Revamp technical training

Ibrahim Mwathane
Ibrahim Mwathane 

The 2010 KCSE results are out. Giants like Starehe Boys and Mang’u, my old school, are down.

During my days in Mang’u, this comparative national statistics never worried us.

We worked to beat our personal best. Everyone individually aimed at university entry. This is how we collectively excelled.

Our popular combination those days was Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry or Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

These were subjects, then and now, known to be prerequisite to entering the premier professional courses in architecture, engineering and the medical careers.

High flyers in the just released results express wish to join courses in engineering and medicine. That’s expected annually.

That’s why last week I listened attentively to a discussion between two university dons with internal insights to what happens in the engineering discipline. It shook me badly.

I hence pose the question: Do teachers and parents bother to interrogate the local courses students or children choose today?

Do they care about the curricula and post-training opportunities?

Listening, it became clear that some curricula in the engineering faculties may have slowly fallen behind.

One engineer in practice is cited to have asked lecturers why they would be taking his son through curricula he took more than 20 years ago despite the obvious advancements in technology.

They cited yet another case where a consumer needed to be advised on the best pump to buy for his institution.

He therefore took details of the water storage and water consumption levels and the expected consumer population. He then gave the information in digital form to an engineer working with one of the pump vendors and asked that they process it to find an optimal pump. The young engineer looked lost.

The incident helps to illustrate why there may have been a gradual disconnect between the current university curricula in engineering, today’s technology and market demands.

I wondered whether today’s local graduates can provide us with designs for roads flying over our heads and other state-of-the-art super-structures like what the Chinese are putting up for us. Heads shook in the negative.

I learnt too that the registration of engineers is still pegged to the traditional definition of an engineer when Nairobi University enjoyed a monopoly to training locally.

Why? I learnt that one of the departments had a high failure rate recently, despite attracting top students at entry.

Why? I learnt that there are hardly any lecturers in the 30-50 year age bracket.

Why? How then can they embrace modern technology?

We need technology-driven digital machines today to complement the analogue ones.

Look, every don in charge of a technology-driven department in any of our universities today must embrace technology.

Computing and design is powerful with technology. And respective registration boards must style up.

They cannot remain beholden to the definitions of a doctor, engineer, architect, surveyor and planner left this country by our colonial masters.

Professions are dynamic and curricula and registration systems must remain dynamic to cope.