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We must not lose sight of key education goals

By Wilson Sossion | November 2nd 2020

Access to quality education and lifelong learning for all should be Kenya’s main agenda as the country struggles to come to terms with the coronavirus pandemic.

Education is a fundamental human right. To fulfill this right, the country must ensure equal access to inclusive and equitable quality education and learning, which should be free and compulsory, leaving no one behind during this pandemic period.

Education should aim at the full development of the human personality and promote mutual understanding, tolerance, friendship and peace. More so, it should be noted that education is a public good of which the national government is the duty bearer.

As observed in the Constitution and enabling Acts, education is a shared societal endeavour, which implies an inclusive process of public policy formulation and implementation. Teacher unions, civil society, the private sector, communities, families, youths and children all have important roles in realising the right to quality education. The role of the national government is essential in setting and regulating standards and norms.

Kenya failed to meet Education For All (EFA) goals by the 2015 deadline. This time around, we cannot afford to miss the proposed Education 2030 targets. Hence, the Ministry of Education Science and Technology, in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, has no choice but to continue implementing the Framework for Action of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Agenda 4.

The targets of Education 2030 Agenda as outlined by Unesco, Unicef and World Bank are specific and measurable, and contribute directly to achieving the overarching goal.

Global targets

The targets spell out a global level of ambition that should encourage countries, Kenya included, to strive for accelerated progress. They are applicable to all countries, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

Governments are expected to translate global targets into achievable national targets based on their education priorities, national development strategies and plans, the ways their education systems are organised, their institutional capacity and availability of resources. Indeed, this is why our government should continue to realign Education 2030 Agenda with Kenya’s policies on education.

By and large, there is a roadmap for Education 2030 Agenda. The targets include ensuring all children complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education; ensuring that all children have access to quality early childhood development education so that they are ready for primary education.

Other targets Kenya has to meet between now and 2030 are equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university; substantially increasing the number of youths and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills for employment; eliminating gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable. Others are ensuring all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development; building and upgrading educational facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and substantially increasing the supply of qualified teachers.

In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, the vision of the government should be to transform lives through education, recognising the important role of education as the main driver of development and in achieving the other proposed SDGs.

In spite of the current spike in Covid-19 infections, the ministries of Education and Health should work on a grand plan to reopen schools as keeping learners at home any longer will harm them more, leading to long-lasting effects in their lives. Despite rising Covid-19 positivity rate, it makes sense to safely send learners back to school.

The government needs to put in place necessary measures to ensure safety of children when they go back to school. The economic loss of keeping children at home longer will be too enormous for the country to bear.

Teachers and learners with underlying health conditions should be identified and accordingly given preferential treatment.

We insist that the government should ensure that the schools are safe. The government should urgently disburse at least Sh1 billion to schools to enable boards of management to procure face masks for learners. 

It is the hope of all and sundry that the government, through the Ministry of Education, will commit itself with a sense of urgency to a renewed education agenda that is holistic, ambitious and aspirational, leaving no one behind.

This new vision should be captured fully by Kenya Basic Education Covid-19 Emergency Response Plan, 'ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all Kenyan children'.

-Sossion is a nominated MP and Secretary-General of Kenya National Union of Teachers

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