A new report has exposed shocking details on the rates of teenage pregnancies, child defilement and drug abuse in schools countrywide.
The draft report of the recently concluded consultations, led by the Education ministry, says teenage pregnancies had hit an all-time high — with Narok County the most affected at more than 60 per cent.
The report says child defilement cases were rampant in some counties, prompting Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed to release strict guidelines to schools last month to deal with the menace.
The report of the Education Quality Dialogue dated July 2018 notes that drug abuse was also widespread in some schools.
In March, the ministry of Education, led by CS Mohamed and Basic Education Principal Secretary Dr Belio Kipsang, rolled out a series of dialogues on education quality with a view to addressing specific county challenges that derail the standards of education.
The forums brought together key education stakeholders at the county level, including Education ministry officials, county commissioners, members of parliament, members of schools' boards of management, representatives from the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Parents Teachers Association (PTA) members, Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) and representatives from all the county governments.
Their mandate was to evaluate the status of the quality of education with a view to coming up with better ways of improving learning outcomes for all children.
All counties came up with their findings and recommendations which were then summed up in the report that details some of the key challenges learners and teachers are facing that have a negative effect on teaching and learning in the country.
The forums also sought to evaluate the readiness of teachers and learners for the new competence-based curriculum and to sensitise stakeholders on the new National Education Management Information System (Nemis), whose progress was affected by the delays parents experienced while obtaining birth certificates for their children.
In most counties, lack of certificates was cited as the main reason most learners had not been registered in the Nemis system while in others, low ICT skills among staff involved in the project and low internet connectivity hindered the ministry's drive to enrol all learners into the system.
As for the new curriculum, some teachers expressed difficulties in their ability to handle some of the requirements of the new curriculum due to large student numbers in classrooms.
In general, the report noted that although the national pilot of the new curriculum was ongoing, teachers had not yet acquired the requisite skills needed for its implementation.
"Instructional materials for the curriculum were said not to have been delivered to most schools and teachers were yet to be trained on the curriculum's mode of assessment," stated the report.
Land issues such as encroachment of schools land by private developers and faith-based institutions, lack of title deeds, land grabbing and boundary disputes were found to have an adverse effect on the quality of learning and teaching in various schools in the country.
Student-related challenges, including child defilement and teenage pregnancies, were reported to have a direct effect on access and retention of learners in the school system.
"This was reported mostly in ASAL counties, with Nairobi, Narok, Kilifi, Meru, Bungoma, Busia, Migori, Homa Bay and Kilifi recording the highest cases of teenage pregnancies of up to 60 per cent," the report stated.
Pregnancy cases also led to increased numbers of over-age girls in schools, including those who rejoin school after dropping out of class to take care of their children.
Cases of child defilement were blamed on young men operating boda bodas who lure young girls into sex in exchange for rides.
Students engaging in drugs and substance abuse, especially alcoholism, was also cited. In Nakuru County, abuse of Kuber, shisha and alcohol was the main problem.
The situation was attributed to increased cases of indiscipline among learners and lack of well-established guidance and counselling programmes for help in student character formation.
The HIV/Aids burden on those affected and infected in Nyanza region, particularly in Homa Bay, Migori, Siaya and Kisumu counties, was found to have a direct impact on teaching and learning as some teachers were either suffering directly or indirectly while some students have been made vulnerable after being orphaned by the pandemic.
In Busia County, students were found to be still participating in disco matangas despite this practice having been banned in all sub-counties.
In Kiambu and Nairobi counties, many children are disadvantaged from accessing the many good schools after they were elevated to national schools status.
The report noted that the situation resulted from not factoring in the performance standards of county and sub-county schools when the said schools got elevated.
Poor feeding among learners was found to have contributed to a high and persistent pupil absenteeism in Busia County, where 35.5 per cent of learners fail to take regular meals, especially breakfast.
Dr Osman Warfa, Head of Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health Unit in the ministry of Health, while addressing the opening of the second National Early Childhood Development Stakeholders Conference at Kenyatta University (KU) on Wednesday, noted that proper nutrition plays a key role in a child's academic performance as 90 per cent of the human brain develops by the age of five years.
