Unions differ over junior school placement
Teachers’ unions have sharply differed over the placement of the proposed Junior Secondary School (JSS).
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) insisted that JSS learners should be retained in primary schools to benefit from the existing infrastructure.
But the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) which mainly represents secondary school teachers maintained primary school teachers do not have the capacity to teach the learners.
Kuppet urged the taskforce on the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) to place JSS in secondary schools.
The two unions were presenting their views on the proposed education system to the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms led by Prof Raphael Munavu.
“The location of Junior Secondary is much more than a sentimental issue. We take what may seem to be an unpopular direction from the majority of stakeholders who have come before you,” read a statement by Kuppet.
“Unless anyone is coming from the moon, only secondary schools have the human resources, libraries, laboratories and more importantly the culture for JSS. Teachers at that level are trained to deal with adolescents, whose onset starts at 13 years, and sometimes even at 12 years.”
Kuppet also dismissed the issue of age saying that most pupils are introduced to boarding school as early as in class 4.
“We have seen some pedestrian arguments made about retaining the students in primary school. Some claim that the students are too young to join boarding school. These are the same parents who take children to boarding school as early as Standard 4. Others claim that primary schools will have more room, with two current classrooms being vacated during the transition,” said Kuppet.
The union also dismissed arguments that secondary schools lacked adequate space to accommodate JSS learners.
“While the big secondary schools have congestion issues, the vast majority of schools in this country have optimal or low enrolment. We should step back and warn parents that JSS is not just about Alliance, Mang’u or Kenya High Schools. It is about the schools in their own localities, where the students can learn as day-scholars from the comfort of their homes,” read the Kuppet statement. “For your information, each public secondary school in this country established at least two classrooms for JSS in the last financial year. More are being made ready for January 2023 for JSS to be domiciled in secondary schools.”
KNUT maintained that primary schools were best placed to accommodate the JSS owing to the big chunks of land they own.
“There’s no need to build classes in secondary schools, while there is already existing infrastructure at primary school level. The focus should be on training and hiring more teachers. The class seven and eight classrooms will accommodate grade seven and eight. The government can plan to add extra classrooms for grade nine in the near future,” said KNUT Secretary- General Collins Oyuu.
He also argued that many primary school teachers are graduates, which would come in handy at the JSS level which comprises grades 7, 8 and 9.
At the same time, the union asked the CBC task force to come with a placement policy for teachers’ deployment.
Collective Bargaining Agreement
“We want a policy that shall come out clearly to have our teachers once employed, they will be placed in a very conducive environment,” said Oyuu.
The union also insisted on having the delocalization policy repealed, faulting Teachers Service Commission (TSC) for failing to react on the matter immediately.
“TSC is yet to roll out a plan on how teachers who were deployed far can be returned back home,” he said.
The unionist asked the task force to arbitrate on the dispute between KNUT and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) over the teachers’Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). “SRC does not sit with us at the table when they come up with the CBA. They come at the tail end to say that this or that cannot be implemented. SRC should keep off completely and we are saying that going forward they should not be allowed to derail our CBA,” he said.
Separately, the National Parents Association told the task force maintained that the CBC program should not be abolished but be funded from a vote head under the Free Primary Education (FPE) capitation grant.
“The Government provides extra infrastructure in terms of workshops, computer rooms, home science, arts, craft and music in every school for the purpose of the practicals,” the parents said in a statement signed by its chairman, David Obuhatsa.