Teach­ers point out pit­falls in free schools plan

The gov­ern­ment has al­lo­cated Sh25 bil­lion for the pro­gramme but ini­tia­tive needs a lot more to suc­ceed, writes, David Aduda

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - BY OUMA WANZALA

Sec­ondary school prin­ci­pals have to pre­pare them­selves for tough chal­lenges as the gov­ern­ment rolls out free sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in Jan­uary, whose goal is to en­sure all Stan­dard Eight leavers join Form One. The schools must be ready with ad­e­quate class­rooms, desks, chairs, lab­o­ra­to­ries and teach­ers to pro­vide qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to more than one mil­lion can­di­dates who sat this year’s Kenya Cer­tifi­cate of Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion ex­am­i­na­tions. Ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment plan, a to­tal of 903,200 pupils will join pub­lic schools, while 100,322 will join pri­vate ones. A num­ber of prin­ci­pals in­ter­viewed by Satur­day Na­tion, while pos­i­tive about free day sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion, were how­ever up­tight about its im­ple­men­ta­tion. A num­ber said their ma­jor con­cerns are teacher short­ages, in­ad­e­quate class­rooms and desks among other es­sen­tial in­fra­struc­ture. They are of the view that the plan has been rushed and that the schools are not yet ready to in­crease en­rol­ment. Ed­u­ca­tion Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Fred Ma­tiang’i is how­ever bullish that ed­u­ca­tion qual­ity will not be com­pro­mised.

In­ten­sify school in­spec­tion, con­duct reg­u­lar audit on the use of cash and re­view teacher re­cruit­ment and de­ploy­ment to boost ef­fi­ciency in schools

Are­cent Daily Na­tion front page pic­ture of di­lap­i­dated class­rooms at Shikokhwe Pri­mary School in Malava, Kakamega County, pub­lished last week set the coun­try abuzz. It was a graphic il­lus­tra­tion of the de­prav­ity wit­nessed in many pub­lic pri­mary schools across the coun­try. It demon­strated dere­lic­tion of duty, ab­sence of ur­gency and lack of com­mit­ment to pro­vi­sion of qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

Pro­vi­sion of free pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion has be­come a buzz­word in the past two decades. Since the World Con­fer­ence on Ed­u­ca­tion For All in Dakar, Sene­gal, in 2000 that mo­bilised in­ter­na­tional cam­paign and sup­port for uni­ver­sal ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, na­tional gov­ern­ments have an­chored it in their na­tional de­vel­op­ment plans. Politi­cians seek­ing of­fice du­ti­fully lever­age on it for their cam­paigns.

Kenya un­der the Na­tional Rain­bow Coali­tion (Narc) launched free pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion in 2003 and sub­se­quently sub­sidised sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in 2008. Now, the Ju­bilee Party has an­nounced plans to make sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion fully free for day schol­ars from Jan­uary. Ef­fec­tively, this will mean that all Stan­dard Eight leavers who meet sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion en­try point will au­to­mat­i­cally tran­sit to Form One.

The essence of gov­ern­ment’s sub­sidy is to make ed­u­ca­tion ac­ces­si­ble to all el­i­gi­ble chil­dren. Un­der­pin­ning this is the fact ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion is a fun­da­men­tal hu­man right. But the ques­tion is; are we ready for qual­ity free day sec­ondary school­ing start­ing next year?

So far, the gov­ern­ment has al­lo­cated some Sh25 bil­lion for free day sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. By all counts, this is a ma­jor boost. A cir­cu­lar re­leased last month by Ed­u­ca­tion PS Be­lio Kip­sang’ stated that the gov­ern­ment will spend Sh22,244 for ev­ery child in sec­ondary school, which es­sen­tially cov­ers all the costs for day school. How­ever, board­ers will pay a pro-rated fee de­pend­ing on the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of schools. Na­tional and ex­tra­county (for­merly provin­cial schools) will charge Sh53,544 while the rest of the board­ing schools, Sh40,535.

From the ex­pe­ri­ence of the past decade, free pri­mary and sub­sidised sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion have suf­fered from poor fund­ing. In the past, the gov­ern­ment al­lo­cated Sh1,020 for ev­ery pri­mary school child and Sh10,500 for sec­ondary schools, which was then raised to Sh12,870. For pri­mary schools, other than the first two years, 2003 – 2005, the schools have sel­dom re­ceived the full cap­i­ta­tion.

Nei­ther has it worked for the sub­sidised sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. More­over, even the part-pay­ment never comes on time. For ex­am­ple, cash for the third term only came late in Oc­to­ber when the schools were nearly clos­ing and af­ter protests by prin­ci­pals and teach­ers’ unions. Re­lated to this, schools are in dire need of fa­cil­i­ties as il­lus­trated by Shikokhwe, yet cash for such cap­i­tal de­vel­op­ment is not fac­tored in gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­tures.

In 2014, then Ed­u­ca­tion Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Ja­cob Kaimenyi ap­pointed a task­force chaired by Dr Kilemi Mwiria to in­ves­ti­gate and make rec­om­men­da­tions on sec­ondary school fees. In its find­ings, the task­force in­di­cated that pro­vid­ing free day sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion would cost the gov­ern­ment Sh51.5 bil­lion a year for an en­rol­ment of 2.1

mil­lion stu­dents. Fur­ther, it would re­quire ad­di­tional 4,222 sec­ondary schools to ac­com­mo­date all those el­i­gi­ble stu­dents.

Even if we dis­count the fact that this es­ti­mates are four years old, the pro­posed Sh25 bil­lion is just half of what is re­quired to roll out free day sec­ondary pro­gramme. Mat­ters will be made worse be­cause of min­i­mal al­lo­ca­tions ear­marked for cap­i­tal de­vel­op­ment.

Sec­ond, is teacher suf­fi­ciency. Con­ser­va­tive sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that there is a short­age of some 87,000 teach­ers, the bulk, about 50,000 in pri­mary schools. How­ever, there is a gen­eral freeze on teacher re­cruit­ment and in­stead, the gov­ern­ment only re­places those who exit the pro­fes­sion. This year, it is re­cruit­ing only 5,000 teach­ers to fill those va­can­cies.

Third, the ques­tion of teach­ing and learn­ing re­sources re­main un­re­solved. On paper, the gov­ern­ment makes al­lo­ca­tion for text­books and other re­source materials, but in re­al­ity they are hardly bought.

What does it take to achieve qual­ity free pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion?

One, Ed­u­ca­tion min­istry should del­e­gate to the county gov­ern­ments the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­vid­ing school in­fra­struc­ture. Two, con­duct reg­u­lar audit on the use of cash. Three, since the Min­istry is tak­ing over learn­ing costs, the man­age­ment of bur­saries cur­rently un­der MPS should be re­viewed. Four, in­ten­sify school in­spec­tion and five, re­view teacher re­cruit­ment and de­ploy­ment.

ANTONY OMUYA | NA­TION

Karen C Pri­mary School pupils and par­ents march along Karen Road yes­ter­day to mark Sci­ence Day. The event is held to en­cour­age in­no­va­tion and de­vel­op­ment.

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