Children in arid lands getting inferior education

Children learning under trees with minimum or no basic facilities is common yet the country and counties have budgetary allocation for education. [Picture: Courtesy]
Children learning under trees with minimum or no basic facilities is common yet the country and counties have budgetary allocation for education. [Picture: Courtesy]

Based in Tiaty, Baringo County, Nachurur Primary School has many children. However, the school has no classrooms, desks, black boards and chairs. It also suffers a shortage of teaching staff.

A school in the wild, learners at Nachurur Primary School use makeshift classrooms while some sit on stones under tree, six years into devolution.

Nelson Mmutkel, Deputy Head teacher says: “The school has only two teachers employed by the Teachers Service Commission, two by the county government and three are paid by parents.” He adds: “The ‘desks’ which are basically huge stones are neatly arranged and each pupil knows his or her spot.”

The school which has been around for eight years is situated more than 150 kilometres from Kabarnet town at the boundary of Turkana, Baringo and Samburu counties. It will present it is first class of Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination candidates this year.

It is the only school with children up to Class Eight in the area. The next school is Amayan Primary school, more than 15 kilometres away, which goes up to Class Three.

Domoki Shadrack is a teacher who has been in the school since it was established in 2008. He says: “You see these empty stones, they are empty chairs. The class used to be full but some pupils have since dropped out due to the nomadic lifestyle and others gave up after the school feeding programme stopped.”

Lemerokel Katupel is a pupil in the school. “Before we begin our lessons every day, we check under our ‘desks’ to ensure there are no deadly snakes hiding. This term alone we have killed three snakes,” says the pupil. Katupel says: “When you go back to Nairobi tell the government to come and help us kill these snakes.”

“Presently, counties are only in charge of Early Childhood Education, while the Ministry of Education manages the rest of the sector,” says Kipchumba Murkomen, Senator Elgeyo Marakwet County.

According to Murkomen, the best way to improve learning standards in the counties is to give them the opportunity to build schools and manage them.

“The biggest beneficiary would be the marginalized counties that still have school children learning under harsh conditions including under trees,” Murkomen reiterates. He notes: “We have been to the most marginalized counties and their wish is that education be devolved. This could have been possible if county governments were allowed to be in charge of the schools’ infrastructure.”

Attempts to devolve education faced a very strong opposition at the onset of devolution. Senators piled pressure on the national government to devolve primary and secondary learning to enable county governments play a greater role in the running and maintenance of schools. The push began well but fizzled out after the Ministry of Education refused to barge.

However, the lawmakers now want the counties to be in charge of the construction and management of schools but leave the distribution of state-employed teachers to the national government.

According to the members of the Senate Committee on Devolved Government, counties ought to fully participate in the running of schools so as to improve transition from one level to another.

However, the struggle to devolve education remains a battle far from winning as it continues to face strong opposition.

D’Jivetti Mulaama, a lecturer and research fellow who has authored several books says devolving education will be the biggest mistake this country can make. Most counties have shown that they are dens of corruption and nepotism and cannot be entrusted with national resources for the general population.

“The threat of sending Constituency Development Funds (CDF) to the counties sends chills down my spine,” says Mulaama. He explains: “In 2014, I was a lecturer at Maasai Mara University, Mumias Campus, where I was always discriminated against and witch-hunted because I was from outside the county.”

Mulaama reiterates: “A year later, I am still waiting to be paid, yet my colleagues from Kakamega County were paid immediately. That is one example of why education must never be devolved to the counties.”

Other opponents say, if education is devolved, children will leave home and attend nearby primary, high schools and universities — all within their counties. Children will speak their local languages, play the same sports and sing the same songs with their childhood friends.

Children will also attend their local churches, hear their local pastors and will never learn new ideas. In this way, devolving education will reinforce ethnicity, selfishness and social deviancy.

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