Non-formal education sector squabbles, a threat to their survival

Carolina for KiberaBy Douglas Namale: The confusion in the non-formal education providers is threatening their existence. Since 2007, the sector had two associations representing them in the government negotiations. Kenya Informal Schools Association (KISA), supports the government plan to include them in the APBET policy adopted by government in 2009. The other association, Kibera Langatta Complementary Schools Association (KILACOSO), is against the APBET policy, and claims they are not “alternative education providers”, but “complement” what the government cannot do in the informal settlements.

The melee on whether the schools are “alternative education providers” or “complementary” is threatening existence of non-formal schools each morning. Nairobi region coordinator, KISA Charles Ochieng, says the APBET policy is a move in the right direction. According to Charles, the policy will go a long way in formalizing their operations, which in turn will improve their performance. But KILACOSO chairman Protus Buluma is against the move to include their schools in the APBET policy. Buluma says APBET is meant for “non-formal education” while their schools follow the formal education program, sit for the same exams with public and private schools, and so including them in APBET is unrealistic.

The dilemma behind the two associations’ divergent philosophies is anchored on the difference between “non-formal schools” and “non-formal education” which many educationists aren’t able to differentiate easily. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) defines non-formal schools as “an institution that resembles a formal school in that it aims at transmitting a formalized curriculum leading to formal school examination”. The APBET policy has adopted this definition. KICD defines non-formal education as “any organized, systematic and quality education and training program outside the formal school system that is consciously aimed at meeting specific learning needs of children, youth and adults.”

According to Dr. Belio Kipsang, Kenya’s education principal secretary, 2000 non-formal schools were operational in Kenya by December 2013, with over 500 000 pupils. By August 2014, Kibera had about 286 non-formal schools with over 38 700 pupils, according to Map Kibera Trust education survey. Pupils from non-formal schools are not part of the National Education Statistics, because the schools do not meet quality assurance standards. Since the APBET registration guideline is yet to be gazetted, over 500 000 innocent pupils from non-formal schools remains out of the National Education Statistics.

The APBET policy is aimed to formalize non-formal schools by shifting their registration agency from the Ministry of Labour to the Ministry of Education. The policy makes it mandatory for all non-formal schools to register with the Ministry of Education as APBET. The policy defines an APBET school as “an institution that resembles a formal school in that it aims at transmitting a formalized curriculum leading to formal school examination”.

However, the policy presents the difference between “a private” and “an APBET School” by providing the following parameters; Practice, management, financing, staffing conditions, registration, and operating environment and school structures. The parameters are farther elaborated in the draft APBET Registration Guideline, published by the Ministry of Education in March 2014, but it’s not yet to be adopted.

The Basic Education Act 2013, enacted to operationalize Article 53 of the new constitution in Kenya, gives discretionary powers to the cabinet secretary to prescribe how schools shall be classified. The draft APBET registration guideline is claimed to be anchored on Section 95 of the Basic Education Act 2013. The section reads in part “…the Cabinet Secretary may upon consultation with the National Education Board make regulations to prescribe how schools shall be classified …with respect to different classes or kinds of schools, impose conditions and make exemptions.”

But the same piece of legislation appears to be a threat to the non-formal schools existence. Section 76 of the Act states in part “a person shall not offer Basic Education in Kenya unless the person is accredited and registered as provided for under the Act.” This Section leaves existence of non-formal schools in the mercy of the Cabinet Secretary.

TPThe 2014 APBET guideline outlines the procedure of registration. The procedure requires non-formal schools to submit a formal application to the Ministry of Education, accompanied by two reports. A report from the Ministry of Education quality assurance and standards and a public health department. The guideline reads in part “…the institution shall be expected to meet acceptable minimum standards of quality as stipulated in the Basic Education Act 2013”. The 2009 APBET policy and Basic Education Act 2013 contains stringent conditions to be met such as evidence of need, acreage, teacher accreditation etc

Section 50 (2) of the Basic Education Act 2013, states:

No private school shall be registered if:-

(a) The proprietor is disqualified from being a proprietor by reason of Article 10 or Chapter Six of the Constitution;

(b) A teacher employed in the school is not registered by the Teachers Service Commission;

(c) The school premises, or any part of those premises, are unsuitable for a school; or

(d) The proprietor or manager has been convicted of any crime against children under the Sexual Offences Act and Counter Trafficking in Persons Act.

The APBET registration guideline indicates “Failure of any APBET school to comply with the Ministry of Education guidelines will lead to de-registration”. Government funding of APBET schools is attached to compliance to the 2009 APBET policy, that “registration or attachment to a registered school… is a prerequisite to benefit from resource allocation from government”.

Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi, Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary admits the country’s free compulsory basic education program will fail, if all stakeholders do not double their efforts to reach out children from the slums. Kaimenyi says “the government has performed dismally reaching out to learners from slums and blames inaccessibility, lack of space and inconsistent policies as key impediments.”

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