Kenya: Schools in Crisis, Even As KNUT Calls Off Strike

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed during a press conference on the reopening of schools and the new curriculum, January 2, 2019.
3 January 2019
editorial

Schools reopen today for the first term amid a cloud of uncertainty and anxiety.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers has agreed to obey a court ruling stopping a planned strike by its members to protest the massive transfer of headteachers and their deputies in a delocalisation programme being carried out by their employer, the Teachers Service Commission.

However, the planned rollout of the new curriculum by the Ministry of Education -- after hiccups -- smacks of unpreparedness.

Had the strike taken effect, it would have dealt a terrible blow to learners and their parents. It was bound to be disruptive, rancorous and murky.

The financial costs would have been enormous. So much time would have been lost and learners subjected to undeserved mental torture.

All the same, the persistent acrimony between the TSC and Knut is disastrous for the education sector, which requires singularity of purpose to achieve the common goals.

LAUNCH DATE

There is confusion over the implementation of the new curriculum after several blunders by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed.

In less than three weeks, she has made three different pronouncements that have caused utter confusion.

At first, she had decreed that the curriculum would be put on hold due to lack of adequate preparations.

She then announced that it would start in 2020 to allow time for piloting and proper preparations.

A few days later, she made an about-turn and declared that the syllabus would set in this year.

Yesterday, Ms Mohamed met top national and regional education officials and directed them to begin the rollout right away.

But the fact of the matter is, the implementation is bound to be chaotic. Not all the teachers have been trained for it.

FUNDING

Learning and teaching materials are not available. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development has just asked for bids for the publication of textbooks and other materials. Clearly, they will not be ready anytime soon.

The government has not allocated funds for the new programme. Counties, which are responsible for pre-school education, have categorically rejected the commencement, saying that they do not have the funds and logistical requirements to execute it.

Add to that the fact that there is no policy framework for the new curriculum -- the sessional paper to anchor it is yet to be tabled and discussed in Parliament.

Then we are talking of a muddy execution of what was otherwise a well-thought-out programme and which could have succeeded if things were done differently.

Also, schools will reopen without government funding, whose disbursement has, in recent years, often delayed.

Collectively, the education sector is operating precariously, compromising quality. We ask for better management of the education sector.

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