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School labs pathetic as head teachers hide equipment

By Augustine Oduor | Published Sat, August 5th 2017 at 00:00, Updated August 4th 2017 at 23:18 GMT +3
The poor state of some school laboratories in the country

In summary

  • New report lays bare shocking details of the poor state of secondary school laboratories that lead to massive failure in science and mathematics subjects
  • Learners not getting enough support to appreciate mathematics and science subjects
  • Most laboratories have broken seats, potholed floors, worn-out tables and scattered equipment, posing risks to learners

A new report has laid bare shocking details of the poor state of secondary school laboratories that lead to massive failure in science and mathematics subjects.

And most astounding is the revelation that some teachers and school heads frustrate the appreciation of mathematics and science subjects by denying students the learning equipment.

The Saturday Standard has established that some schools locked up new computers and learning equipment for three years, denying students the opportunity of interacting with the machines for effective adoption of technology.

Without listing names, the Science Technology and Mathematics (STEM) Education report 2017 found that some 117 secondary schools kept the learning equipment, only releasing them for use when they were obsolete.

“The computers were still in boxes and were never used for four years,” reads the report.

The report also shows that most laboratories have broken seats and other facilities, posing risks to learners.

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The report says laboratories with potholed floors, worn-out tables and scattered equipment are a common occurrence, making them unfavourable for learning.

“Some laboratories have basic equipment to teach science and mathematics but negligence and poor storage have negatively impacted on the teaching,” reads the baseline report.

The details of the report came to the fore during a two-day training session for selected schools that will champion teaching of sciences and mathematics.

The study focused on the state of STEM infrastructure – libraries, classrooms, staff rooms, laboratories and preparation rooms in terms of their adequacy, cleanliness, arrangement and maintenance.

Worrisome trend

“Generally, results of the baseline study revealed worrisome trend and the need to improve the STEM related facilities. Most STEM schools had basic resources but variation exists on the state of these resources,” reads the report.

The Ministry of Education has initiated the STEM Model Schools intervention programme to enhance learners’ capability in since and mathematics subjects.

The programme is being rolled out by the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (CEMASTEA).

CEMASTEA has been allocated Sh32 million in the 2016/17 Financial Year to implement the project. And in 2017/18, the Centre has been allocated Sh58 million.

Overall, 102 schools have been identified for the initial phase of the project. The ministry has procured and sent essential teaching and learning equipment to the schools.

Even though the report proposes a paradigm shift in the learning space available for students, it emerged that expectation of high-level cleanliness, orderliness, ample lighting, gas, comfortable seats and safety measures – such as fire extinguishers, flowing water and transparent fume chambers – were lacking.

“Generally, in most STEM schools’ storage equipment and chemicals, either the technicians are incompetent or unmotivated but something needs to be done to improve the status of the laboratory storage,” reads the report.

The report proposes adoption of ‘makerspace’ model – a physical location where students gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects and build ideas.

“Unlike the ordinary science laboratories which are essentially for teaching and demonstration, makerspace help students to develop 21st century skills and provide hands-on experience that boost self-confidence,” reads the report.

In its recommendations, the report says STEM institutions must focus on improving their ‘school climate’ and making it inviting.

“Schools should work on areas that are disinviting, improve classroom climate, especially the laboratories and improve involvement of students in STEM program,” reads the report.

The report reveals that school laboratories and preparations are the backbone of students’ classroom practical experiences.

“Developing nations have improved their approach to science laboratories that make them places where students enjoy doing experiments.”

Last week, principals of pioneer schools were trained on the STEM programme that is being rolled out to improve students’ attitude, and confidence in the subject areas with a view of triggering innovativeness among students.

The sensitisation workshop also included chairpersons of boards of management of STEM secondary schools and aimed at establishing a common vision on how STEM should be in a school setting.

Real-world applications

The meeting also aimed at harmonising milestones that will guide participating schools in their journey towards attaining full STEM Model School status.

STEM education is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in an interdisciplinary and applied approach based on real-world applications.

CEMASTEA director Stephen Njoroge said interdisciplinary integration begins with a real-world problem.

“Therefore interdisciplinary integration focuses on students’ attention on a problem and incorporates content and skills from a variety of fields,” said Njoroge.

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