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False start: Junior Secondary Schools struggling to take off

Junior Secondary Students peruse through their new class books at Xavarian Junior Secondary School in Kisumu during their first day. [Michael Mute, Standard]

Learning in public junior secondary schools (JSS) started at a slow pace as teachers and parents encountered challenges that are threatening the smooth implementation of the Competence Based Curriculum.

Some of the teachers interviewed complained they did not have enough desks, and laboratories while decrying delayed release of capitation.

On their part, parents lamented that they could not find uniforms since distributors did not have them.

Even as public schools struggled to cope, private schools have fewer challenges and learning is going on smoothly. 

A spot check in public schools established that nothing much was taking place. 

For instance, at Nairobi’s Baraka primary school with a capacity of 150, only 45 learners had reported. 

The school’s headteacher Margaret Onyango, the school had received textbooks but the capitation was yet to be disbursed. 

“We have just received the books from the government which we will be issuing to learners who are coming in slowly and as of now, we have only filled one stream,’’ Onyango said.

At Nairobi primary, headteacher Munyau Mbondu said even though the school does not have a laboratory, learners will rely on State House Girls High School for practical lessons.

‘‘Currently, we have enough classes to hold learners but with experiments, we will be using those from our neighbouring school,’’ Mbondu said.

At Rockfields Junior, a private school, learning activities went on smoothly and uninterrupted. The school’s director David Waititu said half of the learners had already reported and lessons were going on.

“We have started learning and our students are four days into the new curriculum. We have already received 70 students from feeder schools and anticipate receiving more learners,’’ he said. He said they have enough classrooms and spent about Sh1.7 million setting up the laboratory. “For us, everything is in place; we have already prepared lesson plans and scheme of work,’’ he added.

At Harvest View Academy in Embakasi, the school director Nancy Phiri said the learners had gone through induction. ‘‘Today, we have been taking learners through laboratory rules and regulations and familiarizing them with the apparatus they will be handling. We have already taken them through the curriculum design,’’ she said.

According to Phiri, they started preparations as soon as the government announced that junior secondary will be domiciled in private schools.  “We have recruited six graduate teachers who have been retooled and given orientation on how to handle the learners. The school has also employed a lab technician who is assisting students with practical work,” she explained.

However, a director from one of the private schools, who sought anonymity, complained that the majority of graduate teachers are not conversant with the new curriculum.  ‘‘We have realized that the majority of those teachers we are recruiting don’t have the competency to teach the curriculum. We are forced to take our primary teachers to retool them,’’ she said.

She says it will be wrong for head teachers to assign graduate teachers to teach in junior secondary without considering whether they qualify to teach the syllabus. ‘‘While we have changed the curriculum, the syllabi in universities and colleges have not changed. What those teachers were taught is different from what they are expected to teach,’’ she said.

Last month, the government recruited 35,550 teachers of which 21,550 will be posted to junior secondary in public schools with each school entitled to one teacher.

The Ministry of Education has asked junior secondary to source for teachers from senior secondary as The Standard reliably learnt that the posting of teachers has been delayed due to sluggish issuance of posting letters from the employer.

The process of getting public primary schools to the right path to pick on the Junior Secondary still hangs in the balance.

Faced with the challenges, some of the head teachers in public schools claim it would have made sense to domicile junior secondary in high schools. ‘‘The perceived harm that would have happened to the learners in secondary school is negligible compared to the one that is likely to happen to them now,’’ said one of the head teachers.

Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) Director Prof. Charles Ong’ondo indicated that junior secondary school heads have been directed to liaise with the county director of education to get teachers from the secondary section in the meantime.

“Where we don’t have teachers in the special subjects let the principals reach out to the neighbouring schools through the sub-county directors’ office and this will be resolved,” he said.

Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association national chairman, Johnstone Nzioka, said the management of existing primary schools hosting junior secondary has been charged with the responsibility to identify teachers to temporarily handle the learners until TSC posts new teachers.

“You see, we don’t have challenges with teachers, since we have very qualified teachers in primary schools with bachelor’s degrees or even higher qualifications. We know this because we have their papers. They have been assigned to receive and handle the junior secondary learners,” stated Nzioka.

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