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It makes sense to re-visit where Grade Nine should be domiciled

Opinion

 

The government has pronounced its position on where Grade Nine is to be domiciled next year. This comes against the background of the cacophony of appeals from both experts and the lay public for a change in the environment where this crucial grade in the Junior Secondary School level is to be domiciled.

The call for reconsideration of where to domicile Grade Nine in our school landscape has been occasioned by the insurmountable challenges witnessed in the implementation of the curriculum in the Junior secondary level. Other than the books that have been made available, there is no good news in how we have addressed the issue of curriculum implementation at this level. A lot needs to be done.

Grade Nine is a ‘terminal class’. Learners are expected to transition to senior school. With the poor background, what will inform the specialisation that will underlie the pathways? Truth be told, no significant learning is taking place in public junior secondary schools and a host of their private counterparts at the moment. The challenges in these schools are legion. Most, if not all, of these challenges are attributable to a shortage of teachers and quality of teaching and learning. These twin challenges are informed majorly by the environment obtained in our Junior secondary schools.

We should not treat all the recommendations of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms as the panacea of all the current and future ills of our sickly educational system. Some of those recommendations, on close scrutiny, should be expunged from the implementation table. A living example is the domicile of Junior secondary in the former primary schools. The truth is that the twin issues of teacher supply and lackluster facilities, notwithstanding poor leadership and low teacher morale, have negatively impacted on learning at the entire junior secondary level. Significant learning is a mirage.

We need to be honest and address the issue of quality teaching at the junior secondary level. The point to begin from is to domicile Grade Nine and hopefully the entire junior secondary level, in our current secondary schools.

This just requires a stroke of genius in our education honchos. Otherwise, the future generation will blame us for taking an action that made citizens to be gravely disadvantaged in the world of work at the global level. We are wasting a whole generation due to political convenience and to some extent, avarice.

Sadly, in this age, we are still keen on building classrooms. The 1,600 to be constructed, at this late hour in the school calendar, will make learners ‘comfortable’. But is the brick-and-mortar approach to learning the be-all and end-all? No. The world today is even experimenting with wall-less classes. Moreover, with enough teachers, resources, good leadership and high teacher morale, outdoor classes will just do. 

Re-considering the decision of domiciling Grade Nine in the current secondary schools which by next year will not admit Form Ones will, with a stroke, solve the problem of classrooms hence save us Sh3.39 billion. This money can be channeled to other pressing issues. Moreover, some schools have additional classrooms that were built by the previous regime to accommodate the pioneer Grade Seven learners. Automatically, the issue of congestion will equally be addressed.

The issue of teacher supply and quality will be improved too. Secondary schools, even though understaffed, have teachers in all curriculum areas. This will allow a teacher to only teach what he or she is competent in. On supply, the current establishment in both Junior and secondary schools will partly increase the teacher population in schools. Added to the 20,000 to be hired, at least the worse situation will be improved.

Laboratories and libraries are lacking in our Junior secondary schools. This, however, is not the situation in the ‘old’ secondary schools. Learners will for once have a test of science practicals and library use if we are courageous and domicile Grade Nine in our ‘old’ secondary schools. We will also address the issue of leadership.

As the Juniour secondary schools are constituted now, primary school head teachers are the ones managing them. This has its own peculiar challenges in terms of human resource management. Some of the head teachers are not degree holders yet subject teachers are. 

Dr Ndaloh teaches at Koitalel University

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