Education, Musings

My vision of education

I am a firm believer in the capacity of public goods to supply our needs. In that regard, I push for more, and better, public hospitals and schools.

My birthday is tomorrow and I am not yet at the point at which one writes a personal manifesto so this is the closest thing as I grow older.

As regular readers may have noticed, I am passionate about education and I identify as a feminist. My feminist stance affects how I feel about education and it’s this: We need free, quality, accessible, basic education for all children.

We especially need it for girls and young women because the way the patriarchy is set up, boys will be chosen over girls when resources are scarce. It needs to be free for this reason; so that no one person denies their child an education because they do not have funds.

It needs to be a quality education because otherwise it’s just a checklist item being ticked off. It needs to be the sort of education that enables children to navigate the world they live in and equips them to deal with one not yet seen. One that gives them room to try out a variety of things and to find what they love. One that imagines all children as capable of more than the things that capitalism ascribes with value: money, possessions, political influence.

Education needs to be accessible. When I think of all the solutions that are envisioned for education, I see the children left behind: Those who live far from school, those with special needs, those who have come into contact with the carceral state, those who are separated from their parents. If education does not answer the needs of these children, something still needs to be done.

It’s easy to sound like a wet blanket when I say these things but I have seen what a difference believing in them makes in the life of children. If one believes-like I do-in these matters, they will attend those long, tedious parents’ meetings at school. And when they do, they’ll demand certain things: rebuild that wall, make sure the sanitary facilities are up to par, why is the school’s performance so bad? And then you will stick around to see change come to pass and after that, keep those in charge accountable.

One day I shall talk about how I square this desire to see certain goods in the public domain with wanting to see the children I care for succeed. Before then, I leave you with this manifesto; one I feel challenged by every time I read.

Happy birthday tomorrow, Nyambura.





The face of service

One of the things I actively try to do is praise people who are good at what they do; especially to their faces. In an age where spaces such as Twitter and Facebook have been captured by corporate accounts, that online praise may just fail to ‘kindly’ get to its destination.

Which leads me to the events of Sunday morning. My cousin-sister and I went to Kawangware Market to buy belts and walk about in search of deals.

Two ladies were offended when we revealed that we were just looking and one went to the lengths of shooing us away. This was frankly ridiculous but also telling – if you’ll not give me your money now, you’re worthless.

It was so refreshing to come upon Stano. We had spotted his ‘Dresses 100’ sign while at another seller’s stand so we made a beeline for his after we had seen what little there was on offer (Sunday isn’t great for visiting a market. Pro Tip™).

He welcomed us warmly and was a good sport when I asked him to take pictures of me as I tried different outfits. When it started to rain, he made space for us in the pile of clothes and urged us to stay as long as we needed to. We didn’t need encouragement.

My sister greatly appreciated the gesture and told him about our strange experiences with the two other sellers. He told us that his policy is to make his customers welcome; because they could come back…with friends. We saw it in action as a girl walked over and called her friend to come get a deal-both got two dresses apiece.

Yours truly got a dress for herself and one for Mama Cumin. More importantly, a vital reminder that fantastic service people exist in the city. Here’s to many more such rays of sunshine.

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at

Questions, comments, suggestions or thoughts on privacy? Send them to 🙂

Musings, Privacy

Consider the lols

As some of you may know, last week saw a church group’s WhatsApp chat paraded on social media and lots of brands hop on the trend. Couldn’t be me, we all thought, couldn’t be me.

The day after a certain follower of Christ became the basis of a trending topic, I sent my uncle a message in which I asked him to meet me somewhere & get me something. Nothing salacious (4th floor of the building I was in & a lemonade, respectively) but I felt my face grow hot as I explained why he had received the message (Facebook Messenger was still open and I had typed a message intended for a contact on WhatsApp onto it).

Privacy kept coming to mind every time I saw something related to that trend last week. There were versions of the chat in which members’ names and numbers were not redacted. They are now in the public domain for all manner of people to do as they please. Not what they had in mind when they cast their lot with their fellow believers.

