Insufficient teachers and stationery mar progress in free primary education

A school in Garissa County where teachers handle overcrowded class with less textbooks among pupils.Picture:Henry Owino
A school in Garissa County where teachers handle overcrowded class with less textbooks among pupils.Picture:Henry Owino

The Government has been advised to investigate the biting shortage of textbooks in public primary schools as a measure to reduce high level of sharing among pupils.

The ratio of teacher to pupils per class is yet another setback to free primary education. Teachers are forced to handle overcrowded classes with up to 60 or more pupils instead of the recommended 40 pupils per class.

Some public primary schools don’t have enough facilities to accommodate large numbers hence pupils will be found studying under trees or makeshift structures that are unfavourable for learning.

Many pupils are still sharing textbooks with at least three other pupils on average from class one to eight despite more than 10 years of free primary education (FPE) in place. Capacity of pupils per class is far much beyond teacher ability to manage compromising academic performance of pupils.

The engagement between teacher and pupils is rare and many children are frequently not reached by teachers. This is a factor that contributes to pupils underperforming leading to repetition of classes despite government directive banning pupils’ having to repeat classes.

These remarks were made by National Taxpayers Association (NTA) during the launch of a report dubbed the School Report Card (SRC) 2016 in Nairobi.

The School Report Card 2016 revealed that many pupils in public primary schools continue to share text books 14 years after Kenya government introduced free primary education in 2003.There is need to revise FPE before even thinking of extending it to secondary level.

The report assessed learning in 100 public primary schools from three counties namely Marsabit, Taita Taveta and Tana River. It found out that although, there were certain improvements, access to and sharing of textbooks remains the biggest challenge.

“Students are still sharing textbooks with at least three other pupils on average from class one to eight more than 15 years since Free Primary Education was initiated. To compound this, a paltry three schools assessed reported a ratio of 1:1. Teacher pupil ratio was slightly better in class seven and eight where the average ratio was 1:2,” says the report in part.

The assessment further found out that parents were not comfortable with assignments taken at home arguing that their children were not fully engaged. Parents of over 1,500 pupils argued their children were not fully engaged, asserting that homework was irregular and if anything only issued 60 percent of the school calendar (three days a week on average).

“Parents of over 1,500 pupils argued that their children were not fully engaged, further more asserting that homework assignments were given five days a week at least and issued similarity to all classes,” notes the report.

Worth noting is the finding that pupils’ retention in schools remained a challenge driven by family income status as well as general truancy which is a shocking revelation countrywide.

“Sickness which is majorly inevitable accounts for over 50 percent of all pupils’ absenteeism as recollected by school for no good reason. Truancy 26 percent, child labour 7.5 percent, boda-boda riding, Watching movies, football or playing video games at video dens were 4.2 percent are among the top reasons. Further — even though the incidence is paltry — some pupils are allegedly sent home when they report to school late in the morning,” says the report.

Paul Mutisya, Director of Quality Assurance and Standards at the Ministry of Education  said the School Report Card were an essential tool that demands for accountability in schools management as well as getting parents engaged in the education of their children.

“I am delighted to note that the School Report Card process has re-kindled the sense of ownership and parents are taking their rightful place in the management of schools,” said Mutisya.

Mutisya noted that the School Report Card process which includes measuring the various parameters of the learning process had registered a remarkable impact at the school level.

Wolde Wesa, the National Taxpayers Association project officer said there is need for county governments to also come in and boost schooling.

“If the government needs to change Kenya and have people with various professional or skills in future, focus must be put in schools management, teaching staff, and stationery requirements,” Wesa challenged.

He noted that while there has been considerable increase in enrolment in public schools, there is no commensurate expansion of necessary infrastructures. He lamented that it was such a shame that children still learn sitting on earth floor and in dilapidated facilities.

He explained that the School Report Card Project has been active in Kenya since 2009 when it was launched by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST) in collaboration with the National Taxpayers Association.

The objective is to create enabling school environments and consequently improve the quality of education for both girls and boys in public primary schools to foster better outcomes and brighter futures.

Wesa said the project drives to succeed in this endeavour by encouraging parents through capacity building and behaviour change communication methods to take a hands-on approach towards the education of their children.

The School Report Card is a tool tailored for parents to assess the performance of their school each year in ten key areas that relate to education quality.

These include school safety and protection, school facilities, access to textbooks, continuous assessment, water and sanitation, roles of children at the school, management of instructional materials, performance of the Board of Management, homework assignment and marking and parental responsibility.

 

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