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Students May Not Be Stupid

Editorial, The Nation (Nairobi), 23 July 2001

Whenever education experts discuss the causes of the rising school drop-out rate, they often cite poverty, forgetting other causes which may not be as pronounced.

Indeed, little research has gone into examining the different reasons why children opt to discontinue school.

Yet, as a story in our education supplement indicates, poverty can only partly explain the phenomenon.

The main problem could lie with school curriculums and the teaching methods. Our learning system, for instance, has no patience with children with learning disabilities, hidden conditions hardly ever discovered by non-perceptive teacher.

These children are potentially able to write, read, spell and do arithmetic, but their examination scores do not reflect that capability. They always fail in the examinations because their condition is hardly ever identified let alone corrected.

So they are branded slow learners, lazy and stupid. They are made to repeat classes several times, are punished heavily for not catching up with the rest, and at times advised to seek transfers to other schools.

It is the frustration and the feeling of rejection that compel them to drop out, if they do not persevere long enough to be weeded out by national examinations.

Though the problem of learning disabilities has never been surveyed, estimates indicate that between 30 and 40 per cent of the school-going population comprises children with learning difficulties like myopia and dyslexia.

Specialists in special education are few and the majority of teachers are only interested in drilling the pupils for examinations rather than helping them develop in a holistic manner.

What this means is that many children are dropping out of school for reasons that are not difficult to correct.

The teacher training process should stress how to accommodate and develop such children.

Students may not be stupid

Copyright 2001 The Nation. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).