The pioneer Grade 4 class under the new school curriculum is set to begin the first ever formative assessment today, marking the beginning of the end of Standard Eight national exams.
Under the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC), the tests to be administered, marked and graded by teachers will contribute 20 marks to their final score at the end of primary school.
They will sit similar assessments at the end of Grades 5 and 6, contributing 60 per cent of the final score-- a clear departure from the current, one-off Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams.
Ten per cent of the score will come from classroom assessments undertaken throughout the year, with the Knec assessment giving the other 10 per cent.
A final national assessment weighted at 40 per cent will be administered at the end of Grade 6.
In the tests to run for the next two weeks, the learners will be assessed in English (listening and speaking, reading aloud) and Reading Comprehension, Grammar and Writing.
Other subjects are Mathematics, Environmental Activities, Science and Technology, Kiswahili (reading comprehension, grammar and writing) or Kenyan Sign Language.
The Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) had earlier sent guidelines on how the schools heads were to prepare for the assessment.
In the guidelines, Knec advises that teachers should "allow all learners to complete the assessment even if the time indicated has elapsed." They should also adhere to Covid-19 health and safety protocols.
Two questions in Mathematics, for example, require prior preparations where teachers should write the letters of the alphabet on a Manilla paper from where the learners will be assessed on the letters placement.
Knec has already uploaded the assessment tools on the schools Learning Continuity in Basic Education (LCBE) portal from where head teachers will download and print the tasks.
Some of them who spoke to the Nation yesterday said that last evening, the portal was, experiencing downtime owing to the many users online.
Teachers have been advised to use locally available materials as much as possible to carry out the task.
Although all learners will transit from primary school, the final score at the end of Grade 6 will be used for placement of learners into junior secondary school.
The same system of assessment will apply for the three years of junior secondary school before the learners join one of their chosen pathways in senior secondary school.
At the end of each of the three levels, there will be a new certification, which will replace KCPE and KCSE.
Education cabinet secretary George Magoha has stressed that the assessment is not an examination and parents and teachers should not pile pressure on the learners.
Meanwhile, the Education ministry has promised to release the remaining Sh 15 billion schools' capitation from this week to help schools prepare for KCSE an KCPE exams and Grade Four assessments.
Prof Magoha said the funds are part of the 50 percent capitation released to schools at the beginning of every year.
"We shall be releasing the remaining Sh15 billion funds to schools, this represents 25 percent the funds we have so far released to schools," said Prof Magoha.
In January, the government released Sh19.2 billion capitation funds to all schools-- Sh14.6 billion was meant for secondary schools while Sh4.6 billion were meant all primary schools including special schools.
Last week, the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) chair Kahi Indimuli and former chair of the Kenya Primary schools Heads Association (Kepsha) Nicholas Gathemia had called on the government to release the remaining funds.
School heads have been complaining they are unable to buy exam materials such as laboratory equipment, chemicals and specimens for the national examinations.
Special Needs Education (SNE) schools have also demanded that the ministry release grants meant for the institutions which they say have delayed since November last year.
Special Schools Heads Association of Kenya (SSHAK) chairperson, Peter Sitienei said operations in the schools have been paralysed due to the delay.
According to him, administrations in the said schools are unable to pay nonteaching staff and suppliers.
He regretted that the sector is neglected and underfunded.
"All children are equal. Children with any form of disability should not be subjected to any discrimination. We depend on grants as the government has failed to release the funds something that has paralysed normal operations" he said.
He said the schools are also unable to buy food and necessary equipment's for learners.
The government releases Sh14,000 grant per child in special needs primary schools every year.
Mr Sitienei said schools expected funds meant for last year by November however the funds were never released.
When schools opened in January for learners, Mr Sitienei said the government only released the Sh1,420 per child which is the amount meant for all primary school children in the country and promised to release the SNE grants in January.
"Two months later, we have not received those funds and all we get is empty promised from the government," he said.
Currently, he said, SNE primary schools non-teaching staff are going without salaries since last year while some have taken school heads to courts and others are on a go slow.
Mr Sitienei said the schools have housemothers who play a critical role of taking care of the children as they cannot stay in school without support.
The schools have also called on the government to consider increasing the capitation from Sh1,420 meant for primary schools and fund them with the Sh57,000 annually given to SNE secondary schools.
"Funds given to these schools must be relooked as our pupils are needy and schools require more funds to run them just as the SNE secondary schools are funded," he said.
The government spends about Sh655 million on basic education for learners with special needs annually. It gives the regular capitation of Sh1,420 per learner under the Free Primary Education programme and tops it with Sh2,300, making a total of Sh3,700 per year.
In secondary schools, the government allocates Sh57, 700 per learner in a boarding school per year, which is Sh35, 460 more than what other students get.
There are more than 4,000 learners in special secondary schools.
The commonest disabilities among learners are visual impairment (3.1 per cent), physical disability (3 per cent), intellectual disability (2.5 per cent), hearing impairment (1.2 per cent) and speech and language (0.9 per cent).
By David Muchunguh, Faith Nyamai and Benson Ayienda.