Concern over readiness by State to launch Grade Nine

JSS

 Junior secondary school learners are taken through a science lesson inside a lab at Bomu Primary School in Changamwe, Mombasa County, in January this year.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

 Is six months enough time to put up infrastructure for Grade Nine students?

This is the question education stakeholders are racking their brains over, even as the government races against time to put up classrooms and laboratories, among other critical infrastructure. The biting teacher shortage is another headache for the junior secondary school (JSS) learners.

Rolled out last year, JSS comprises Grades Seven, Eight and Nine. There is rising concern over lack of preparedness for the first cohort of students under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) who are expected to complete their JSS level next year.

Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), acting Secretary-General Moses Nthurima said the State is not prepared for Grade Nine.

He wondered if between July and January next year, the government will have completed construction of facilities to cater to Grade Nine learners.

“Why can’t the learners transition to our secondary schools which have adequate facilities like classrooms and laboratories? Additionally, next year, there will be no Form One classes and the classrooms will be empty. They should accommodate Grade Nine,” the union boss said.

He said the recommendation to domicile JSS in primary schools has negatively impacted learning since primary schools lack the necessary infrastructure for secondary-level study including laboratories, libraries, sports facilities and even classrooms.

“We strongly reject the domiciling of JSS in primary schools and have warned about the low quality of learning taking place at that level. Infrastructure challenges aside, JSS has a huge teacher deficit, with most having just one or two teachers per class handling more than 12 learning areas,” Mr Nthurima said.

Moreover, he said, most of the teachers in JSS were trained in the humanities, thereby undermining the teaching of sciences and mathematics. This comes as some 10,000 principals in charge of public schools are also putting pressure on the State to move Grades Eight and Nine to secondary schools.

Laboratories

“We are far better than primary schools; we have classrooms, laboratories, teachers, and other facilities,” Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association National Chairman Willy Kuria said.

Seeking to allay the fears, however, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said the government had given primary schools Sh3.5 billion for building 1,000 additional classrooms countrywide.

“A further Sh3.9 billion, to be matched by the National Government–Constituency Development Fund, has also been provided for the construction of classrooms at the constituency level,” said Mr Machogu.

Last week, the Ministry of Education disbursed Sh2.7 billion to primary, Sh14 billion to JSS and Sh18.8 billion to secondary schools “in addition to the disbursement we made last term of Sh4.7 billion to primary schools, Sh15.1 billion to junior schools and Sh32.4 billion to secondary schools,” said Mr Machogu. He said delays in sending capitation to schools were caused by delayed Exchequer disbursements.

Psycho-social age

“On our part, as the Ministry, we pro-actively follow up on the release of Exchequer, to ensure that the funds are in your schools in good time. This will be a continuous effort on our part,” he said.

The CS said the CBC is anchored on Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2019, which was considered and approved by Parliament. It is also rooted in the Basic Education Curriculum Framework of 2017.

“After the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform held consultations with stakeholders and members of the public across the country, it recommended the retention of this structure, with a support of 51.2 per cent,” said the CS.

The other important recommendation that the Working Party made was on domiciling of JSS in primary schools.

The recommendation took into account factors like the pyscho-social age of the learners; and the fact that it was more cost-effective to use primary schools because the Standard Seven and Eight classrooms would remain vacant.

“The recommendation had 93 per cent support by stakeholders and members of the public. This is the recommendation that we are now implementing,” Mr Machogu said.

Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang sought to assure the education stakeholders with the promise that the government will build over 16,000 new classrooms starting next week to accommodate Grade Nine learners by January 2025.