Big divide in JSS rollout as public schools struggle to teach learners

Public schools across the country are struggling to implement Junior Secondary School (JSS) due to a horde of challenges.

There is also a big divide in implementation between public schools and private academies across the country.

A check by The Standard established that there was smooth transition of learners from Grade 6 to Junior Secondary in privately owned schools while chaos and confusion marred transition in most public primary schools. 

At the Coast region, the situation is a two-worlds-apart case for students in JSS in private schools compared to those in public institutions.

At Jomo Kenyatta Primary School in Msambweni, Kwale County, that is touted as one of the established public primary schools, Grade 8 class hosts 90 learners crammed in one room. Grade 7 learners have not reported yet because parents had been waiting for Grade 6 results before releasing their children.

Head teacher Juma Mganga said the school does not have enough teachers to handle the swelling number of learners. He said he has two consistent teachers for JSS and four intern teachers who have been reluctant to continue teaching without better terms.

Not enough

“I request for more teachers because they are not enough. We continue to receive many students but we do not have enough teachers and classrooms,” he said.

He said the schools does not have modern laboratories for practical subjects.

The picture is totally different at Aveon Junior Secondary School, a private academy in Kwale, where teachers use modern equipment like smart boards to teach.

All the classrooms at Aveon JSS are connected to Wi-Fi to integrate learning with Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The school is using imported desks.

“We have put up state-of-the-art facilities. We know what is required to provide quality education as 21th learner must be ICT oriented,” said Victoria Sila, Aveon director.   

Msambweni Director of Education Abraham Nyamawi said stakeholders were doing an analysis on the state of the JSS in Kwale.

In Western region, sharp inequalities exist in implementation of the new curriculum in rural public schools and private academies.

Public primary school head teachers, who also double as principals of the JSS, cited delayed funding and lack of teachers as one of the major challenges that disrupted the transition.

“Since we knew JSS was coming, we put up adequate measures to ensure we were compliant,” said Ruth Minish, the director of Fesbeth Academy, a private school.

New laboratories

She said her school built laboratories for computer studies, home science and music room to aid the learners. 

Ms Minish added: “Six months to the transition from Grade Six to Grade Seven, we took all our teachers for training in preparation for JSS rollout.  They were diploma and degree holders and qualified to handle JSS classes effectively.”

At Kakamega Primary School, things are different. With a population of 606 students in Grade Seven and 578 in Grade Eight, the school management has been forced to convert some of the classrooms into makeshift science laboratories.

Dickson Wanyangu, the head teacher said: “We have the equipment but we have not constructed laboratories. As the school manager, I ensured there was smooth transition. We received enough teachers on top of those in primary section,” said Wanyangu.

Casper Mumia, head teacher of St Paul’s Boys Shibuye Primary School in Shinyalu Constituency, said they have only three teachers for JSS class, with 40 learners in Grade 7 and 50 learners in Grade 8.

“We don’t have laboratories for practical lessons. We have very few equipment for use during experiments and we are frequently faced with the challenge of stock outs,” said Mumia.

He added: “90 per cent of the staff I have are arts teachers and getting teachers to teach sciences has become a big challenge.”

According to Mumia, the school received some money from the Ministry of Education but they cannot spend it “unless we get a circular from the government on how to appropriate the money.”

Bungoma DEB Primary School, which has 521 students in JSS spread across 11 streams with only eight teachers, is struggling to catch up.

"We have 14 learning areas with 521 students being taught by eight teachers. My school has a deficit of 15 teachers who have not been posted by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to date," said Tobias Khisa, the school principal.

He added: "To avert the crisis, I am forced to assign extra duties to teachers in the primary section to teach in junior secondary. The teachers are constrained and don't have extraneous allowance for extra duties they perform.”

According to Khisa, the government has only supplied text books in six learning areas instead of 14, saying he is forced to go out of his way and procure books from suppliers on credit to bridge the gap.

The available text books are for English, Kiswahili, Social Studies, Integrated Science, Physical Education and Agriculture.

Khisa said that they are yet to be supplied books in eight learning areas.

"We bought books from suppliers on credit with hope that when the government capitation will come, we shall use the money to offset the debts. But to our surprise, when the money was disbursed, they retained money for text books and infrastructure at the ministry headquarters," said Khisa

He said that out of the Sh7,500 tuition fee each student is supposed to receive, the government retained Sh3,100 and only disbursed Sh4,400 to the school.

"Operations money is about Sh110,000 per term. With 521 students, this money is not enough to sustain us for a full term," said Khisa.

In the Mt Kenya region, a comparison of the level on implementation in public schools and the private schools in Nyeri paints a clear picture of how learners in public schools are struggling to catch up. 

