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Put students’ safety, comfort before study

Sunday February 23 2020

EDITORIAL
By EDITORIAL
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The Education ministry finds itself in a fix.

Last week, Cabinet Secretary George Magoha told a parliamentary committee that, although almost all the pupils — 99 per cent — who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education last year have been enrolled in secondary school, there is no money to expand facilities or plug the teacher shortage there.

While it is commendable that all these students are all in Form One, it is a cruel irony that the ministry cannot guarantee quality learning or decent and adequate facilities due to lack of funds.

Prof Magoha said the ministry requires at least Sh3 billion to undertake massive expansion of classrooms, dormitories, laboratories, libraries and toilets in schools countrywide.

Yet it was allocated Sh1.5 billion, out of which a paltry Sh200 million has been disbursed. Coupled with the teacher shortage, which stands at 58,291, secondary schools are in crisis.

BASIC AMENITIES

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Many schools are operating on a ratio of one teacher to 70 students instead of the desirable 1:45.

Teachers are overworked and demoralised while students, especially those in boarding school, live in deplorable, dehumanising conditions.

They queue for toilets, study in crammed classrooms, go without individualised teacher attention and compete to participate in sports.

It is prudent to have all eligible children in school as they are better off learning than engaging in petty crime, idling in the villages or getting recruited by terror gangs.

But it is grossly unfair to keep them at school without basic amenities and resources.

The 100 per cent transition policy should not be about merely pushing learners into schools but also ensuring that they stay there for the period of study and transit to the next level.

It should be about making them find joy in learning in a friendly, flexible, decent and clean environment.

QUALITY SUFFERS

Unfortunately, the government seems concerned with merely achieving 100 per cent enrolment.

If the learners cannot find any fun in learning, there is a real danger of many dropping out and finding other things to occupy themselves — which may include crime and other antisocial behaviour.

If the teachers feel overworked and unsupported, they are likely to leave the profession for other activities that offer them better pay and working conditions.

Those who choose to remain will simply go through the motions without an iota of dedication, only ticking the calendar as they wait for their salary.

Such a scenario is too distressing to imagine, and this is why the government must pull out all the stops to ensure it does not happen.

The government has to find the resources to equip secondary schools and recruit adequate teachers for them.

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