By Sisinio Muthengi, Ph.D.
In 2007 campaigns for Kenyan elections, many politicians tried to woo the voters, and top on the agenda was provision for free secondary education, which was not actually achieved after the elections due to the costs involved. Since then, my heart never rested from thinking about the inventive ways, quite ingenious, that could be employed to provide proper education that would be convenient and affordable to everyone in Kenya.
At the primary level, enrollment grew from 891,533 in 1963 to over 7.0 million in 2003, and now (2004) stands at 7.2 million at Public Primary Schools and 300,000 at Community Schools. At the secondary level, enrollment grew from 30,000 in 1963 to over 700,000 in 2003 and now stands at over 850,000 with a corresponding increase of schools to 3,891 from 151 at independence.
So, if we have 7.2 million graduating from primary school, and only 850,000 pupils have been absorbed into secondary school education, then 6.35 million pupils must be lost somewhere.
They might not get further education, and the country loses that opportunity. School TV Kenya aims at getting at least half of these students who cannot get such an opportunity, provide them with quality education, and empower them to participate in national building. The dream is to see people being empowered despite their age; to be able to read and write without going through the stigmatization of being elderly standard-one students. School TV Kenya would like to see all those boys and girls, now men and women, who dropped from school get their books back, and become the professors they were meant to be. To me, I’m convinced that School TV Kenya is that solution.
We were dealing with secondary school Kenya Institute curriculum development syllabus and registered students for Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) after primary and ‘O’-levels. We also offered 4 tertiary certificate and diploma programs and a tuition-free BA in Development Studies (BDS) in collaboration with a private university.
This is how the innovation was conceptualized and actualized in 2012 when School TV Kenya got its business channel operating license from the Government of Kenya to run as a commercial free-to-air TV Station. It was launched in 2014 in Meru region and 3 months later, covered the capital city Nairobi and 5 other counties. The feedback from children using the channel was great, and partnership with the Management University of Africa to offer a tuition-free BA in Development Studies (BDS) was a wonderful development.
Challenges Faced by School TV Kenya
The project was working on a self-sustainable model where it was to run as commercial television and raise the running costs by commercials and sponsorships of the programs. However, the market dynamics in Kenya is that we were not able to get meaningful business from the media-buying companies because of corruption and cartels that run the media industry in Kenya. Overlain with running costs, School TV Kenya was forced off-air and was running online for quite some time. We are currently strategizing on how to get back on the air using mobile apps VoD that is being built to enhance global visibility. It’s important to note that in Kenya, as a developing country, raising capital is a big challenge. Although one may have great innovations, most end up just being that! Dead great projects.
In the wake of COVID 19, where Kenya has shut schools and universities, this project, if we could get some support, can be of great help to e-learning and fill the gap created by a global pandemic. I sought for partners who could support and fund the initial stages of the project but was not fortunate to find any. Even today we are still searching for local and global partners to return the station back on air and boost performance.
We are actively looking for partners to re-engage and sustain this important educational tool.
Dr. Sisinio, 42, was born and brought up in a remote village in the slopes of Mt Kenya in East Africa. Together, with 2 boys and 2 girls, they were brought up by a strong single mother after their father separated from their mother when he was quite young. The mother, though not educated in formal education, encouraged him to study and change the poverty situation in the family, which became the greatest motivation to become a scholar and an innovator with unlimited possibilities. Today, Dr. Sisinio is a professor of tourism management in one of the prestigious universities in Kenya, Kenyatta University, and the departmental post-graduate coordinator with great experience in university education and research. He is married to Esther Rachael and is blessed with 2 boys and 2 girls. He is an innovator of a motor engine that does not use fossil fuels, a telemedicine innovator of a system that helps in self-diagnosis, and a virtual educator using School Television media house in Kenya. He is a multilingual speaker of English, French, Spanish, Swahili, and a number of indigenous Kenyan dialects.