Only God knows what is happening in junior secondary schools

Mwalimu Andrew
Photo credit: John Nyaga | Nation Media Group

As a leading pedagogist with a great contextual and conceptual appreciation of education from both a Spartan and Athenian perspective, I have, for long, had my reservations over the efficacy and applicability of the CBC – Competency Based Curriculum. If you ask me, the only competent thing in CBC is how incompetently it is being implemented.

When the government announced that Junior Secondary School (JSS) would be domiciled in primary schools, I – unlike other headmasters who were only keen on lining their pockets – was not eager to have JSS at Mwisho wa Lami Primary School for I knew we were not ready.

For the first time, I thanked God for Bensouda leaving this school in a dilapidated state; in shambles. Because of Bensouda’s unrivalled mismanagement, many parents had transferred their children to other schools. They are now returning, but slowly.

So, when Machogu declared that only schools with extra classrooms and who had over 45 pupils in Grade six would host JSS, I was happy not to have it in Mwisho wa Lami. Though CBC has some good things, I was happy not to be associated with the reckless, casual and kienyeji way it was being implemented.

With Mwisho wa Lami being unqualified to host JSS, I asked the parents of last year’s Grade six pupils to look for other schools with JSS. Kizito, a HM in a neighbouring school, happily took many. Kizito could not understand why I couldn’t do everything to get over 45 students and host JSS.

“Why do you want to miss out on Sh15,000 per student from capitation?” He asked me. “How else will you grow rich?” I told him that I had started preparing Mwisho wa Lami Primary to host JSS next year in a meticulous, methodical and seamless manner. As part of my plans for this, I visited Kizito’s school to see how he was doing regarding JSS. Having referred most of my former Grade six pupils to Kizito’s school, I was interested to see how they were doing.

“This thing is a mess, Dre,” he said when I reached out to him. “Come and see it for yourself.”

When the county education mandarins confirmed that Kizito’s school, Daraja Mbili Primary, had two extra classrooms and could raise over 45 students for Grade seven, they approved it for JSS. “I was very happy at the time. Sh15,000 per student was something to look forward to,” said Kizito when I visited the school last week. He told me that the government asked him to appoint one teacher from the primary section to join JSS with the promise that they would send more teachers.

“They only sent one fellow, who was previously at St Theresa’s Girls School,” he said. “This guy had been in a high school, eating life with a big spoon, in a staffroom that had TV, new sofa sets, good lunch served every day and tea flowing throughout the day, only to land in a school that has experienced drought longer than north-eastern Kenya has.”

He went on: “But if the staffroom was tough, it was even tougher for him in the classroom. We have two streams, yet we only have two teachers, meaning that each teacher is in class from morning to evening, every day.”

“Does it mean that the two teachers are competent and can teach all the 15 subjects?” I asked.

“The fellow who came from St Theresa’s only trained to teach English and literature. Now imagine he is expected to teach all the 15 JSS subjects. At least the teacher from the primary section went to Mosoriot TTC like me and can teach almost every subject,” he replied.

“Only God knows what happens,” Kizito said when I asked him what the future holds, “Somehow the classes go on.”

I then asked about the content.

“We cannot talk about the content without talking about infrastructure and resources. Yes, we had two extra rooms that we now use as classrooms. But have you seen a laboratory in this school?” He asked.

When I prodded him on how they teach lessons that need a laboratory, he quipped: “Only God knows what happens.” “On resources, the government promised to send us books. Only two books per subject, for only four subjects, arrived last week,” he said.

I wondered where the two teachers are getting the content they use to teach.

“Only God knows from where they download the materials on their phones – if their phones are able to download and have batteries,” he replied.

“So, what if their phones have no space or the battery runs out?” I asked.

“Only God knows,” he said resignedly. “What we have agreed with my two teachers is that when that happens, they shouldn’t leave the class. They should just sit there even if they are just telling the students stories. We are responsible teachers and can’t leave the students alone.”

Belinda, one of the JSS teachers, passed by and Kizito called her. She couldn’t stay for she was headed to class. I asked her how they were able to teach 15 subjects when they were not specialised in all of them.

“Although I studied all subjects in Mosoriot, over time I have specialised in Kiswahili and CRE while my colleague only trained in English and literature. We exchange classes and try to teach the other subjects but most of the time we teach the subjects we are good at. It is better than nothing,” she said.

I asked her about maths and the sciences. “We try, but only God knows if we are doing the right thing,” she replied. She was in a hurry, so I asked her one last question: what if one of them was absent from school?

“I wonder what will happen next week when my colleague will be away. He has also been talking about resigning, saying he cannot handle this. Only God knows what will happen if he resigns,” she said as she left, looking frustrated but determined to go carry on.

“Let the fool resign,” Kizito told me. “He has been telling everyone that he is the principal of the secondary section while I am the headmaster of the primary section. That he is my boss!”

Later that evening, when Kizito asked that we go to Hitler’s, I wondered why he could not take me to Cosmos instead.  “Sh15,000 per pupil for over 80 students is not small money. You can’t eat it alone, Kizito!” I said.

He laughed loudly and said: “We haven’t seen anything, Dre. Let us wait, maybe if something remains after they have bought cars for the President, Deputy President and the Prime Cabinet Secretary, they will send something small for junior secondary schools. As for now, only God knows how we are surviving!”