State has burdened parents and deserted teachers in hard times

Pupils in a makeshift classroom in Turkana County, December 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Amid hard economic times and ‘big-budget’ Competency-Based-Curriculum (CBC), the State has burdened parents with unnecessary school levies and failed to address teachers’ professional and labour concerns.

Due to the hurriedly introduced CBC and Covid-19, teachers undertake many formal and informal roles. They act as classroom instructors, data specialists, school leaders, mentors, after-school tutors, healthcare providers, among others.

Regardless of whether they are trained for these roles, government has no option but to fully recognise the roles by regularly engaging them in decision-making on labour and professional matters.

State agencies should also stop adulterating Recognition Agreements (RAs) signed with teacher unions. Government agencies should use RAs effectively as a basis for negotiating Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs).

For instance, last December, Salaries and Remuneration Commission published new salaries and allowances for State officers, while the National Treasury promised to increase civil servants' pay, but there was no mention of teachers.

Since education is a public good and plays an important role as the main driver of development and achievement of Sustainable Development Goals , and being a fundamental human right, the State should not desert teachers by ignoring their professional requirements and labour demands.

Teachers are crucial partners in their own right, and therefore should be engaged at all stages of policymaking, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. State agencies should partner with unions to draft policies that would ensure teachers are well trained, empowered, remunerated, motivated and equitably deployed across the 47 counties.

Parents are burdened by being forced help do their children’s school assignments under the CBC’s Community Service Learning. These assignments are also costly as parents are forced to buy teaching and learning materials, making it difficult for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to cope. 

Majority of learners cannot access computers, laptops, tablets, digital interactive whiteboards, projectors, smart boards and internet connection because the government has failed to subsidise the cost of online learning.

The launch of virtual learning to connect students to best teachers in national schools is yet another ploy by the government to offload educational costs on parents.

There is no scientific proof that virtual learning would effectively address teacher shortage in public schools, and improve on quality of education as claimed by the State. Majority of schools are not connected to digital learning gadgets and most teachers are not skilled adequately for virtual learning.

More serious, poor school infrastructure and the hostile learning environment in most parts of the country are not conducive for virtual learning.

The School Laptop Project failed to take off due to the haphazard manner of its implementation and we, therefore, must be cautious with the implementation of virtual learning.   

The government has failed to rein in headteachers who have defied school fees guidelines, pushing cash-strapped parents to the wall.

Mr Wilson Sossion is a member of parliamentary committees on Education and Labour