Four weeks into the school term, teachers and students in Junior Secondary School (JSS) in Kenya are still grappling with the lack of proper resources required for successful studies.
Denis Opiyo is one of the recently-employed teachers at Iloirero Primary School in Kajiado county. He teaches Maths, Integrated Science, Physical Education and Sports.
He says that he has been teaching grade seven students for two weeks now since the first two weeks were dedicated to the admission process and settling the students.
Despite his zeal to be one of the pioneering JSS teachers in the country, Opiyo says that adapting to the new curriculum has been a challenging process.
The lack of proper resources has threatened to cripple his teaching efforts. However, he is hopeful that things will shape up and learners will get their rightful quality education.
According to Albert Kimani, the proprietor of Visions Academy in Subukia, Nakuru county, the exiguous resources allocated to public schools will pose detrimental drawbacks to the development of the curriculum as a whole.
He noted that most public schools are yet to receive textbooks. In such cases, teachers are forced to turn to the internet to get teaching materials and curriculum designs.
A Nakuru teacher who pleaded anonymity confided that their school is yet to receive any textbooks, four weeks into their first term.
“While it may be somewhat easier to teach Maths and the languages without textbooks, teaching the more technical subject becomes a challenge. I think that providing textbooks should be a priority for the Ministry of Education,” he told Scholar Media Africa.
In an interview, Jonson Nzioka, the Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (KEPSHA) chairperson, said that the presidential working committee proposed a sum of KSh 15,000 capitation fund per student each year to fund the JSS students.
The amount would facilitate the resources needed for smooth sailing in each academic year.
He further explained that the government guidelines require each school to have a separate account for primary school and JSS. This way, the JSS funds would solely serve their purpose.
He said that the educational task force arrived at this figure after weighing the essential requirements for successfully running the JSS.
Understaffed, Untrained Teachers
Even as the recently employed teachers continue settling their students into the curriculum, there has been an outcry on the level of teachers’ staffing across the country.
On average, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has employed two teachers in each JSS.
“Our school, for instance, has only been allocated one Kiswahili teacher, and he is not even trained to handle the CBC. He was trained in the 8-4-4 curriculum,” says John, a teacher employed in Nyandarua county.
Alex Maina, a teacher in Nakuru, explains the plight in their school. They only have two teachers; his colleague teaches Mathematics while he is a teacher of English.
“Although we are doing our best to offer the students top-notch education, the learners are at a loss at the end of the day. For instance, I am not trained to teach Kiswahili. So most of the days, students do not attend Kiswahili classes. The understaffing predicament across the country is quite a shocker, given the number of unemployed graduates who have studied education,” explained Maina.
Nzioka, who also heads Donholm Primary School, says that plenty of graduate teachers have been trying to find their way into JSS.
Of the 33 teachers in his school, 19 are graduates. He argues that primary schools have the capacity to equip JSS with the required workforce after training and that, ideally, the government should be able to promote these teachers to JSS.
“In my school, we have engaged some of our primary school teachers to help with the subjects that are yet to be allocated teachers by the TSC,” Nzioka said.
Recently speaking about the current understaffing problem, the TSC CEO, Dr. Nancy Macharia, said that the government has employed 30,000 teachers who have already begun working in JSS.
The TSC boss also reiterated their plan to deploy 7,282 primary school teachers with the required qualifications to teach in JSS, a move anticipated to help solve the understaffing problem while reducing the unemployment of teachers in the country.
Opiyo, who has been a teacher for three years now, believes that the CBC is much better than the phased-out 8-4-4 system due to its practicality.
He says the curriculum is designed to equip the learners with knowledge and skill that they can use daily, unlike the previous system that aimed to test the learner’s knowledge retention.
He believes that the government’s and other stakeholders’ unpreparedness may leave a massive dent in what would have otherwise been an excellent curriculum beneficial to its learners.
Opiyo tells his most recent ordeal, where he was forced to teach Science without the necessary laboratory apparatus.
His school is yet to build a Science Lab, and the closest secondary school is 80 kilometers from his workplace.
He resolved to teach the theoretical part of the lesson and reserve its practical for a later date when the school can ferry the students to the nearby secondary school.
He urges the government to hasten its efforts to build laboratories and libraries in JSS because this will ease the work of both teachers and students.
Public Over Private Schools
Kimani noted that there has been an influx in the number of students transferring from private to public schools.
He says that most parents prefer to have their students join public schools because the government offers free secondary education to Grade Seven students, and no comparative examinations may trigger the parents to opt for private schools.
“The CBC evaluation system is not exam-oriented. For instance, the results that students received have no percentage value or comparison between students. So parents are now transferring their children to public schools,” said the Visions Academy head.
He emphasizes that, at the moment, private schools are more equipped to handle JSS students since they have heavily invested in their laboratories, musical instruments, and trained teachers.
However, Kimani urges the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to be intentional in its role and ensure the availability of relevant teaching material to all schools in Kenya.
The Visions Academy head says that there has been minimal government support in the training of private school teachers. However, they have procured the services of teachers’ trainers who help in equipping their teachers with the training they need.
Given that the curriculum is still new, Kimani urges the government to be non-discriminatory when equipping JSS, further stating that private schools also require proper teacher training.
He said that because the parents in private schools are also taxpayers, either children should not be exempted from the educational benefits that the Kenyan government has to offer.
“The government must be intentional in its efforts to fund the schools. The TSC also needs to adequately train the teachers before deploying them to JSS,” says Kimani.
YOU CAN ALSO READ: Junior Secondary anticipated challenges and suggested considerations
In his view, the inadequate facilities and understaffing reflect a lack of preparedness by the government.
If nothing is done about the challenges, it may lead to the total failure of a curriculum that appears very good and beneficial.