"Efforts put in promoting the health and development of a child in their early formative years promote fast brain development which reflects in their better school performance," he said.
That said, poverty and proper nutrition are interlinked. In most cases, parents from poor backgrounds are unable to provide their children with a balanced diet. The report noted that due to this, pupils from high social-economic backgrounds perform better than those from low economic backgrounds.
The report also noted that gender disparity among learners was still a major challenge with records showing that more boys have been enrolled in schools compared to girls.
"This characteristic is much prominent especially in rural areas where the disparities are compounded by cultural practices that deny the girl-child an opportunity to advance her education and career," stated the report.
Teacher-related issues such as absenteeism, teacher shortages, low motivation, gender imbalance and an ageing workforce were found to have an adverse effect on education.
Most counties have inadequate teachers. In Kilifi, for instance, the teacher-student ratio was reported as 1:85 and 1:82 in primary and secondary schools respectively, thus hindering teachers' ability to address the needs of every learner.
HARSH CLIMATIC CONDITIONS
Under-staffing was also attributed to harsh climatic conditions in Samburu, Isiolo and Marsabit counties. Poor housing, poor road networks and sporadic attacks targeting non-local teachers along border schools were also cited as challenges affecting staffing. In Northern Kenya, these attacks are carried out by al- Shabaab militants operating in Somalia.
Counties affected by frequent teacher exits arising from their seeking transfers to “safer” regions include Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, Baringo and West Pokot.
"The combination of these challenges results in poor quality education in the region," the report stated.
In Murang'a County, weak pedagogy where teachers were said not to adequately prepare for their lessons was blamed for the county’s poor Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) performance. Last year, only 12.7 per cent of the candidates in the county got university admission.
In some counties like Migori, Bungoma and Nyamira, teachers were found to skip classes and abscond duty due to over-consumption of brews and lack of proper supervision and monitoring by their head teachers.
Inadequate classrooms and laboratories were some of the infrastructure-related challenges affecting education quality in the country.
The government's 100 per cent transition to secondary schools initiative has, over time, resulted in over-stretched resources, leading to inadequate learning space, furniture, sanitation facilities and dormitories in Trans Nzoia, Isiolo, Marsabit and Samburu counties.
"In Kilifi County, inadequate numbers of classrooms necessitated combining of classrooms such as Standard Three and Four pupils as others sit on the floor," the report noted.
In Samburu County, there's an ongoing plan to upgrade some Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) centres to primary schools to address the need for more learning space.
The report indicated that a majority of parents, especially fathers, were not supportive of their children's education and never attend school meetings. In Nyamira County, the situation was blamed on parents' consumption of illicit brews while in other counties in general, parents were said to have left that role to the teachers.
In some counties, parents were said to have absconded education support programmes such as school feeding to faith-based organisations and schools development partners leading to an increase in students dropping out of school.
Illiteracy among parents was also cited as a major challenge as well as parents siding with children involved in indiscipline cases, which consequently makes it difficult for teachers to help students reform and concentrate on their studies.
Cases of child labour were reported as rampant in Migori County where children are engaged in gold mining in Nyatike and Suna West and the sugar belt of Rongo, Awendo and Uriri, which contributed to absenteeism and eventual dropping out of school.
In Marsabit and Samburu counties, children stay out of school to look after cattle while in Nyamira, Embu and Meru counties, many students have dropped out of school to operate bodabodas to make a living.
In tea growing areas of Kericho and Nandi counties, children ended up at tea plantations picking tea for money.
Poverty, as a factor in hindering quality education, was found to be rampant in Kilifi and Kwale counties where parents were not able to support school feeding programmes thus affecting school attendance.
In Machakos, a number of parents were found not able to provide basic needs such as school uniforms for their children which contributed to school drop outs.
In general, poverty was a challenge that cuts across all counties. It was observed that many bright children drop out of school after missing out on the constituency bursary funds and the presidential bursary scheme.
Simmering tension between some communities in Kisii, Nyamira, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera, where local residents routinely interfered with the smooth administration of schools including seeking the transfers of teachers who they felt are 'outsiders', was blamed for unending wrangles between school boards and PTAs thus affecting quality education.