Kenyan governors move to address the appalling conditions of early childhood education

Believe it or not children in Isiolo County in Kenya went for a whole year without Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE). Stranger than fiction but this was according to the county’s governor Dr. Mohammed Kuti.

In an interview with Afromum.com, Governor Kuti said, “In the last devolution dispensation ECDE teachers were hired on contracts which fell apart. So for a year, we did not have any ECD education. We have since hired a total of 350 ECD teachers on a permanent and pensionable basis and they will work in 80 centres in the county.”

Apart from hiring more personnel, the county has signed a partnership with the United Nations IC Education Fund (UNICEF) and this means that the global body will support half of the 80 centres in county in terms of infrastructure, learning kits and playing ground equipment.

“We will also combine all these with a feeding programme as well as enhance water and sanitation services. All these are geared towards ensuring healthy children and improved performance in schools,” added Kuti.

Although found miles away, the county of Baringo also faces the same problems as those in Isiolo County. Baringo County governor, Stanley Kiptis, said that his county also faced the issue of few ECD teachers and to counter this they have hired more teachers and at a salary of Ksh. 7500 for untrained teachers Ksh. 9000 for certificate- trained teachers and Ksh. 10 000 for those trained up to diploma level.

“Another concern to me is the lack of enough classrooms for the ECD graduates once they are done with the programme. Once the children are done with the ECD program they do not have a place to do since the lower primary classrooms are also not enough. We also need to add more classes so that the young graduates can continue with their lower primary education seamlessly.” Said Kiptis.

Governor Stanley Kiptis of Baringo county and Mohammed Kuti of Isiolo County.

“I am here with my begging bowl, I am hoping to get partners who can help mitigate the problem of hunger that faces my county and makes it difficult for young children from attending nursery and kindergarten. Having a feeding programme will help to get children in school and keep there, added at the World Health Assembly which was held recently,” he added

Apart from going hungry, the young children have to walk for kilometres to get to school, causing most of them to stay at home instead of walking long distances on an empty stomach.

Kiptis was happy that he had made some leads towards having a feeding program in his county.

Hunger, proximity to nursery schools, lack personnel and sanitation may not present as problems in other counties but lack of text books with the recommended curriculum often give teachers sleepless nights.

Makueni is one such county and Governor Kivutha Kibwana recently launched 27,000 Early Childhood Education new curriculum textbooks. The books, which were launched at Mavindu primary school, Mbooni Sub County were valued at Ksh 6.1 million and will be distributed to 1,350 ECDE centres across the county. Prof. Kibwana also commissioned two ECDE classes at Mavindu ECDE centre.

Same script but different cast is seen in Kajiado County, where the County government has signed a deal with Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB) that will see the latter publish competency-based curriculum learning materials for Early Childhood Development (ECD). The literature package will include books, learning charts and other teaching materials.

“We realized that the learners in the county are not well versed with the Maa culture and language. Through this partnership, we now have an opportunity to tap and mould them in their formative years,” said the county Education and Vocational Training executive Mr. Seki Lenku.

The new initiative is expected to improve the provision of quality education for our young learners

All of the above counties are plating catch up to counties such as Garissa County which launched a comprehensive early childhood development programme to be administered in the county’s schools two years ago. Along with the programme came the recruitment of assistant teachers in all the sub-counties.

Education in Kenya has not been devolved and ECDE is still under the national government. For a long time, most pre-school programs that were previously located in primary schools have remained closed which makes them difficult to mainstream them. According to a research by Garcia et al, (2008), the idea of registering ECDCs by the government has suffered a big blow. This has been occasioned by the mushrooming of ECDCs in different parts of the country at rates never seen before.

The government of Kenya is involved minimally in the establishment of the ECDCs. This is evident by the number of ECDCs compared to those of the primary Schools in any given County. Parents and other non-professionals are responsible for planning, developing and managing different early childhood programs.

At the centre of the problems bedeviling ECDE is finance; and for the programs to be successful ECD investments should be increased to expand service coverage, improve services, and ensure they are sustainable, high in quality and cost-effective. Indicators measuring investments as inputs and their outputs and outcomes should be included as well.

As these, together with relevant policies as well as new curriculum is taking place to enhance early learning for children, there are also other emerging challenges for teachers and children in ECDE.

The challenges include child abuse which manifests in different including sexual molestation, female genital mutilation, beating and or exposure to domestic violence among others.

All these factors lead to trauma and abuse of many children and affect the enrollment of the children to ECDE centers and those who are abused while in school can also drop out. Children who experience child abuse get problems while developing in areas such as social life and also there health. They develop a negative attitude towards adults and hence they cannot respect their teachers or end up fearing their teachers.

Other emerging trends and issues facing early childhood education include changing family structures and rural-urban migration.

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