a centenary
of Learning

  • 94
  • by Kenneth Kipruto Chelimo
  • graduated 2005
  • studied MEd in Educational Leadership, Policy & Development (ELPD)
  • from Kenya

My proudest achievement has been contributing to Kenya’s new constitution through my research on Free Primary Education Policy.

I attended Timboiywo Primary School in the rural parts of Baringo County and later joined Moi High School-Kabarak in Nakuru County for my secondary education. My earliest memory of school is accompanying one of my older relatives to class almost a year before I was ready to start my education properly. The maths teacher at this time was kind enough to encourage me and wrote up a few simple sums on the blackboard while the rest of the class went about their work. When he came round to mark the other students’ work he ticked my sums too. This went on for three days. The teacher’s professional support meant that, at an early age, I enjoyed my schooling and was eager to learn. To this day, I remain very grateful to him – he helped to shape my entire educational life.

I earned my first degree (Bachelor of Education Arts) from Kenyatta University in 1997. After teaching for seven years, I won a Commonwealth Scholarship to the University of Bristol for my postgraduate studies. At the time, the Graduate School of Education was ranked number one in the UK for its provision of education courses.

I applied for the MEd in Management and Policy Studies because, during my seven years of teaching experience at various secondary schools and tertiary education institutions in Kenya, I noticed that there were various management gaps in the educational system, which needed to be filled. It was at Bristol that I learnt that the management challenges faced at school level were tied to education policy development at national level and that research can be used to influence education policy. Consequently, my thesis was on Free Primary Education Policy in Kenya which was then at its early stages of implementation.

Some of my recommendations in this study found their way into Kenya’s new constitution. I suggested the necessity of entrenching Free Primary Education in Kenya’s Law so that the government, and all subsequent governments, would have no choice but to implement the policy by law. The fact that I was able to have such an influence has motivated me to embrace my research all the more.

Studying at Bristol has helped me to develop a critical view of issues within academia and beyond and I have learned not only to appreciate the value of research but to develop my own research interests. Dr Agnes McMahon influenced me greatly. She was able to approach me on my own level, understood and effectively address any issues I had and helped me to settle down in Bristol. She went beyond her duty as an academic and followed my progress closely throughout the year. She was my mentor.

To date, my proudest achievement has been contributing to Kenya’s new constitution through my research, but I am also proud of having encouraged the Principle of my university, Elodert Polytechnic, to establish a research department. Today, it is a fully-fledged department. I also originated the idea of hosting an international conference at Eldoret and, to date, have successfully hosted two such conferences. I worked hard to ensure that one of these resulted in a journal of papers. Eldoret Polytechnic is the only tertiary institution in Kenya which has published a journal complete with an ISSN number – the Journal of Technology & Socio-Economic Development. In May 3012 I organized our third conference themed “Innovations for Advancement of Humanity”.

I remember Bristol City for a number of reasons. Firstly, its people were wonderful and very warm. I found the courtesy of its Police Officers particularly remarkable. I was pleasantly surprised when, being unable to take a photograph of the queen during her visit to Bristol in 2005 because of the crowds, a police officer volunteered to take a picture for me! This kind of thing never happens in Kenya.

I also remember my participation in the December 2005 elections. England’s issue-based campaigns stand in sharp contrast to Kenya’s tribe-based campaigns, where financial might is more important. While a political aspirant in Kenya might fly to a campaign rally in a helicopter, in Britain, someone in the same position might take the bus, train or bike. Bristol’s landmark architectural structures, including the Bristol Suspension Bridge and Wills Memorial building, were amazing, but I noticed, also, that the people here continue to be very uncomfortable with the city’s involvement in the slave trade.

I would advise anyone starting out on a similar career path to choose Bristol because the support from the Graduate School of Education staff will help them to realize their dreams. I would also recommend that anyone joining the university have a firm idea of what they want to get out of their time there and stay focused on what they have set out to achieve. Make the most of the rare opportunity, provided by the Graduate School of Education, of meeting and studying with people from all around the world! Earning my PhD is definitely the way forward for me and Bristol’s Graduate School will undoubtedly feature in my plans for the near future.