Confusion as Grade 7 Learners Report to Schools Without Teachers
The first batch of Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) learners join Junior Secondary School (JSS) today amidst utter confusion over teachers’ placement, uniforms and several other technicalities. More than a million learners join JSS at a time the government is yet to finalise the recruitment and deployment of the 30,000 teachers scheduled to teach in the newly introduced section of schools. The government is faced with the headache of teacher shortage and inadequate facilities.
Though the Government released guidelines on the JSS last week, teachers, parents and other education stakeholders say there are many grey areas yet to be addressed. But amidst the challenges, the government has directed head teachers to make do with the available resources and infrastructure as they admit the learners. There are fears too that the 30,000 teachers being recruited, which will translate to one teacher per school, may not be enough since some schools have more than three streams.
As per Education ministry’s guidelines on JSS, learners will be taught nine lessons per day for five days (45 per week) with each lesson allocated 40 minutes, an indication that more teachers will be required. Primary school teachers allocate 35 minutes per lesson. Guidelines also stipulate that parents would be required to cater for their children’s meals and yet the government is yet to set the amount of money to be paid. Apparently, parents with students in secondary schools pay Sh4,000 per term for meals.
Whereas Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said that Grade Six pupils transitioning to JSS will be required to wear a different colour or type of uniform that will differentiate them from primary school pupils, most schools are yet to come up with the designs and colours, leaving parents in confusion. However, Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (KEPSHA) chairman Johnson Nzioka, while urging parents not to panic over the issue, wants head teachers to grant them more time to shop for uniforms.
“I know parents will have a challenge because of the short period of changing the uniform. However, I urge all head teachers to grant parents a grace period to enable them change over to the new uniform within an agreeable time frame,” Nzioka said yesterday. He said though the guidelines on implementation of JSS were only issued last week, schools are prepared to receive the learners. Nzioka noted that head teachers are aware of the hardeconomic times in the country and will give parents a grace period for uniform changeover. He called on schools not to take advantage of the situation. He said learners can report today with the old uniform as parents work on getting the new one.
“It’s good to abide by the change of uniform because we also want them to feel the change. Try as much as possible to get the new ones,” he added. The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) is yet to finalise the recruitment and deployment of 30,000 that began early this year, posing another challenge to schools on who will managethe learners as they report this morning. Nzioka assured that TSC has promised to start deploying teachers today in anticipation to have one for each class of 50 learners. In the meantime, however, Nzioka said the management of existing primary schools where JSS will be domiciled have been charged with the responsibility to identify teachers to temporarily handle the learners until TSC finalises the deployment exercise. Deployment exercise “You see, we have very qualified teachers in primary schools….teachers with bachelor’s degree or even higher qualifications. We know this because we have their papers. They have been assigned to receive and handle the JSS learners,” he explained.
TSC had said that newly recruited teachers would report today to allow for smooth learning. In a bid to address the crisis, TSC has now called for applications from teachers in primary schools interested to move to JSS and set February 6 as the deadline. “Primary school teachers can apply for deployment to JSS. Deadline for application is February 6,” TSC said in a circular on Friday. To qualify, TSC said the teacher must have scored at least C plus at the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and a similar grade for at least two teaching subjects. They must also have eight units in each of the two teaching subjects and be serving as a primary school teacher under TSC.
Amidst this, questions have also emerged over the requirement for teachers to have two teaching optional subjects besides the two subjects they are qualified in. Teachers say the requirement will lead to majority of them being forced to teach subjects they neither learnt nor qualified in. Stakeholders also question how teachers in JSS will teach some of the pre-technical subjects such as woodwork, performing arts, computers and electrical, among others, that they have least knowledge.
Pre-technical studies are supposed to be allocated two double lessons per week. And whereas JSS will be domiciled in primary schools, the Ministry of Education is yet to clear the air on whether the learners will fall under the primary, secondary or college category in cocurricular activities such as sports, drama and music.
Even as learners report today, the government is yet to release capitation to schools, leaving head teachers in a quandary over how they will raise funds for daily operations. Reports also indicate that some schools are forcing parents to part with admission fee.
Primary schools that will host JSS are expected to benefit from a Sh9.6 billion cash injection comprising Sh15,000 for each learner with Sh4,000 going to infrastructure development. Nzioka, however, insists that no parent has been asked to pay school fees and all JSS learners should report to school. “The Government has already said it will give capitation for all learners, including those joining JSS so no parent should be told to pay.
No KEPSHA member has asked parents to pay fees but the responsibility of meals and school fees lies on parents,” he explained. He said parents with learners in private schools have been asked to pay school fees but not for those in public. The learners are also reporting to school at a time the government is negotiating with World Bank to fund the construction of over 7,000 laboratories in more than 23,000 public primary schools countrywide. At the moment, teachers are still in darkness over how they will handle subjects that require laboratories. Nzioka, however, says that most public schools have an extra room which can be converted.
He said the schools will only require to purchase laboratory equipment which Schools Equipment Production Unit has been catering for that. Chairman has also said that books are expected in schools starting today. Machogu had on Friday launched the distribution of Grade Seven curriculum designs and textbooks to public schools countrywide ahead of reporting today. “The start of the distribution of the Grade Seven textbooks that will cost the Government a total of about Sh3.2 billion follows the completion of the assessment exercise of all primary schools to ascertain their readiness to host JSS,” said the CS.