Pre-primary school education lays the foundation for formal learning in young children. It’s at this level when children are first cut off from their familial environment that they form attitudes towards education. They are made to adapt to new caregivers—Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) teachers.
Despite this important role, ECDE teachers, especially in public schools, have been treated unfairly by successive governments. For a long time, they were employed by local governments or school committees with no clear terms of service.
With ECDE now devolved, county governments pay the tutors varying salaries despite their doing the same job. Some pay them as little as Sh10,000 while the highest (Narok) pays graduate teachers Sh40,000. As a result, many are ill-motivated, which affects their performance and that of their charges.
The job has become unattractive and this is evidenced by the decline from 68,800 teachers in 2016 to 52,700 in 2019 despite an increase in the number of learners.
The senators’ call for harmonisation of ECDE teachers’ salaries is timely and should be implemented to avert a crisis in the sub-sector. It’s illogical to harmonise the pre-primary curriculum and leave the implementers at the mercy of counties.
This is more critical, considering that the Ministry of Education has raised the entry requirements to match those of primary school teachers, after which trainees graduate with a diploma. This was necessitated by requirements of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), which is being rolled out.
The government must, therefore, ensure that the ECDE teachers are well remunerated for their investment in education and the crucial role they play to prepare the children for learning later in life. For instance, there ought to be a body charged with regulating the terms of service, including salaries, for ECDE tutors nationally for the counties to implement.