Hopes, challenges ahead for learners and parents as schools open

Friday December 29 2017

Parents and pupils shop for books at Savani’s Book Centre in Nairobi

Parents and pupils shop for books at Savani’s Book Centre in Nairobi, on December 29, 2017 ahead of the re-opening of schools on Tuesday, a day after Kenyans celebrate New Year. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By FAITH NYAMAI
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Schools are set to open in three days for the 2018 year. And for the first time, those joining day secondary schools will get free education.

However, the new term comes under a cloud of uncertain caused by the looming mass transfers of teachers, which has led them to warn their employer of a possible strike unless the decision is rescinded.

Over 500 head teachers have also been marked for transfer and some have gone to court to stop the Teachers Service Commission from moving them.

When they appeared before Judge David Majanja on Friday, he referred the matter to the Labour Court.

There is also confusion among some parents on the amount they will be required pay for their children in  day secondary schools following the offer by the government to start free day secondary education. Whereas schools are expected to comply with the directive, there are some that have sent fees structure to parents, an indication that they intend to charge fees.

NEW CURRICULUM

The Ministry of Education has also been racing to introduce a new curriculum, which is expected to reduce emphasis on examination.

Should it be implemented in the new term, the new system will play up the strengths of every individual learner so as to nurture their unique competencies.

However, the move has met some resistance with some teachers saying they are not adequately prepared to implement it.

Among the other challenge that parents and learners will be facing as they seek to start a new academic year are the high fares charged by public transport vehicles.

Usually, the first week of January is a busy period for public transport as workers travel back to towns after spending Christmas and New Year holidays upcountry.

The pressure to travel across the country is likely to put a strain on learners and their parents due to the high demand for public transport and the high fares that this entails.

RAISE MONEY

Considering that schools have been closed since October, parents will also be hard pressed to raise money for fees, buying books and uniforms and other necessities that their children need to return to school.

An opinion poll released on Thursday indicated that for many Kenyans, the high cost of living in 2017 was one of their biggest worries.

This is likely to impact on parents’ ability to meet the educational needs of their children coming so soon after a prolonged electioneering period that depressed economic growth.

During the campaigns for the August and October presidential elections, President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government would roll out free day secondary school education if Jubilee was re-elected.

The opposition, Nasa, had made a similar pledge. Now, the rubber of promise will be meeting the road of implementation when schools re-open next week.

Under new guidelines released recently, the government scrapped the Sh9,374 that each student in public schools was to pay per year.

BOARDING

A new circular says that the government will pay Sh22,224 for each student effective January. Whether this money will be released in the first week of the term, or will be delayed as has been the case in past years, remains to be seen.

Boarding school students are also expected to receive a similar amount. However, parents will be required to pay for boarding and other infrastructural projects. Already the government has allocated Sh25 billion for the programme.

According to the Ministry of Education, for national and county schools in category A, students will pay Sh53,554 per year while students in Category B boarding and extra-county schools will be required to pay Sh40,535 per year.

If the policy is implemented successfully, parents with children in day secondary schools will only be required to buy school uniforms and pay for lunch for the day scholars.

PAY MORE

On Friday, several parents whom the Nation spoke to said they were yet to know if schools will ask them to pay more money than recommended by the governments directives.

“We are yet to know if schools will follow the government’s directives and allow our children in day schools to learn without paying an amount of school fees,” said Mr James Muringo, a parent.

On the massive transfer of teachers, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has said it came up with a policy last term that proposed mass transfers starting January.

However, the Kenya Union of Teachers has been against the policy, terming it as ill advised.

Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion early this week said any policy by the TSC must be agreed upon by unions before it is implemented.

“The transfers must be discussed and agreed upon. We had started the talks with TSC but had not concluded them,” said Mr Sossion.

When contacted by the Nation over the same issue, Mr Sossion said: “I will give my comment on the same tomorrow.”

HOME COUNTIES

Kuppet Deputy Secretary General Moses Nthurima said the transfers had not been done procedurally.

The union argues that teachers are supposed to be encouraged to work in their home counties.

The Kenya Primary school Head Teachers Association (Kepsha) chairman Shem Ndolo on Friday said they are not opposed to the mass transfers.

“That is a government policy and we cannot defy directives,” said Mr Ndolo.

According to TSC Chief Executive Nancy Macharia, head teachers and deputies who have overstayed in a station for more than nine years are the ones who have received transfer letters.

The teachers are supposed to start reporting to their new schools on Monday ahead of the re-opening of schools the following day.