Schools should ease financial pressure on parents

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The Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) has brought with it many issues. On the positive, it brought hope for the welcome departure from rote learning and the memorisation of concepts with little attempt to relate any of it to real life.

On the flip side, however, there are challenges relating to the cost of implementation and limited awareness, especially on the part of parents. Many parents have yet to fully grasp what CBC is, and how it is being implemented.

A lot of schools just rolled out the curriculum and have been asking parents to provide this and do that. Few have gone out of their way to educate parents on how the new curriculum differs from the almost defunct 8-4-4 and why parental involvement is important.

Perhaps the biggest cry from parents is how expensive it is to implement CBC. Inevitably, the entire cost of implementation was transferred to parents, particularly those with children in private schools who are the majority. From printing, to acquisition of school supplies, parents are definitely feeling the heat.

What makes it even more difficult is the fact that textbooks are so many and different schools are using different publishers for different subjects. During the 8-4-4 system, we were not allowed to write on the textbooks and therefore, the books could be handed down from one sibling to another, most times for years. Now children write their answers on the textbooks!

Despite the many challenges that schools and parents are facing, I honestly believe that the developers of the CBC curriculum had the best interest of our children at heart. We have seen kids become active, hands-on learners rather than a passive lot waiting to regurgitate what the teachers have said to them.

Many will say that, in fact, the curriculum has been quite a learning lesson for parents too. I have participated in the making of quite innovative stuff; things I would probably have otherwise grabbed from the supermarket for lack of skills on how to make them from scratch.

Unfortunately, some schools have taken advantage of the CBC to exert undue pressure on parents. Many parents complain that they are having to spend too much money, sometimes buying supplies that are underutilised leading to wastage. Parents are asked to replace exercise books that are barely used and buy scrapbooks, portfolios and modelling clay every term.

This is in addition to other frequent costs for myriads of things, ranging from seedlings for the kitchen garden projects, to printing pictures of domestic and wild animals, sources of water and types of food, among others. In many cases, these additional costs are not communicated early enough. They are suddenly posted on class WhatsApp groups and required tomorrow or the day after.

I recently saw a parent advise those with kids in school to question some of the requirements and suggest better, less costly ways of achieving results, and while many saw his point, others, were quite indifferent or resigned to fate.

School administrators should rethink their demands, especially when such demands can be met through more cost-friendly means. Many parents are struggling to make ends meet, following the disruption by Covid-19.

-Dr Kalangi is a communication trainer and consultant, Kenyatta University

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