It reminded me about one of the most common pro-surveillance stances: If you have nothing to hide, why be afraid or concerned about privacy? The question is, what is the measure of ‘nothing to hide’? Look at the paragraph in which I detail the contents of my message and remember that human nature could turn even that innocuous message into a tale for corporates to latch on, for a random character to harass one of us, for brands or government to target us. Now, consider privacy. Nothing to hide, yes, nothing to share with the larger world, either.

Kui Kihoro Mackay wrote better than I can about the events of last week and what it says about the situation we find ourselves in: no space is wholly separate from another. Read her brilliant blog post here.

On the topic of privacy, I am reminded of Jill Lepore’s essay, “Privacy in the Age of Publicity”, which traces the path of American thought on privacy as well as her New Yorker Festival lecture on the topic. Worth a (re-)read in light of recent events.

Go then, to the lols, and consider their ways and what they stand for in our lives.

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at

Questions, comments, suggestions or thoughts on privacy? Send them to 🙂

Education, Musings

What’s the point of school?

Really, what’s the point?

There was recently a call-out for people to share their views on 8-4-4 & our education policy on the whole. This year has seen leaders in the management of education (your ministers, your ministry officials) conceptualise education as an anti-terrorist, patriotic venture.

Each of these conversations makes me think that maybe the thing we need to question is the very idea of school. Why do we attend it? What would we lose if we had less of it? Who does it benefit?

Increasingly, lately, what sort of school? Why send our children to school?

I think of the fee paying schools (as the World Bank calls them) sprouting around (Bridge comes to mind) and how they are supposedly delivering better education in the same institution: school. What part do these places have in the gradual (further,  even) divestment government may be willing to conduct in the education sector?

Does it help to consider school an embodiment of things that are right – or wrong – in our society? And once we do, what then? Would we then have to think about what our values are and what we want to pass on?

In the midst of all this, I think of people who are currently getting a raw deal out of education as it is currently framed: girls and boys from desperately poor families, children with disabilities, vulnerable children. What does school mean to them, what can reform offer them?

These questions keep me going; they make me keep reading (what are you currently reading?) and they keep me talking to people who know so much more. (Reminder: the #ed10reads meeting is tomorrow. Grab your ticket!)

For a long time, I thought school was a place one went to meet agemates, to learn new things (not exclusively from teachers; think about playground lessons) and to get ready for ‘the real world’.

I’m not too sure it’s that simple any more but I’m hopeful that I’ll keep learning about more aspects of this complicated business that is schooling and sharing some of my reflections with you.

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at

Questions, comments, suggestions or a recipe for a cure for insomnia? Send them to 🙂

Education, Musings

Introducing #Ed10Reads

For a while now, I have been part of a group of 10 education enthusiasts and entrepreneurs called The Ed 10 Consortium. We started off as a motley collection of people who are interested in education in some way. My thing is writing; now is a good time to say the message I’m sending out to the universe is ‘Send me my education-related writing fellowship!’. I have taught in primary schools (most recently in 2012) and the issues facing education are important to me.

In the corner I live in, there is a lot of talk about education reform. The biggest voices are those of people who want to bring technology into the classroom and there’s a lot of money and support for this school of thought. I am currently ambivalent about it but that’s a conversation for another day.

It’s become apparent over time that enthusiasm can only go so far. It’s vital for us to school ourselves on the underpinnings of education thought that lead to the things we see in the education system. There’s an information gap; leading to situations when the only people who know any education theory are teachers; and talking at cross purposes with people who work in education reform.

Thinking about this led me to think of the possibility of an education reading circle; a group of people interested in learning the thought and trends that have led us to this day. Speaking to my friend Laila after the inaugural Ed 10 Drink Up led to us thinking about what this would look like. Right now, it looks like #Ed10Reads and we’ll hold our first meeting on Thursday 29th October 2015 from 6pm to 8pm at Spire Education. This first meeting is about the integration of technology in assessmentnot a big issue in Kenya at the moment but something to think of.

To sign up for the event, please go here, get your ticket and read up, tweet using #Ed10Reads and tune in. Better yet, see you then!

Note: I have undertaken to write a post a day for a year. I’m collating all the posts (spanning 3 blogs) using the hashtag #CuminWrites366.

If you have questions,compliments, or want to find out what education issue keeps me up at night, the address is