Government to pay for cost of junior secondary school

Parents will bear a lesser burden of the cost of the competency-based curriculum (CBC) if the government follows recommendations on education financing and allocates more money for tuition.

This is after the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) suggested that the government increase the capitation, which has been inadequate, forcing parents to dig deep into their pockets.

Currently, government capitation towards free education has no allocation to CBC instruction materials and is still pegged to the 8-4-4. Schools where junior secondary school will be hosted will also receive enhanced funding.

Sources say President William Ruto agreed with the suggestion in a meeting and asked the Ministry of Education to work out the details of how that will be actualised.

He argued that many of the items parents are asked to buy for their children are tuition components whose cost should be shouldered by the government.

Multiple sources who attended the meeting have intimated that the President did not just take the team’s recommendations but also engaged them and questioned a number of their suggestions, including how they arrived at the data that they were quoting.

During the meeting, it was also agreed that although the learners in JSS will be hosted in primary schools, the curriculum is essentially for secondary school.

“JSS is secondary, only that they will share a compound with the primary school. It will have its own teachers and later even its own principal, when properly constituted,” a source said.

“This is the first step towards enhancing day schooling in Kenya.”

Where there exists a secondary school adjacent to a primary school, there is a possibility of the two sharing facilities and both JSS and secondary headed by secondary principal. The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) will come up with guidelines on teacher deployment and management.

To operationalise the changes, government expenditure on education is likely to increase from next year, as there will be five secondary school classes instead of the usual four.

The government allocates Sh22,244 per learner as capitation. The additional Grade 7 class will have about 1,280,000 learners. The capitation for primary schools is Sh1,420 per learner and was last reviewed in 2010 despite inflation and rising cost of living.

During their submission to the PWPER, the Kenya Primary School Heads Association proposed that the figure be increased to Sh8,546. It estimates that of the total amount, Sh1,124 will be spent on CBC instruction materials.

The State House meeting also agreed that because the JSS curriculum is secondary, during the recruitment of the 30,000 teachers, priority will be given to unemployed teachers who have qualifications to teach in secondary schools. These are those who hold a Diploma in or a Bachelor of Education.

The TSC is expected to advertise the vacancies this month so that the teachers can report when schools open on January 23, 2023.

The commission is also expected to redeploy in JSS qualified primary school teachers with requisite qualifications. It is estimated that 17,000 teachers have diploma and degree qualifications.

The Kenya Kwanza manifesto had promised to employ 58,000 teachers at a cost of Sh25 billion per year in two financial years.

The TSC was instructed to come up with modalities on the recruitment. One suggestion is to engage the teachers on a contract basis, instead of permanent and pensionable terms. This would be a cheaper route for the government and yet achieve the required numbers.

However, a proposal that might rub teacher unions and other stakeholders the wrong way is to hire diploma holders from technical and vocational education training (TVET) institutions to teach pre-tech subjects.

There are few trained teachers for these subjects and an earlier plan by TSC was to retool secondary school teachers who have combinations in mathematics, physics and home science to teach them.

Pre-tech subjects include woodwork, metalwork, technical drawing, electricity, electronics, home management, typewriting, shorthand, textile and clothing, auto-mechanics and accounting.

The President is said to have been against dropping the pre-tech subjects as this lays a basis for TVET, an area key to Kenya Kwanza. By hiring TVET diploma holders to teach the subjects, the government would also be extending employment opportunities to jobless ‘hustlers’.

“That can be done, but the teachers should be taken through a diploma course in education to learn pedagogical skills and teaching ethics; otherwise, it could create a huge problem of untrained teachers,” another member of the team said.

Under JSS, the core subjects will be English, Kiswahili or Kenya Sign Language, mathematics, integrated science, home science, pre-tech and pre-career education, social studies, religious education, business studies, agriculture, life skills and sports and physical education.

The learners are also expected to choose either one or two optional subjects from visual arts, performing arts, home science, computer science, and a foreign language (German, French, Mandarin, Arabic, Kenya Sign Language or Indigenous language), which is another headache for the government. Only a few secondary schools, mostly national and extra-county, have teachers for the subjects.

The other huge costs the government will incur will be the construction of the extra classrooms as suggested by the working party. During the project to expand infrastructure by the previous administration, a classroom was built at a cost of Sh877,000.

According to Kepssha chair Johnson Nzioka, as a stop-gap measure, the government should consider mobile laboratories from the School Equipment Production Unit (Sepu) instead of permanent units.

“A simple affordable mobile laboratory from Sepu is available at a cost of Sh200,000, while a simple set of all laboratory equipment needed is available from Sepu at Sh74,000 per set,” he said during his presentation to the PWPER.

However, parents will still be required to be involved in the learning of their children, despite complaints that the CBC homework is too demanding and takes so much of their time while some find it challenging.

Dr Ruto on Friday maintained that parents must find time to be with their children and be part of their learning process.

“I want to suggest, respectfully, that as parents, me included… I have pressure from my own daughter every evening, asking me to assist in this or that assignment. I want to ask all parents that as parents, we must know that the education of our children is not the entire responsibility of teachers; it is ours as well. I want to ask all parents, starting with myself, that we must dedicate time every day to follow up on the education of our children,” he said.

The parental engagement pillar is one of the features that were introduced in the CBC and which many parents have complained about.

“In the past, parents had very little to do with the education of their children. CBC has recruited parents to the middle of the education of their children and I think it is a progressive development for us to be engaged in the education of our children,” the President said.

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