Education in Modern Multiethnic Kenya

In January 2008, inter-ethnic clashes broke out in Kenya. Hostilities were directed at people perceived to have voted for a particular political party during the December 27, 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections in which the main opposition political party accused the government of rigging. Several people died in the skirmishes, while others were displaced from their homes and sent seeking refuge in churches and police stations. Hostility escalated prompting the international community to step in to assist with food, shelter, and other essential needs. The former United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, stepped in to broker negotiations between the opposing sides. Although the disputed elections were blamed for the crisis, ethnic conflicts emanate from longstanding land disputes between various ethnic groups dating back to the colonial period.

While few accusations of wrongdoing against the British colonizers might be disputable, and many would argue that the British legacy of inequitable power relations, unequal distributions of resources and opportunities among Kenya´s ethnically diversity communities, and an obsolete and inadequate educational system continue to limit Kenyan prosperity and threaten national unity, I argue here that it is time to move forward. I further argue that in postindependent Kenya, and against a backdrop of colonial domination, oppression, and marginalization, education is now one of the most important means to empower Kenyans with the knowledge necessary to understand, acknowledge, and define their own identity as a united country of diverse ethnicity. In this chapter, I discuss historical and contemporary contexts in which educational policies, curriculum structures, and educational practices in Kenya contribute to the current state of affairs in Kenya. I engage these contexts as a basis for which contemporary education in Kenya could be restructured and formulated as a model for envisioning a means by which Kenya might reorient itself in a globalized world. I show how the arts and art education are central to this goal.