The allocation of Sh4 billion towards the construction of classrooms has brought hope to the Competency-Based Education (CBC) transition question.
The allocation means the government will now beat the 10,000 classrooms target in readiness for the 2023 transition of 1.2 million learners to junior secondary school.
The pressure for spaces will be occasioned by pioneer Grade Six learners under CBC who will join Junior Secondary and Standard Eight who will join Form One in secondary schools.
Calculations by Saturday Standard reveal the allocated money will comfortably fund the construction of 5,500 classrooms. Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said each classroom costs Sh788,000 down from the Sh1.2 million price earlier quoted.
CS Magoha last week said so far, some 6,487 classrooms have been constructed in the first phase.
The new allocation means the remaining classrooms will be constructed and a surplus of Sh1.1 billion realised. This balance may construct another 1,400 new classrooms.
CS Magoha may further have extra money to fulfill his earlier projection to construct additional classrooms in popular schools. Speaking after commissioning a CBC classroom at the Kenya High School in Nairobi last week, Magoha said: “We will consider building more classrooms for the popular schools because it looks like everybody wants to go there yet we have little infrastructure.”
In Kenya High School, for instance, Prof Magoha said the government will add four more classrooms to accommodate candidates eyeing top schools.
Other schools that will get additional classrooms include Alliance High in Kiambu and Pangani Girls in Nairobi. “We will add classes so that all those people who are clamouring to come here can have an opportunity to learn in good schools,” said the CS.
Education stakeholders, however, expressed varied opinions over infrastructure preparedness ahead of next year’s transition.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) secretary-general Akello Misori said the government should not only focus on constructing classrooms but also on equipping them with lockers, tables, and desks.
“You can have well-built schools but the equipment inside is poor,” he said.
Dr Emmanuel Manyasa, the Country Manager for Uwezo Kenya, however, said the money is a drop in the ocean of classrooms construction.
“So far they have put up 6,000 classes. If we are expecting a transition of 1.2 million students, is the government saying every classroom should have 120 students? The policy is to have a maximum of 50,” Dr Manyasa said.
Mr Wesaya Maina, an education and development expert, said it’s not about how much is allocated to CBC or the education sector.
“With the 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school, the government cannot start making investments in two to three months and expect to succeed. “We instead need an education growth plan for the next 30 years,” he said.
However, with the allocation, the focus now shifts to private schools’ preparedness for the transition.
CS Magoha asked private schools to hasten the process of constructing the classrooms to align with the implementation of CBC.
“I urge private schools to invest in junior secondary schools. I am not seeing much construction,” the CS said, urging schools to fast-track the programme so that the classrooms can be inspected.
The private schools have called on the government to help them fund the classrooms programme so that they can be ready to receive the first cohort of junior secondary students.
Mr Charles Ochome, the Kenya Private Schools Association national chairman, said most of their schools have spaces. Education expert Mr Maina said Kenya should use population records to guide planning in the education sector. He said the government has ignored the sector, despite saying the docket should take 20 to 40 per cent of the national budget.
“They would have done better because they are the ones who came up with the 100 per cent transition, CBC among others.
“The government just needed an education blueprint. It’s good to hear that the country is broke because all children are in school,” Mr Maina added. He said it is unfortunate that not all the Sh4 billion will go to the classrooms project as some will be directed to other expenses.
Dr Manyasa said the government should have set aside Sh10 billion at the minimum.
He criticised the allocation of Sh2.5 billion for teachers’ recruitment, saying it is negligible.