

The Ominde Commission also led to the creation of national schools and masomo ya ngumbaru that saw an illiterate aunt Trufena learn ‘sha-she-shi-sho-shu’ in adulthood, enabling her to read the Bible during jumuia sessions in her hood.

Ominde’s 7-4-2-3 system replaced the colonial system that operated along racial segregation lines, in which jungus, wahindis and miros schooled differently.

Did you know that the three separate racial systems were borne of the perception that “the mental development of the average African adult was equivalent to that of the average seven- to eight-year-old European boy?”

Did you also know the colonial system was such that miros learnt along the 4-4-2-2 system comprising four years in lower primary, four years in upper primary and two years each of lower and upper secondary?

 Failure at ‘intermediate’ lower secondary exams was almost the end of education for most Africans. Duke of York (The Lenana School), Prince of Wales (Nairobi School), Duke of Gloucester (Jamhuri High School), Duchess of Gloucester (Pangani Girls) and Delamere High (Upper Hill Secondary) all changed names after the government implemented the Ominde Commission’s report beginning 1966, besides the introduction of a single national examination - which students have sat to date.

But Ominde’s 7-4-2-3 system was churning out too many jobless school leavers. A commission, chaired by Peter Gachathi, a one-time PS in the ministry of Education, was formed to dig into the issues.

The Gachathi Commission of 1976 found the 7-4-2-3 system to be ‘too academic’ and not suitable for direct absorption into the job market, besides being ‘too elitist and individualistic’ in the face of socialist African mores that encouraged the principle of watu ni kusaidiana.

The 8-4-4 system replaced  the 7-4-2-3 system after Canadian scholar Colin Mackay was tasked to reform it. The 8-4-4 system was fashioned as more practical and oriented to self-employment.

This was how, from the Mackay Commission of 1982, a whole generation of Kenyans came to learn home science, art and craft, music, science and agriculture, metalwork and woodwork, besides being members of 4K Club and Young Farmers Clubs.

That 4K meant Kuungana, Kufanya, Kusaidia Kenya is laughable in view of the drought that ravages the country every 10 years.

Never mind that the 8-4-4 system was deemed as too broad, of poor quality, expensive and burdensome to students and parents who pay fees through running noses.