A shortened version of this story was published in Daily Nation on March 12 2015, read it here.
Every year we rightly celebrate the few students who did very well in the KCPE and KCSE. However, there is a tendency to forget the number of people who did not get the right grades to get into university or high school. Those students are reduced to a number and nobody wants to talk about it. We have decided that since they will not go on to high school and university and become doctor or engineers we should not concern ourselves with their stories, their hopes or their dreams. In our society that esteems formal education as the only path to success. They are still teenagers and should have their best years ahead of them, but they risk becoming a part of a forgotten generation of losers.
Our education system is deeply flawed where the skills you need are offered after high school. That means that most of the students at this point will remember pointless facts for their exams, but not have valuable skills they need in their lives. Skills like how to critically asses a situation, a contract or an offer to verify its validity has not yet been taught. Aside from having their hopes and dreams burst, they are increasingly at risk of being victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is the trade of women, men and children for the purposes of exploitation.
Anyone can become victims of human trafficking as we have seen with the engineers who were trafficked to Angola, but it is more often the case that unemployed youths and single mothers are being targeted for trafficking scenarios such as forced labor and forced prostitution.
We need to diversify our definition of success in the society. Not everyone can become a doctor, pilot or engineer and realistically not everyone should. We also need people in many other fields. It is not the individual student who has failed; it is our system which has failed them. The life options for children without the motivation or capacity for academic studies should be highlighted and celebrated.
As we celebrate the six or ten 6-10 individuals who have excelled in their final exams, we also have to remember the ones got lower grades, the people whose stories are never told. We also need to remember that traffickers mark this number and look for the vulnerable. We have heard from our partners that recruiters will go through the test score lists and target the ones with the lowest grades with questionable job offers, which may in fact be human trafficking in disguise.
By Sophie Otiende