By Abdi Mohamed Golo, Toronto – Canada:
Many decades ago, a group of us graduated from an all-mixed Griftu primary school situated in Wajir west constituency, Wajir County with an enrollment of 705 pupils and a student teacher ratio of 44:1 which means that there are around 59 pupils in each of the 12 classrooms.
Only recently, at least 100 of us both senior and junior alumni were reunited, thanks to the power of social media and efforts from my former classmates Kahiye and Osman Mohamed and many others with zeal and energy, the likes of; Bukut, Birik, Ali Yussuf, Golos, Kontomas, Batas, Shariffs, Kotobos, Abdullahi Adans and the list is endless…
Coincidentally the alumni group patron is the area MP Hon Abdikadir Ore who is one of our own in Griftu with vast experience in humanitarian world running various medical and good governance programs and we happened to bump to each other in various trips as we departed for various missions in the horn of Africa Prior to his election.
The Alumni are now planning to mark our decade’s anniversary with a reunion in Griftu soon. The former students have since gone on to become doctors, engineers, accountants, bankers, first ladies, teachers, successful business people, humanitarian Aid workers, TSC commissioners, members of parliament, politicians, and many others in the Diaspora and security officers among other professions and they are the cream of vibrant public and private sector both in the national and county government and they have made us proud.
But more important than feting the occasion, we have been contemplating ways in which we can give back to the school that, in hindsight, significantly contributed to who we have become today.
Ideas are endless as to the possible ways we could make an impact and the priorities and needs were enormous. The idea which has earned my vote, however, is the proposal that we establish a fund that will support the basic physical structures of the school and learning resources, as well as for rewarding top performing students with scholarships or mentoring programs at the school, giving a motivation talk to the pupils and making the school center of excellence in the county and the region.
While that is in action, it is one that has got me thinking about the role that we play or don’t play in the welfare of institutions of learning we went through as old boys and girls.
If the truth be told, most Kenyans who went to local schools would never dream of having their children attend the same schools they themselves attended.
Most will not even reveal which schools they attended. Reason? They remember a run down, dilapidated and neglected establishment with poor or declining academic performance. This is more so in the rural and marginalized areas where conditions are less forgiving as noted in various schools in northern Kenya.
But whatever the cause to shy away from any association with our former schools, it is time to give these physical landmarks of our past lives a rethink. It’s time to trace back your roots and home of knowledge however the situation is bad, home is sweet home and charity begins at home and we all walk the talk.
Old students have a place in the education system, whether at primary, secondary or institutions of higher learning and they are the fulcrum of development and the required leadership.
The concept of school alumni or old student associations is not a new one and in many developed countries, old student associations have a significant influence on the development of the institutions they once called school and home.
In northern Kenya, however, the concept of giving back has not set deep enough roots. It is somewhat strong in the more affluent schools, which are most likely to be private, but very weak in the public schools’ domain.
Yet, public schools and learning institutions in northern Kenya and Griftu primary can be credited with generating the greater proportion of the workforce available today in both national and county government and the alumni of GPS are drivers of change in Wajir county and beyond.
At the moment, education has received considerable attention as far the national budget allocation is concerned, taking almost 25 per cent share of the national cake.
This is mostly in support of free primary education. Still, facilities are inadequate and basic learning equipment lacking altogether in many schools with visible infrastructure damage and till today unfortunately we have open class rooms under the shade of trees.
To fully reform, equip and energize northern Kenya education system will take more than just the government, parents and teachers. It will take a fourth force-the old student as evidenced by Griftu alumni group.
And that could only happen if the culture of giving back to our former institutions of learning takes root. A strong association of the diverse old students is an extremely effective tool in the advancement and improvement of public schools and hence the outcome is good performance. It’s also Sign of unity to shun tribalism and advocate for the better good of the society.
As Northern Kenya schools the challenge is we certainly need to appreciate and rethink our involvement, participation and contribution to our institutions that we have gone through. We need to give to society, give back to society and partner with these institutions if we expect a better and evolved society. There are many approaches and levels these can happen at and the following terms become handy in thinking through this kind of initiative.
I pen off here and share a poem from Gaile, a Somali poet on knowledge is light:
KNOWLEDGE IS LIGHT
(Composed by: Mohamednoor Mohamed Gaile)
Knowledge Is Light
If this right
Life is bright
Education glows the Heart and soul like daylight
Our focus will be in sight
The future will soar to great height
Take time to Read and Write to be a top flight
There is no need of fright
Ignorance, Ethnicity and Corruption are the relatives of a dark night
If you hold guns tight
Prepare for an endless fight
Misery and Woe will be the Plight
Death and Hunger will not make anyone a knight
Books and Pens are the Weapons of Might
Knowledge is Light
Somalia is the symbol of an abandoned Freight
The world is run by the Books of the G Eight
Be mindful, the course is never straight
Lead the pack out of the dark with Torchlight
Invent like the Wright Brothers to be on the Spotlight
Knowledge Is Light
Kudos to Griftu Alumni students! We are proud of you! You lead and others follow!
Abdi Mohamed Golo, Law and mental health program, Toronto- Canada. Follow Abdi on twitter @moha2002za