Mandera residents want President William Ruto to abolish the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC), claiming the system is too expensive.
At a public forum organised by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform on Tuesday, they urged the President to return Kenya to the 8:4:4 system but continue improving CBC.
“CBC was a rushed programme that was forced on parents and teachers, but if given time and the input of stakeholders, it can help our society,” said Mohamed Issack.
The new education system, he argued, had failed to take off in Mandera because of a teacher shortage.
“We don’t have enough teachers in our schools. The few we have are not even trained to teach CBC. How can Mandera be ranked with other counties that have the necessary sources for the same education system?” he posed.
He cited the high cost of supporting CBC as another challenge against the success of the system in Mandera.
“All the assignments given to pupils in CBC involve buying materials for them to do either at home or at school. Most parents in Mandera are poor and we cannot afford this daily expenditure,” he said.
Ms Asli Alio described CBC as an education system for the rich and not for Mandera residents, a majority of whom he claimed are poor.
“My children have to move around in the neighbourhood looking for someone with an internet-enabled phone so that they can learn some things. I cannot afford the internet in my home and this is why I don’t want CBC,” she said.
Ms Ali proposed that school feeding programmes be revived so that most learners could attend school but under the 8:4:4 system.
She asked the government to train more teachers from Mandera for local schools.
The county has a shortage of 1,866 teachers, with 1,385 needed in public primary schools and 481 in secondary schools.
Some 57 public primary schools in Mandera have only one teacher, according to local education officers.
“We have to start by providing a conducive learning environment before we think of changing the system of education in this country. We cannot have a school with one teacher and poor infrastructure and introduce a new system of education,” Mr Adan Mohamed lamented.
He proposed lowering entry grades for teacher training colleges for residents to fill the gaps in schools.
He proposed better pay for teachers and promotions instead of changing the system.
“We need to start by looking at the welfare of teachers in terms of better pay and promotions and capacity building before anything else,” he said.
Mr Mohamed, a retired teacher, said the national government should first introduce budgets for schools to run and sustain CBC before introducing it.
“The burden of CBC is on parents. Let the government provide funds to schools so that anything needed for learning can be bought by the school, unlike the current situation of burdening parents every evening,” he said.
He said CBC was insensitive to some cultures and religious beliefs.
“How do you ask a Muslim community to start rearing pig in the school in the name of learning?” he said, rejecting the grading system.
Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation Mandera chairperson Uba Gedi urged the government to hire more teachers and provide the necessary materials for learning.
“We need to start by supporting learners from poor families before changing the learning system. We need sanitary towels in schools, students need uniforms and many other things that the government can provide before anything changes in the system,” she said.
She said CBC works for only a few in society who can afford it.
She proposed that the subjects taught under CBC be reduced.
Residents who turned up for the forum also urged the government to introduce mobile schools for nomadic communities, as teachers usually migrate with pastoralists.
“We want nomadic schools so that our children can be learning from everywhere we move with our livestock in search of pasture and water,” Mr Mohamud Mohamed said.
They pushed for milk to be reintroduced in schools to keep pupils healthy.
The Mandera CBC review team was led by Dr Wilson Gogo, a former Chesumei MP, and Dr Elyas Abdi, head of the secretariat.
Others on the team included teacher Peter Tabichi, Dr Edward Nzinga and the Rev Seline Ronoh.
The team will collect public opinions in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Nairobi counties.