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Most Kenyan Adults Are Functionally Illiterate, Reports World Bank.

The recent pronouncement by the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that all political aspirants must possess a degree certificate generated more heat than light.

What is the place of education in Kenya's labor market? Is acquiring a university degree more important than having the competencies to perform a particular task?

While not belittling the importance of education as catalyst of development in the modern world, a 2013-2017 World Banks skills survey found out that most Kenyan adult were functionally illiterate in English.

Why is this information important? According to the Constitution of Kenya, Article 120(1) states that the official language is English, Kiswahili, and Kenyan sign language.

It declares that Parliament business may be conducted in any of the three languages as stipulated in the law. What does this mean?

Kenyans seeking elective posts at the County or National level must have the prerequisites language skills and competencies to perform the business of the house.

It does not mean one should possess a degree certificate to participate meaningfully in the business of the house.

In the Prentice Hall handbook for writers, a whole topic on English writing skills for People whose English is not their first language.

Reading and writing skills are necessary for professionals like business people, opinion shapers, and leaders.

In Parliamentary business, writing and reading is a tool used to get tasks done and accomplished.

Good reading and writing skills help leaders determine findings, draw a conclusion about those findings and make recommendations for actions to be taken.

These skills help a leader to grasp the issue at hand, offer reasoned arguments during debates to convince and persuade other members.

It's therefore not enough for one to be a degree holder and not have the skills and knowledge to perform those particular tasks.

In the survey, among university graduates, less than a quarter was found to be functionally literate in English. This has left 3/4 inadequately prepared to carry out any business in English.

The World Bank report on Kenya released on 30th June 2021, "Rising above the waves" said employer (Voters) identified as a major hurdle the inability of workers to handle work-related tasks.

Workers or leaders often lack basic competencies such as reading, writing, and the internet of things (IoT) operations.

Kenya has tried to improve the provision of education among the crop of workers including politicians. However, education and work-based skills remain low.

While the legislation on degree requirements for MP and MCA caught the attention of aspirants seeking to vie in the 2022 general election.

It's the on-the-job competencies and skills that should be emphasized. One should endeavor to acquire.

Parliament should come up with a parliamentary academy that offers training to MP and MCA on parliamentary business. Those certified be issued with a competency certificate.

This is the way to prepare the legislators for the future. The legal fraternity has their Kenya school of law, the media council has established a media academy, and the Teachers service commission is seeking to establish a postgraduate school.

An educated worker who has acquired competency and skills will be highly productive and eligible to earn better wages. This will go a long way in eradicating fake certificate syndicates.

According to the WB report, there is an abundant labor supply in Kenya. It is important to note here that earnings depend highly on education levels attained.

But having attained a high level of education doesn't necessarily translate to a better worker. Women and youths are more vulnerable to being unemployed and inactive in the labor market.

Persons with disabilities and other Kenyans with minimal education levels were singled out as likely to be unemployed and inactive in economic development.

This category of Kenyans was likely to offer their labor in less productive and low-paying job sectors such as Agriculture and jua Kali.

Education pays off in Kenya, leading to a scramble for high education and acquisitions of degree certificates at whatever cost.

The World Bank report pointed out that labor force participation rates, employability rates, and earnings are much higher among the educated Kenyans.

The higher the level of education one has, the more they are likely to participate in labor provisions in the most productive sectors of the economy for example in ICT, finance, and education.

As political leaders seek a way out of the degree requirements conundrum, Kenya is staring at an employment-seeking bulge. One million Kenyans will enter the job market each year for the next decade.

It's trite that Kenya taps into this demographic dividend. How can Kenya accelerate the creation of more quality employment opportunities for its youths?

Developing competency and skills centers like TVET is an initial step. Continued childhood education development and provision of quality healthcare is another.

We must provide a quality education that guarantees jobs and technical skills relevant to the modern job market.

The education system must be responsive to employers' needs. It must provide graduates with the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for tailored to task-based activities.

In conclusion, to boost productivity in the coming decade, economic transformation, skills, and human capital development should be the top priority.

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English Kenya Kenyan Kiswahili World Bank


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