A wave of reforms set to sweep across the education sector in the next few years will radically change the way the country learns, stakeholders say.
Kenyans can expect free pre-primary learning, compulsory basic education, and a madrassa system working inside formal education structures.
Students will also have a bigger say in how schools are run through representation on advisory councils or committees.
Under the new proposals, no child will be sent away from school for any reason. This is intended to ensure all Kenyans have access to basic education.
Headteachers will be required to investigate every child’s absence from school and take measures to get them back into class. These may include issuing warning letters and submitting reports on truants (absent children) to county education boards. Currently, no formal inquiries are made on whereabouts of children who drop out of school. This has led to low completion and transition rates.
But once the proposed Education Bill is passed, parents who fail to enroll their children in school face a five-year jail term or a fine of Sh5 million.
The changes moved even closer to reality last week when over 40 MPs met in Naivasha in a historic show of support for them. The MPs pledged to lobby colleagues to pass the reform proposals.
Education minister Mutula Kilonzo said the proposed changes are meant to align key sector documents to the Constitution and Vision 2030.
To ensure learners get a proper foundation, all schools will have nursery schools complete with teachers employed by Teachers Service Commission.
“The Government will ensure all primary schools have pre-primary units,” said Education PS George Godia.
“We will also integrate the madrassa system in predominantly Muslim areas into the formal education.”
This will be the first time Early Childhood Development Education will be officially put under the management of the Government.
Consensus on the Education Bill was reached at a two-day meeting organised by the two education ministries and chaired by Parliamentary Education Committee chairman and Mosop MP David Koech.
Other draft laws the MPs agreed to pass are the Kenya National Examination Council Bill, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Bill, the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Bill, the Kenya Qualifications Framework, Science Technology and Innovations Bill, and various sector Sessional Papers.
Prof Godia says that with the incorporation of pre-primary and Islamic religious education schools into the formal system, all nursery attending children will benefit from subsidies.
“It will be the Government’s duty to pay fees for these children,” he said. “And for any Government to fail in this, it will have to prove to a court of law or a tribunal that it is unable to cater for the children.” Godia said all children would also be entitled to food and nutrition as part of strategies to enhancing access, equity, quality and relevance.
Students will have a right to be informed of their educational progress regularly. This means that learners will have legal backing against any teacher if they are not adequately briefed on his education progress.
Learners will be given appropriate incentives to complete basic education. None of them will be forced to repeat any class or expelled from school. The changes address a spate of suicides in recent years linked to exam results and requests to students to repeat classes.
“No pupil shall be subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in any manner, whether physical or psychological,” reads the Bill.
“A person who contravenes these provisions commits an offence and shall be liable to disciplinary action under the Act, or any other written law.”
Employing a child of compulsory school-going age will also be a criminal offence and any contravention to the provision will attract a fine not exceeding Sh5 million or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both.
With all these, students will be required to attend school regularly and punctually every day. They will also be required to contribute to orderly and safe learning environments in addition to respecting the rights of other learners.
They will also be required to “comply with the rules, regulations, and policies regarding discipline of the school and relevant institution.” Rehabilitation centres will be established to deal with errant students and rescue centres set up to cater for vulnerable girls in pastoralist communities. The reforms, however, demand that students be involved in decision-making through school advisory councils or committees.
Godia said part of the requirements would be the establishment of a minimum of three streams in each secondary school and to improve management to provide value on returns on investment. He said specialised pathways would be introduced in the curriculum to reduce the annual wastage.
By Augustine Oduor, The Standard