Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu
Debate on the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) and 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools took centre stage during the 44th edition of Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) annual conference held in Mombasa last week.
The principals are also frustrated by the use of the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) and its subsequent direct effects on capitation.
The 8,000 head teachers met at a time when the education sector is mired in debate on the implementation of the CBC, amid opposition from the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and secondary school teachers asking for curriculum designs for secondary school.
To set the tone of the conference, Kessha chairman Indimuli Kahi posed questions on behalf of the delegates, seeking to understand “where are we anchoring this junior secondary under CBC? Are we anchoring it on the existing primary school or is it going to be anchored on secondary school?”
No straight answer was forthcoming from the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) Director Dr Julius Jwan, a key player in the new curriculum. “Where to anchor the junior secondary is a policy issue; it is upon the government itself to decide,” he said.
Jwan availed copies of the CBC Grade 4 designs to Kessha officials and further reckoned that teachers can access the same designs on KICD website. “Designs for Grades 5 and 6 are being edited at the moment and they should be available soon,” said the director.
Kahi avoided Knut’s controversies by declaring full support for the new syllabus, saying “we are well represented at the national steering committee and we have given our views and, therefore, it will be irresponsible of us to start talking differently.”
Principals decried the unpredictability of Nemis system, which has ended up denying several schools adequate funding. Kahi said complaints were rife where learners’ details were not captured on Nemis for reasons ranging from duplication to spelling mistakes.
“Is it the teacher’s mistake that birth certificates have errors or are lacking, or is it the responsibility of the parent to provide accurate details for the principal to upload on the Nemis?” he asked.
He called on the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government to expedite the release of pending birth certificates for easy capturing of students data on Nemis.
However it emerged that a series of inaccuracies committed by principals in handling the Nemis could have been the real reason for the entire mix-up. Director of Secondary and Tertiary Education at the Ministry of Education Paul Kibet said failure by some principals in Nemis data entry could have plunged their schools into financial crisis. “Some public schools had declared themselves as private schools, automatically disqualifying themselves from the capitation. Others do not declare the gender of their students accurately,” Kibet said.
He said one school had registered students in the entire school as Form Fours such that the following year, the system indicates that the entire student body is supposed to exit. He advised the principals to ensure all the students’ details are keyed in accurately. He told the teachers that their delegation of duties messes up details. “Once the data is corrected, Nemis will allow the schools to be reimbursed outstanding monies,” he said.
Given this year’s theme Quality Education in the Context of 100 per cent Transition, the biting shortage of tutors was a major concern at the forum. “The majority of our schools are employing a minimum of six teachers per school under Board of Management (BOM) terms, paying them an average of Sh20,000 as salary per month. This translates to Sh1.2 million per year per school and billions of shillings for all the institutions,” said Kahi.
Opening the conference, Education Cabinet secretary George Magoha attacked Knut officials, saying CBC will be unstoppable. “As you criticise us, give us solutions; whatever you are arguing about should be measurable. I have orders from my employer which I will defend to the last drop of blood,” he said.