Junior secondary pupils report today amid teething problems

Junior secondary school students check in at Ndima Kanini Academy in Karatina Nyeri, ahead of the official opening day. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Junior Secondary is finally here as Grade Seven learners start reporting to school today, heralding the implementation of the second phase of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

However, the implementation is facing various hurdles including inadequate infrastructure and funding gaps with the government yet to release the promised capitation of Sh15,000 for each learner. 

On infrastructure, questions continue to linger as to whether there is adequate land, sufficient classrooms and laboratories as well as supply of water and power to accommodate Junior Secondary Schools (JSS). 

For instance, schools will co-share resources with their neighbours in areas they are disadvantaged. While issuing the guidelines, the Ministry of Education said the collaboration would especially facilitate the teaching of practical subjects such as integrated science, agriculture, computer, home science, and visual and performing arts.

Other facilities to be shared include playing grounds, open spaces, equipment for athletics, games, physical fitness and health.

 Psycho-social support

Further, schools are required to collaborate on matters of counselling, psycho-social support and transport.

Speaking at Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), after flagging off the books to schools on Friday, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said the guidelines will ensure a smooth transition.

While the ministry has committed to disbursing capitation to all public primary schools for the first term this week, learners will be reporting to the schools without government support. The State has indicated it plans to spend Sh9.6 billion cash injection with Sh15, 000 for each learner, out of which Sh4,000 will go towards improving infrastructure development in schools.

A shortage of teachers is another challenge facing many schools. However, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) is in the process of recruiting an additional 35,000 teachers.

While grappling with the teacher shortage, TSC will also deploy primary teachers with diploma and degree certificates to teach in junior secondary. 

 According to TSC data only 4,567 primary school teachers are qualified to teach JSS. Machogu urged all parents and guardians of Grade 7 learners to ensure their children report to schools today. There are about 32,555 primary schools across the country, 24,000 of which are public primary schools.

Machogu said out of 14,000 schools assessed as of last week, about 13,000 of them are ready to host the transition. "As at Friday of January 13, 2023, a total of 14,589 public and private schools had been assessed. Of these, 13,221 schools had been approved to host the Junior Secondary Schools,’’ Machogu stated.

The ministry also plans to implement affirmative action to address education disparities for disadvantaged learners, including the establishment of low-cost boarding schools in areas with highly scattered settlements, for learners at risk or with disability.

President William Ruto has urged Members of Parliament to assist in improving infrastructure in schools by constructing more classrooms through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

“It is our collective responsibility to work with the national government to improve the learning environment in schools,’’ Ruto said.

“We cannot leave all that responsibility to the government alone. The State will engage MPs to ensure we put up one class in every public school.” But the majority of the MPs are opposing the President’s appeal, saying they have priority issues for the CDF funds.

Lurambi MP, Titus Khamala vowed not to start any single project in his constituency unless he completes the ones he had started saying he will not wish to see public funds end up in ghost projects.

“The government must move with speed and disburse funds to schools in order to improve infrastructures in our school to deal with this glaring challenge,’’ Khamala said.

Khamala said the State had only dispatched Sh7 million of which Sh5 million will go to bursaries while Sh2 million will be used to run administrative errands.