Education stakeholders divided over new curriculum

The success of the new curriculum launched early this year, is threatened by sector players differences. The Kenya Independent Schools Association (KISA), teacher’s unions and parents on one side, and the government on the other.

Independent schools, formerly non-formal schools, are up in arms. KISA Nairobi region chairman Charles Ochiel, is not a happy man. Ochiel is angry because teachers teaching in independent schools, were charged two thousand shillings each to attend the new curriculum orientation course, while those from public schools attended the training for free. He adds, public school teachers orientation took five days, while that of independent schools took only three days. Thirdly, public school teachers training happened two weeks before schools opened, while that of independent schools was done a week after the schools opened. Finally, public school teachers attending the orientation course were paid for each day spent at the training.

Little Stommers Schools director Hedalyn Lihanda, based in Soweto East – Kibera agrees with Ochiel’s sentiments. Hedalyn says she paid two thousand shillings for each of her teachers to attend the new curriculum orientation training. She adds, the training took three days, a week after schools opened. Hedalyn laments the three days wasted in the training could have been used to prepare her pupils complete the syllabus in time. “Our first term plans will be negatively affected by this”, she says.

KNUT Boss Wilson Sossion

Despite time wasting predicament, Ms Lihanda is happy with the new curriculum. She says the new curriculum is child-centred, something the out-going curriculum did not achieve. According to her, the curriculum does not allow admission of less than four-year old kids, who cant do toileting, and other parenting devices, something the out-going curriculum allowed. This meant teachers were turned into nannies. Some parents avoided taking care of their babies, instead they dumped them to baby-cares. Now teachers will concentrate on teaching, not parenting.

Secondly, the curriculum allows for early identification of talents, as opposed to the current curriculum which overemphasized on academics at the expense of talent-development. Children are allowed to think, and act freely. This according to Ms Lihanda presents a new paradigm shift in the teaching profession. Teachers will be encouraged to think outside the box, and act purely in the interest of the child. The new curriculum offers an opportunity for talent development, a situation that will allow creativity of both the learner and the teacher.

Ms Lihanda believes talent development is a key ingredient of human person development. Talent development expands learner-creativity, resulting to better productivity. She believes the new curriculum will see expansion of the creative industry which has stagnated for year in Kenya. Ms Lihanda says industries such as the film industry, sports disciplines, music among others will start thrive. This according to ms Lihanda is the solution to the question of unemployment.

Despite all this positivitiy, exhibited by Ms. Lihanda, parents are a worried lot. deborah onyancha a mother of four, from Silanga Kibera, is a worried mother. Deborah and her husband James Onyancha, are both casual labourers. They do menial jobs to feed and educate their children. According to deborah, their eldest son is a third year student at University Of Nairobi, their second born is in form three, second born is in class seven at Shadrack Kimalel Primary School, while their last born in class two at Little Stommers Schools.

Deborah says although the new curriculum looks like its promising, demands attached to the promise is too demanding. According to deborah, the demand that parents should buy clay-molds, drawing chats, and a lot more is proving too expensive to poor parents like her.

Deborah says, the government should think of equipping schools with learning materials the new curriculum is demanding to aid proper learning outcomes. She adds, things like clay-molds are foreign to her, and she even doesn’t know how they look like, leave alone where to buy them. According to her, parents are already over-stretched by the high cost of living in the country, which keeps growing each morning. She is concerned, the new curriculum might just eat into her already over-stretched meager earnings, something she is not ready to accommodate.

Deborah also says, although parents have been partially informed what the new curriculum is, a majority still don’t understand what is happening. This sentiment is echoed by Wilson Sossion, the national secretary general of Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and his counter-part Omboko Milemba, the national chairperson of Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (KUPPET).

Education sector stakeholders think the government rushed the launching of the new curriculum, when a number of key issues are yet to be fully resolved. Charles Ochiel believes, a majority of teachers from independent schools did not attend the new curriculum orientation training because of the cost and time the training happened. Charles says, most independent schools are poor, they depend on fees parents pay for their operations. Since, the training happened in the first week of the first term, most schools had not collected fees to enable them pay the two thousand shillings per teacher to attend the orientation training.

Ms. Hedalyn Lihanda echoes Ochiel’s view, and adds, we are one and half months into the first term, and most schools are yet to receive the new curriculum books. Ms. Lihanda says, this delay is destructing their plan to deliver expected outcome to the learners. She adds, parents are asking questions which books to buy, but she doesn’t have a credible answer to the question. She has a list of books the government provided to school administrators, but the books are not found in the book-stores.

Despite all this, the government believes there is no better time to start the roll-out of the new curriculum other than now.

This mixed sentiments over the new curriculum only confirms one thing, stakeholder engagement was not adequate before the roll-out of the new curriculum. There is need for education stakeholders to engage more on the subject, to ease the current impasse.