Early Childhood Education (ECDE) is in peril across many counties. It has emerged that ECDE is poorly managed or handled, presenting parents with a huge dilemma. Early Childhood Education is essentially concerned with pre-schoolers who enroll in learning institutions before they join Class One.
However, because the Ministry of Education and the Teachers Service Commission are not deeply involved in how ECDE is managed and advise from the periphery, the standardisation of learning processes is lacking.
And yet this is where most parents in the countryside take their pre-schoolers. They have little option because they cannot afford the fees charged by many private schools.
Often children enrolled in ECDE centres are greatly disadvantaged. In a newspaper article last week, it was reported that tens of young children were learning in dilapidated classrooms with a leaking roof in Nakuru County. The classes were partitioned using tattered cloth and the blackboard was nothing to write home about. The physical infrastructure is not the only concern — these schools are poorly staffed and the few teachers employed are underpaid, because the county governments that are are expected to take up this cost shirk this responsibility and pass it on to parents.
Indeed, many instructors confessed that they only teach for the passion to impart knowledge and shape the minds of young children. Six years after the Constitution was promulgated, many county governments are yet to streamline the early childhood education, and this often causes friction between the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the devolved administrative units.
While TSC has insisted on having a role in hiring ECDE teachers, some county officials have resisted the move, even though it is patently obvious that many of those who manage our counties have little experience in matters education. The Ministry of Education and other stakeholders must get a handle on this, and bring some order.
This will help to clearly define the roles each party should play in ECDE. A standardised curriculum must be developed for the early learners. The curriculum must be creative and designed to identify children’s individual talents at an early age and nurture this talent.
In developed countries, instructors are able to identify talent in children from as young as two years, and nurture this talent so that learners are guided to select learning paths that help their academic and psychological development. This is the missing link in our pre-school structure.