February 6, 2014
President Kenyatta plants a commemorative tree ahead of the inauguration
It was a day that begun with entertainment from secondary school students, who were excited to perform for senior guests, including Kenya's President H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta. This was very fitting as the facilities being inaugurated targeted improvement in the teaching and learning of science and mathematics education in primary and secondary schools.
The Strengthening of Mathematics and Science in Secondary Education (SMASSE project) is JICA's longest cooperation with Kenya, running for 15 years from 1998-2013. The project was launched to deal with causes of the poor performance in mathematics and science in Kenya through teachers' In-Service Education and Training (INSETs) and stakeholders' workshops under cascade model of training.
After piloting the Project, existing facilities were no longer adequate, hence the need for construction of new facilities to meet training demands in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa by 2008. The project was also expanded and the focus shifted from secondary schools to include both primary and secondary schools. The project was thereafter known as SMASE – Strengthening of Mathematics and Science Education (SMASE). The Government of Japan supported the Project on Upgrading and Refurbishment of CEMASTEA facilities from 2012-2013.
The SMASE project is expected to contribute to the improvement of the quality of mathematics and science education for technological and industrial development in Kenya and other African countries. The groundbreaking ceremony for the project was presided over by the late Hon. Mutula Kilonzo, former Minister for Education in July 2012.
President Kenyatta greets Mr. Eguchi as Deputy Ambassador Mori and JICA’s Senior Representative Mr. Junichi Hanai look on
During the inauguration ceremony, President Kenyatta noted the expected contribution of CEMASTEA for the achievement of Kenya's Vision 2030. "We cannot reach our vision 2030 without becoming our region's centre for research and development in new technologies. We also know that we must prepare our children to compete in a world that is becoming ever more dependent on science and technology," he said.
The President also observed that with JICA's support, the SMASE program has spread to 35 other African countries: "In the last decade, CEMASTEA has trained more than 1,500 educators from 27 countries across Africa. Inspired by our example, similar programmes have been adopted by 15 of these African countries." He was proud that the African Union Commission designated CEMASTEA as its lead agency for Science, Mathematics and Technology education, to support the implementation of its plan for Africa's 2nd Decade of Education. President Kenyatta summed up by saying, "We will do everything in our power to make education and training of international quality available to every Kenyan, and CEMASTEA is vital for those plans."
A view of some of the newly constructed facilities
President Uhuru officially opens the complex and is shown round the facilities and simple experiment setups that enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics and science
The CEMASTEA Director, Mr. Stephen Njoroge outlined the role played by CEMASTEA in in-service training of teachers and on use of ICT for the integration of ICT in teaching and learning in Kenyan schools. He assured the President that CEMASTEA's capacity will be effectively used for improvement of education quality. He also gave an assurance that CEMASTEA's capacity will effectively strengthen continuous professional development of teachers in Africa. Dr. Kariuki, the Chairperson of the CEMASTEA Board of Governors also outlined SMASE Project's history and achievements. She expressed sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Japan for the enormous support given to CEMASTEA through JICA since 1998.
JICA's Chief Representative, Mr. Hideo Eguchi, congratulated Kenya for marking 50 years of independence in December 2013. "This is indeed a great milestone, and we are proud to have walked with Kenya through the years to achieve remarkable development in various sectors," he observed. He acknowledged the contribution of two Japanese Experts – Prof. Takemura and Mr. Sugiyama - whose invaluable input laid a good foundation to ensure the future success of the project. "Professor Shigekazu Takemura has been a Giant of Science Education both in theory and in practice in Japan. Working together with Kenyan Educators, they developed the key concept of ASEI-PDSI approach, that is the very core of the teachers' mind-set and Pedagogical competence," he observed.
Mr. Eguchi also paid tribute to the late Mr. Takahiko Sugiyama who was the first Chief Advisor for the SMASSE Project (1998-2008). He quoted one of Mr. Sugiyama's favourite sayings: "What's important first is that the country needs to have a "can-do" attitude. If a country wants to change the situation, people have to know that it is the country itself that has to take actions and that they can indeed make a change rather than just accepting things as facts of life. Without this willingness, external support including that of Japan is meaningless."
L to R: Deputy Ambassador Mori and Mr. Hideo Eguchi addressing the guests
He promised that JICA would continue to work with Kenya as much as possible under Japan's TICAD V commitment. He expressed hope that Kenya will take many more initiatives for human resource development and optimize use of CEMASTEA resources not just for the country but also for support of regional activities in Africa.
His remarks were echoed by both Principal Secretaries in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Belio Kipsang (State Department of Education) and Prof. Colleta Suda (State Department of Science and Technology). Dr. Kipsang noted that Kenya was privileged to host CEMASTEA, as a critical centre for continuous professional development of teachers. "The Centre played a key role in integrating ICT in education, under the ‘Laptop Project', especially in the training of teachers," he added. Prof. Suda noted the need to emphasize ICT to be on the cutting edge of technology and development.
The ultra-modern complex, built at a cost of Kes. 500 million, consists of state of the art offices, lecture rooms, science and ICT laboratories, multi-purpose hall, a dining hall, bakery, cold storage room and a waste-water recycling plant. With these facilities, CEMASTEA can now host over 200 participants in one sitting as opposed to the previous 92 participants. Also included is a modern waste-water recycle unit that thus making CEMASTEA a green institution.
The Deputy Ambassador of Japan to Kenya, Mr. Mikio Mori noted the importance that Japan placed on education, which resulted in their continued support for SMASE and other human resource development programs. These include many training programs in different sectors implemented by JICA in developing countries or in Japan.
Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology noted the critical role that teachers play, hence the need to build their capacity through INSETs like SMASE: "Teachers account for about 75% of teaching/learning outcomes thus making teachers the pillars of education quality improvements."
He also lauded some achievements by the institution: "CEMASTEA has influenced policy and practice, which has seen us move away from ad hoc INSET to institutionalised, sustainable and mandatory continuous development for our teachers. Enhancing staff capacities at CEMASTEA, in the counties, and in Sub-Saharan Africa; Documenting lessons learnt on what works and what does not work with regard to teacher professional development; and Strengthening of South-South Cooperation among African countries and boldly placing Kenya on the map of Africa with regard to science and mathematics education."
L to R: President Kenyatta and Mr. Njoroge, the CEMASTEA Director deliver their speeches
The JICA Team in front of the newly inaugurated facilities L-R: Chief Representative Mr. Hideo Eguchi, JICA Consultant Mr. Samuel Kibe, Senior Representative Mr. Junichi Hanai, and Representative Mr. Yoshifumi Yamanaka