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Junior secondary headache may persist this year

Education CS George Magoha at Kisumu Girls High school during the third week of KCSE. March 6, 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The place of junior secondary school (JSS) remained a sticky issue last year as debate on the new curriculum took centre stage.

Under the 2-6-3-3-3 education system, learners will spend two years in pre-primary education, six in primary schools, three in junior secondary school and another three in senior secondary school.

Even after a government task force recommended this level of education is domiciled in secondary schools, reference was still made on the role of primary schools in the transition.

However, the push to have this level of education anchored in primary schools may spill over to next year as the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) made a fresh call to the government to reconsider the placement.

This was part of the advise the union top decision making organ – National Advisory Council (NAC) last week gave to KNUT top management to consider.

Even though NAC cited congestion in secondary schools as their major reason for advocating to domicile junior secondary in primary schools, insiders revealed membership is at the centre of the new push.

The Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) task force released its report proposing the level of education be domiciled in secondary schools.

However, before the report, KNUT and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) could not agree on the matter.

Each union sought to protect their membership, and with KNUT in drive to shore up its members, domiciling junior secondary in primary schools would be a major catchment for the union membership.

KNUT draws its membership from primary schools as KUPPET members are largely from post-primary education institutions.

Principal Secretary for Implementation of Curriculum Reforms, Fatuma Chege, however, insists the government will seek to optimise existing resources.

She explained that in cases where a primary school has excess infrastructure, they will be transformed into a junior secondary school.

 “This level of learning will be domiciled in secondary schools. We are only trying to establish how best we can also utilise extra spaces in primary schools,” said Chege.

PS Fatuma Chege. August 31, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The PS also revealed the recommendations of the taskforce are being fine-tuned for implementation.

She went on to say that following the task force recommendations, the government conducted an audit of existing infrastructure in secondary schools. The audit came up with a list of institutions that would require expansion and additional facilities.

“Those were proposals to be considered for implementation. We collected data, but the information is raw and we are getting to the details now,” shared Chege.

However, the biggest headache is whether the government will have created enough spaces by 2023, when the first CBC cohort will join junior secondary schools.

The government is expected to create 37,000 new classrooms nationally to cater for the anticipated double intake of learners.

According to projections, some 1.5 million new places (37,000 classrooms) should be created by end of next year in secondary schools to plug the looming shortfall that will be caused by double intake in 2023.

This is the year that CBC pioneer learners will be admitted to junior secondary schools after sitting for the Grade 6 national examination.

It is also the year that present Standard Seven learners under the 8-4-4 education system will join Form One, after sitting for the last Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination.

President Uhuru Kenyatta directed that 10,000 classrooms be constructed immediately and released Sh8 billion for the project.

Education Cabinet Secretary, George Magoha said the National Treasury had released Sh4 billion for the first phase.

Education Cabinet Secretary, George Magoha. [Washington Onyango, Standard]

He added that another Sh1.2 billion from the ministry infrastructure fund would be spent to put up 6,500 classrooms in 6,371 secondary schools.

However, confusion ensued about junior school placement as conflicting communication emerged from the Ministry.

As developments to construct new classrooms in secondary institutions took shape, another circular was released calling for an audit of primary schools’ infrastructure with an aim of being used for junior secondary schools.

The circular signed by Moses Karati, on behalf of Basic Education PS, Jwan Julius asked County Directors of Education (CDEs) to draw a compressive list of primary schools with available spaces that would be used to anchor junior secondary learners.

The circular was dated November 22. Two days later, PS Chege said primary schools would not host junior secondary students. 

Instead, she revealed the two extra classes that would be left in primary schools’ as Grade Six learners transitioned to junior secondary would be used to anchor nursery schools.

She added that this was part of the grand transition plan to break transition walls in close collaboration with counties.