JSS crisis calls for a pragmatic solution

The Education authorities do not seem to give adequate attention to perhaps the biggest national crisis in recent times: The implementation of the junior secondary school (JSS) phase of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

Surprisingly, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu and his team are not saying much about it.

There is nothing, besides politics, that has gripped national attention like the debate on the implementation of the CBC. There is, for instance, the ridiculous spectacle of Grade Seven learners strutting around in JSS while their elders in Standard Eight are preparing for this year’s KCPE examination.

Both groups are in primary schools, which host the JSS, but the younger pupils don jackets and trousers while their seniors wear shorts.

Some parents are not amused and have, in a show of lack of confidence in the JSS, clandestinely enrolled their Grade Seven children for November’s KCPE exam, which is the last. They feel that the authorities are playing ping-pong with their children’s lives. If this is not a crisis, then what is?

The JSS problems include a shortage of teachers, an inability to handle the new system due to lack of training, and inadequate infrastructure and facilities, including classrooms, science rooms and laboratories.

There is also a shortage of textbooks. Two weeks after the JSS pioneers reported to the school, there has been little learning going on throughout the country. In some places, private schools appear better prepared than public ones.

Slow down implementation

It would be a good idea to go slow on the implementation of CBC, particularly the JSS phase, until a reasonable level of preparedness is attained countrywide. The country should not rush headlong into a disaster with its eyes wide open. There was a precedent when Form Four candidates would wait for a year before joining the university. The JSS students can also wait.

Perhaps the time has come for the government to just own up that this project is too much for it at the moment and postpone it so that proper arrangements can be made for a more comprehensive implementation.

A year’s break would provide the government with a good opportunity to prepare adequately train teachers for CBC, build infrastructure and distribute textbooks for learning to begin in earnest.