Early childhood education grounded with no teachers or facilities

Mochenwa Primary School Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) teachers share with pupils outside their classroom on 13/9/2019. ECDE learning has been affected in Nyamira County after the County Government sent half of the teachers parking.[Sammy Omingo, Standard]

It is Friday morning and the usual excited chatter of preschoolers at Gesibei Primary School is missing.

Six makeshift classrooms in the Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) centre are closed because the pre-primary one and two learners had been told to stay at home.

Why? A teacher had asked for permission to attend the burial of a former headteacher of a school in the neighbouring village.

The school has only one teacher to take care of 198 energetic children from Monday to Friday.

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That has been the situation since May when three colleagues were sent home after their contracts were terminated. They are part of nearly 500 tutors sent packing across the county by Governor John Nyagarama ostensibly due to over-staffing.

Learning, however, is going on in the other classes, from Grade One to Standard Eight.

Gesibei is one of the schools in Nyamira County that have experienced high enrolment for pre-primary education. The influx appears to have caught planners in the county government napping.

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Classrooms at the centre, which are made from iron sheets, are more of makeshift structures and are in deplorable condition.

Most of them are dusty because they have earthen floors, which makes them unsuitable for conducive learning.

MCAs’ outrage

Last week, debate on the contracts of the ECDE tutors came up in the county assembly with MCAs expressing outrage over the current state of affairs.

The ward representatives gave Education Executive Gladys Momanyi seven days to reinstate the teachers and pay them their delayed salaries.

“We cannot sit and watch our children miss out on their fundamental rights while people idle in offices,” Speaker Moffat Teya said.

Ms Momanyi, however, said the county government was engaged in a vetting process before the teachers could be handed new contracts.

“The governor is doing something about the situation. It would be wise to give him time to finish what he is doing before we complain,” Momanyi said.

The ECDE teachers’ pay has also elicited concern after it emerged that their salary scale is far below what could be considered fair remuneration.

“We earn far much less than cleaners of the county who are not skilled. This is very demoralising,” said Kerubo Auga, one of the teachers who was sent home.

Ms Kerubo said she was paid Sh12,000 a month, adding that she had not received her salary since June.

Asked to comment about the poor pay, Momanyi said she could not “pre-empt what Mr Nyagarama was doing in addressing all the issues affecting ECDE teachers”.

The governor could not be reached for comment on the ongoing crisis.

There are 400 ECDE centres across the county against a population of about 1,200 teachers.

For now, parents and teachers will have to continue waiting before they can know the way forward regarding staffing, salaries of teachers as well as the much-awaited construction of modern learning facilities.

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ECDEGrade OneCS MagohaChildhood Education