At Giakanja Primary and Junior Secondary, one of the schools in a village not too far from Nyeri town, challenges range from lack of crucial facilities like laboratories to three learners in Grade 7 sharing a desk. 

The school has two streams for Grade 7 and 8 but with only three teachers. The school also lacks dedicated classrooms for JSS learning, and they use classrooms that were previously occupied by other classes for learning. 

Margaret Lirubi, a JSS teacher at the school, told The Standard that due to insufficient teachers, they are forced to teach subjects they did not train at college.  

However, at The Nyeri Good Shepherd Academy,  JSS has a block reserved for Grade 7 and 8. The JSS block has all the facilities, with separate ICT lab, Home Science lab as well as the Science lab. All the laboratories are well equipped for effective learning. 

School principal Peter Mwangi said they have successfully been implementing the CBC learning for two years. 

“We have been running the JSS for two years now and we have not had any challenges. We have 11 teachers who assist us in the implementation, and should need arise, we are ready to add some more,” he said, adding that the school is ready to adjust to the new directive from the ministry, where some learning areas have been merged.

Robert Munene, a parent with two students at Riamukurwe Primary School, said that the greatest challenge is the lack of textbooks.

Benard Munuhe, a parent at Githwariga Primary, said that though JSS is good and meant to help the students, issues need to be addressed including equipping the school with facilities for practical lessons.

In Rift Valley, teachers narrated how they have been sacrificing to overcome the challenges. However, they admit some learners may get a raw deal.

At JSS ACK St Luke's Birbiriet in Nandi, 210 JSS learners are managed by a single TSC teacher and assisted by three teachers on contract. That makes it difficult for them to effectively roll out the CBC programme as required now in Grade 7 and 8.

"Learners are very receptive and want to learn but there is inadequate number of teachers to teach required subjects. The government also keeps changing learning areas through circulars thus creating confusion. At university level, we were taught to teach two subjects but at JSS we are required to teach more than we were trained," said Julius Mutai, a JSS teacher at ACK St Luke's Birbiriet.

An intern who graduated with a Bachelor of Education Arts degree in English Literature has been compelled to teach Mathematics at JSS.

Another intern teacher with a Bachelor’s degree in Education specializing in Kiswahili/History said she was told to teach home science even though she has no background in the subject.

According to Kericho County KUPPET Secretary General Mary Rotich, the TSC should address teacher shortage in JSS schools as most interns are being overworked and underpaid.

He said the ratio of teacher to pupils should be 1:50 but that is not the case in JSS.

Rotich argues that neglecting this crucial step will perpetuate the cycle of poor education quality and misuse of students’ potential.

The majority of the newly recruited JSS teachers are graduates who, under the 8-4-4 curriculum, would have been posted to teach secondary schools.

In Laikipia County, teachers have termed the introduction of the JSS system as a total failure.

This, they said, was a result of the government not supporting the system.

Laikipia County Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) chairman Francis Itegi said that despite their full support of the new system, the government has not been supportive.

He regretted that teachers who have been posted to the new classes have not been trained.

Itegi noted that the issue of banditry attacks in the area had seen most of the classrooms destroyed.

A section of Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) officials in North Rift said the idea of the new CBC system is good, but its implementation has not been effective in Kenyan schools.

“The State will require over Sh200 billion to upgrade facilities in primary schools to address JSS needs. With JSS being domiciled at primary schools, there is need to build more classrooms, laboratories, and libraries among other facilities to accommodate CBC effective programmes,” said Paul Rotich. 

In Meru County, teachers said some of them lack the required competence to implement CBC.

Ronny Muriira, who said he was part of the presidential working party that looked into issues around JSS, said the recommendations that they presented to the ministry had not been implemented.

He said it would be difficult for teachers to teach allocated subjects because some do not have the capacity.

In Murang’a County, JSS institutions had shortage of teachers and lack textbooks, among other challenges.

Education stakeholders want science laboratories put up to save learners from wasting time walking to nearby institutions for practical lessons.

No textbooks

In Nyanza, several schools are yet to receive all textbooks for all the subjects.

Migori Primary and Junior Secondary School head teacher Moses Maranda said they are yet to receive books for the merged learning areas after the reduction of some learning areas during the holiday.

“Some subjects were reduced and merged with others and this will require other new textbooks in all classes from Grade Four to Eight,” said Maranda.

[Reports by Phares Mutembei, Boniface Gikandi, Purity Mwangi, Clement Masombo, Tobias Chanji, Titus Too, Nathan Ochunge and Benard Lusigi, Kiprono Kurgat, Anthony Gitonga and James Munyeki]