By Jennifer Kaberi
The NARC manifesto in 2002 that promised free primary education is one that has been a bench mark for many political manifestos. I agree that promise provided a solution to the increasing number of children unable to attend school because of lack of school related cost. The promise resulted to an over 90% enrollment rate, I remember I was a social worker with a street children project and the implementation of the promise saw a significant reduction of the number of street children.
Since 2002 we have not seen education become a political issue until 2013 when Jubilee promised laptops for all primary school children. A very ambitious promise, which I think will transform education, however the question is was it in the best interest of the Kenyan child or was it for political mileage. Since the promise we have seen it was not in the best interest of the Kenyan child. this is because there are still a huge number of children with poor education infrastructure including no classrooms, the student to teacher ratio is still very and the perennial teachers strikes.
The highlight of the education promise in all the manifestos is the provision of free secondary education, a very good and noble idea, which will ensure more children proceed to secondary education. We however want to know how will the free secondary school cost be paid. The Kenya tax regime is still very high, increasing will result to a great burden at the house hold level. Will the free secondary education compromise the quality of education for Kenyan children, a good percentage of secondary lack the required facilities to ensure quality education and life long learning.
will the free primary secondary school education bring similar challenges the free primary secondary education caused. Have teachers been prepared for the challenges.
My concern is not how many votes a party will get as a result of this promise, but was there a consideration of the Kenyan Child when this promises were being crafted. How were children consulted in coming up with views. My verdict very good idea without a clear thought.
Free Primary and Secondary education was well articulated, leaving out the Early Childhood Education. Yes, I know it is a county government responsibility, but we can not expect life long learning when the foundation is poor. Early childhood development is beyond a classroom with an adult, it includes proper nutrition, play materials, continuous medical check ups and mental stimulation.
However,there are facts that ECDE is facing challenges such as most counties have not employed qualified teachers, children below the age of 6 years have to walk long distances to access ECD center, there is food for ECD children, there are no play and learning materials.
Hence what is the convergence in education between national and county governments. What will be done to ensure quality of education for life long learning from ECD. How will the education inequalities between different counties be addressed to ensure all Kenyan children are equal and how will the teachers strikes be addressed. How will education be extended outside classrooms to the home environment, How will children be assured of safety, security and protection.
This are a few questions that I would have loved to see addressed in the manifestos
Jennifer Kaberi is a children policy expert, she can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Mtoto News is an online platform of news, information and resources that aims at making significant change in the lives of children by making them visible. Read mtotonews.com or follow us on twitter and Facebook @mtotonews