Intrigues of missing school reform report

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua during a meeting with the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms led by the Chairperson Prof Raphael Munavu at his Harambee Annex offices. [DPCS]

Kenyans are waiting with bated breath for the final report on education reforms by a task force President William Ruto appointed in September last year.

It has been three weeks since the team completed its work and it remains unclear why the report has not been made public despite promises to that effect by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu.

The report is expected to give direction on a number of issues as far as education is concerned, from primary to university education, all aimed at improving the sector.

The Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms gazetted on September 30, 2022, had six months to complete its work.

With a budget of Sh236 million, the contract of the team led by educationist Prof Raphael Munavu, was to end on March 30, 2023.

The team would submit progressive reports, on a two-month basis, to President Ruto.

Overall, the 49-member team was to collect views from Kenyans and propose changes that would affect the implementation of the troubled Competency Based Curriculum (CBC).

They were also to relook into middle-level training, at the same time suggest modifications to university education.

After false starts, several weeks of collecting data and public participation sessions, the team presented interim reports, some of which were rejected by the President. The team’s final report remains top secret long after the expiry of its mandate.

The closest Kenyans came to interact with the finer details of the report was on June 6, during a stakeholders’ validation process at the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (Cemastea).

But this was also a closed-door meeting with media barred from covering the event attended by a controlled representation of selected stakeholders.

Soon after the meeting, Mr Machogu assured Kenyans the report was ready and would be presented to the President. Three weeks after that validation meeting, the fate of the report remains unknown.

Some insiders say President Ruto would have unveiled the report, after the validation conference, already if the team did a thorough job.

On May 3, Machogu told Kenyans that “the report is ready for handover in two days’ time”. Machogu said the report had captured all the views raised by stakeholders.

“A number of you complained that the curriculum is a bit too heavy. The answer to that is coming on Friday when the head of state will make his pronouncement in conformity to what has been recommended by the task force,” said the CS.

According to Machogu’s statement, President Ruto was to receive the report on May 5.

Friday, June 30, 2023, marked the ninth Friday since Machogu promised the report would be out.

Upon the expiry of its six-month term, in April, the committee was granted an extension of two months, through a Gazette Notice dated April 12.

“The Presidential Working Party on education reforms term has been extended until June 9, 2023,” the notice read. This means the term of the task force expired three weeks ago, on June 7.

Prof Munavu, on Friday, declined to speak to The Standard over the report. “Monday (today) would be precise for me to give any comments,” he said when asked about why the report had not been unveiled.

However, the good news is that part some of the proposals on the transition of learners from 8-4-4 to 2-6-6-3 are being implemented.

The task force presented its first progress report to President Ruto on December 1, last year, when it mainly addressed issues concerning basic education, specifically the transition of Grade Six to Grade Seven.

The recommendations on the transition to Junior Secondary School (JSS) were made in a rush as time was ticking towards the major shift as confusion threatened to derail the reforms.

President Ruto quickly gave direction that JSS be domiciled in primary schools and directed that the Ministry of Education makes necessary plans to settle the learners in the new arrangement.

With JSS out of the way, the focus would shift to Munavu’s task force, to deliver on a number of issues concerning basic education all the way to tertiary and university education funding.

Also being implemented are proposals adopted under the new funding plan for tertiary and university education.

In the new plan, universities funding has been increased and a newly graduated formula for funding learners unveiled.

Student funding in universities and colleges will be based on four categories; vulnerable, less vulnerable, needy and less needy. This means the government will cater for all vulnerable learners’ tuition fees, through full scholarships, while supporting those in the other categories.

The new plan is already being rolled out as the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) is in the process of allocating courses to students in colleges and universities.

Sources have told The Standard that President Ruto’s move to give early direction on JSS transition and funding of students in universities and colleges exposed the task force as its work came into sharp focus. This was evident during the team’s presentation, to the president, of its second interim report in February, which Ruto termed average, according to insiders.

Ruto directed the team to review and recommend governance and financing frameworks for TVETs and universities, research and training.

The team was also to make recommendations on teacher education and training framework for both pre-service and in-service, and how the tutors may be deployed.

It was also required to suggest the technology for curriculum delivery, improved learning outcomes and education management.

Ruto also wanted them to advise on the governance mechanisms of learning institutions and sharing of resources across schools and TVET institutions to ensure maximum utilisation of public resources for improved learning outcomes.

How middle-level education would be streamlined, the rollout of Open University of Kenya and how to merge major higher education funds as was captured in Kenya Kwanza manifesto was also part of their mandate.