Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Tom Mboya and the African Student Airlifts: Inclusion, Equity and Higher Education among Kenyan Women and Men

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Tom Mboya and the African Student Airlifts: Inclusion, Equity and Higher Education among Kenyan Women and Men

Article excerpt

Introduction

Gender Equity is defined by the United Nations Population Fund as the process of being fair to women and men. The definition further states that "to ensure fairness, strategies and measures must often be available to compensate for women's historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field" (United Nations Publication Fund" 2017). As the second largest continent in both size and population Africa has made great strides toward gender equity. Although 1960 was designated the year of Africa because seventeen African countries gained their independence, African countries have been gaining independence since February 22, 1922 when Egypt became independent of British colonial rule. Currently, Africa has 53 fully recognized independent nations (ChartsBin Statistics, 2011).

Since 1960 Africa has had seven women heads of state to be appointed or elected. In fifty-seven years women in Africa have been able to take advantage and fight for opportunities that have led them to become heads of states, win the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as leaders for human and civil rights. This is a tremendous record compared to countries with hundreds of years of independence that have never had a woman serve as the head of state. In Africa, the progressive nature of parents, nationalists, and others who press in various ways for gender equity through the acquisition of education has been difficult but progress has been made.

As the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968), a movement consisting of the strategies, groups, and social movements in the United States (particularly in the South) whose goals were to end racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans and to secure legal recognition and federal protection of the citizenship rights enumerated in the Constitution and federal law gained momentum in the United States during the late 1950s, the Kenyan nationalist movement for independence was also gaining momentum. Kenyans were pressing for autonomy and they knew that Kenyans would be needed to fill civil service, military, police force, and other high-level positions that required university degrees once the British transitioned control over the government to Kenyans. In order to accomplish this objective, Kenyan students would need to be educated abroad because East African colleges could not produce enough qualified personnel over a six-year period. In a 1964 survey, the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development under the direction of Tom Mboya, a Kenyan nationalist and trade unionist, estimated that nearly 6,000 highly educated Kenyans were needed by 1971 to fill occupations that required university education. The most urgent and important professional and managerial positions that needed to be filled were in town and physical planning, lawyers, physicians and surgeons, engineers, surveyors, chemists, university teachers, directors, managers, and working proprietors, secondary school teachers, and agricultural graduates (Kenya Ministry of Economic Planning "High-Level Manpower Requirements and Resources in Kenya", iii). To meet these necessary high-level labor needs, the survey identified four goals. First, utilization of the high-level Kenyan personnel already at work; second, up grading presently employed lower skilled workers; third providing education and training in East African colleges as well as overseas colleges and universities; and finally, contracting foreign technicians when qualified Kenyan personnel were not available (Kenya Ministry of Economic Planning, "High-Level Manpower Requirements and Resources in Kenya", iii).

The survey also noted that attention be given to the education of women, especially since there was a need for skilled office workers; stenographers, secretaries, bookkeepers, cashiers and speed typists, professions that during this period were generally regarded primarily the domain of women. However, women educated in Kenya, and the whole of Africa for that matter, had consistently lagged far behind that of men. …

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