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Anxiety as schools reopen next week

BUSINESS
By | December 31st 2011

By Augustine Oduor

Schools reopen next week amid high anxiety as primary and secondary school head teachers grapple with the harsh economic times.

The free education cash sent to schools per child has remained the same even as the cost of foodstuff and learning equipment nearly tripled this year.

Also at the centre of uneasiness is the delay by the Ministry of Education to release fees guidelines for next term, scheduled to start on January 2.

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) and the Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) now want schools allocations revised upwards as fears emerge parents may be asked to dig into their pockets to supplement the Government’s funding to run schools.

The delayed release of the education taskforce report and news that the Government will, starting today, suspend payment of insurance cover for all vehicles in public schools have also heightened anxiety as students go back to school.

Schools also open with the teachers strike threat slated by Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).

Knut Secretary General Okuta Osiany issued the warning early this month following the Cabinet freeze on salary increases in public sector until the Salary Remuneration Commission is in place.

School terms

He said the union would paralyse learning starting next week if all past agreements it signed with the Government since 1997 are not honoured by Monday.

And yesterday, the announcement by Education Minister Sam Ongeri to increase school terms was yet another indication that the Government could be headed for another confrontation with teacher unions next week. The minister announced schools will from next year close in October to allow for calmness during the examination period.

The move will see the first and second terms extended by up to four weeks while the third will be reduced to only eight weeks.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary General Akelo Misori and Osiany said they will not accept prolonging of learning terms as it would lay more emphasis on examination and deny teachers time for professional development.

"We do not agree that that will be a solution to cheating in examinations. Instead children may be fatigued, as they will spend more time in schools," said Osiany.

Kessha National Chairperson Cleopas Tirop said as schools open next week, anxiety is growing over the 8-4-4 education system and modes of examinations and expressed fears that it may be passed on to students.

"The Government should notify students early enough on whether they will sit KCPE and KCSE or a different assessment all together," he said.

There have been reports that a new education structure that proposes pupils complete two years in early childhood development education, six years in primary, another six years at secondary, and at least three years at the university (2-6-6-3) may be introduced.

This means that the current two examination methods would be replaced with Kenya Primary Scholastic Assessment (KPSA) and Kenya Senior Scholastic Assessment (KSSA) respectively.

Away from that, Tirop said head teachers are headed for the most challenging moment of their careers next term if schools capitation is not revised.

"The prices of commodities have gone up yet the Government still expects to spend the same amount they do per child per term," he said.

He said the Government must compare the cost of items under the current market prices to establish the real value of every shilling sent per student.

"Every price unit has more than doubled. Next term, each student should receive money based on the price index of commodities. This means that the amount to schools should also be nothing less than double," he said.

Since 2003, each primary pupil has been receiving Sh1,020 every term while since 2008, secondary students have been getting Sh10,265.

Enough money

Kepsha National Chairperson Joseph Karuga said some Sh7,250 should be allocated to each pupil next term.

"After computation, putting all factors in focus, we see this as the fitting amount per pupil," he said.

The two officials said schools may be forced to pass the high cost of running schools to the parents next week to sustain learning.

Already, Parliament and the teacher unions have put the Government on notice over delayed release of the cash to schools.

The chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Education, Mr David Koech, said MPs will put the Government to task to revise capitation and also ensure the funds are released promptly to schools next term.

The National Parents Association National Chairman Nathan Barasa said the Government has up to the second week of opening to disburse the cash.

But he warned the unions against taking advantage of students to measure their success.

 

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