Nairobi — Schools reopened yesterday for the start of the first academic term this year. First term is normally a crucial moment for transition as learners move to new classes and levels, with fresh challengers.
It is also the time when young ones enter the school for the first time, which is a challenging moment in their lives.
Thus, it is critical at this point to examine the educational issues that will define the year. At the primary school level, free education enters its fifth year and the task now is to consolidate the gains so far made.
Enrolment has significantly gone up in the past four years, peaking at 7.6 million children as at the end of 2006.
But as rightly noted by Education minister George Saitoti last week, a significant number of eligible children are still out of school.
In fact, in his estimation, the task ahead is to bring in another half million children into school to hit a figure of 8 million.
Independent estimates indicate that up to one million eligible children are out of school due to various reasons, ranging from poverty to retrogressive cultural practices.
So, the target should be to increase the enrolment to 8.5 million by the end of this year if we are to guarantee access to education for all deserving children.
Another critical issue is staffing. Since the Government stopped recruiting teachers about a decade ago and resorted to filling in only those slots left through the usual attrition process, schools have been hard-hit in terms of teacher shortage.
The free schooling only made a bad situation worse. While appreciating the constraints facing the Government in regard to funding, a way must be found to bring on board more teachers to deal with the shortage crisis.
Also, efforts must be made to expand access to secondary and university education to guarantee smooth transition across the levels.