Nakuru County’s Education Executive Raymond Komen says if we focus on early childhood education and village polytechnics, we will address challenges for a very large population.
BY REITZ MUREITHI
About 50 years ago, joining a nursery school in Kenya was at the discretion of the nursery school teacher. Tales are told of children being asked to stretch their hand over their head and touch the ear on the opposite side. If the child was able to touch the ear, then they were considered old enough to join the school. Once they enrolled, they would be treated to the numbers and alphabets song, which was aimed at making them familiar with these foreign symbols.
Three years later, when the child joined class one, they would know how to sing the alphabet but could not read or write. This literacy gap, according to the Nakuru County’s Education Executive Raymond Komen, is what prompted the government to come up with a policy that would govern the pre-primary education.
“Since independence, the government did not have a policy on pre-primary education. The policy was launched in August 2017 dubbed National Pre-primary Education policy,” said Komen.
There in, children who had attained four years could join these schools and study there for two years. The study of pre-primary 1 and pre-primary 2 is non-examinable. On completion, county governments will be tasked with the obligation of easing the transition of children to primary schools.
Komen said the main aim of pre-primary education is to boost the cognition ability of the child from tender age.
“Our core responsibility as the County government is to provide early childhood education to children and make provision of the learning centres for this group,” Komen noted.
Now that there is a policy to work with and a new curriculum that gives a provision of two years for pre-primary education, the County Government of Nakuru has set out to build classrooms for these children.
The plan, according to Komen, is to build at least two pre-primary classrooms in the existing public primary schools in the County. In cases where primary schools are too far from residential areas, the County Government will buy land close to the homes and set up a pre-primary school. So far, the County has 937 pre-primary centres, 700 of which were set up by the County Government.
Despite the building of these schools, Komen says the recruitment of teachers has not yet commenced. According to him, the previous government had not recruited any, leaving the current administration with the heavy task of increasing the learning centres as well as recruiting teachers. He hopes the recruitment process will be completed by the end of October.
Education support grants
The County Governments are also tasked with providing curriculum designs for teachers and learning material for pupils including basic learning charts. The counties are also required to provide a sustainable feeding program –providing either milk or porridge to learners.
If all these plans are actualized by the County Government of Nakuru, Komen hopes to draw more learners to government sponsored pre-primary education centres.
However, with the current statistics where private schools have a population of 70,000 and public schools host 53,000, the County Government has work to do if they are to pull more learners.
With a seemingly well set out guideline on the role of County Governments in the initial learning stage, one would wonder what their role in Primary education is. Komen notes that the County Governments are only stakeholders in the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary learning institutions.
“We have a role in motivating students and offering education support grants to needy students through the bursary program,” he said. However, Counties are also mandated to run Vocational centres.
Different from colleges and polytechnics, vocational training centres do not have a required cut-off grade. Students with any level of education can enrol and learn what Komen calls artisanship. This translates to learning the know-how of skills like tailoring, masonry, electrical wiring and carpentry.
Like pre-primary centres, counties are required to build, equip and oversee the running of these vocational centres. They should employ instructors and partner with the National Industrial Training Authority and the Kenya National Examination Council for exam purposes
As one would expect, there are challenges in setting up the pre-primary and vocational centres. Komen says that getting a budget to recruit sufficient human resource for both levels of education is a problem.
“Despite having a large population of students to take care of, we have to start from scratch and this requires more resources than what is currently available,” he notes.
As a way of enticing the youth to join the vocational centres, the County Government of Nakuru has set up a grant to support this group through their education. The County will also equip them and hopefully make them attractive to the target group.
Despite these challenges, Komen is optimistic that the Counties will find their footing and contribute to the success of the education sector in Kenya.
His Parting shot: If we address early childhood education and village polytechnics, we address a very large population.
Reitz Mureithi is a Journalist and a Communications Officer at Nakuru County Government.