CRY FOR TEACHERS
- Published: Tuesday, 22 May 2018 17:15
Imagine a Government Primary School in the heart of Mukuru Slums with a population of over 2,870 students from Early Childhood Development Program (ECDE) to grade eight expected to run with 28 Government employed teachers. The school also hosts Children with Special Needs Unit, which caters for over 50 students with different disability again without any teacher from the government. The Class sizes are at an average of 80 students against one teacher but we have classes with up to 100 students against one teacher especially the lower primary.
The school has a history. How did it all begin? (Abit of History Quoted from the Ruben Story)
A long time ago, some 20 years after independence, the country of Kenya was struggling with some difficult realities of life beyond colonialism. Sure there was growth happening and a nation holding onto some optimism but crack were appearing in the ‘ everyone will live happily ever after’ story of the pre independence Mantra.
Rapid urbanization, illiteracy, tribalism, poverty, unemployment and sickness were rife especially in the cities. Into Mukuru slums in 1983 enters Sr. Mary Killeen who saw huge populations of people marginalized from mainstream society by the heartless Kenyan government.
Opening her heart to their cry for help, she opened schools, which provided the basic primary education at affordable prices for the poor. In 1986 a nursery school, which would grow into a primary school, began at Reuben. A swampy area near the Nairobi river was on a pathway to becoming an oasis in Mukuru slum;an oasis bursting with life and blessings for thousands of the local residents.
Like everything else in the Mukuru slums the Ruben Centre has had to struggle to survive. Struggle for security of the land, struggle for public acceptance, struggle for managers and struggle for resources both financial and human. And Like all journeys there were different phases.
Mary Killeen and Marianist era. 1986- 1991.
African Education Fund (AEF) from Japan 1992- 1997
1998 Sr. Mary secures government backing and the fledgling school becomes a public school.
2000 - ? The Christian Brother Era.
The Christian brothers took up the school from the year 2000, but still very little was happening in the school. The population was not as big since the slum was just coming up but with the rapid Rural- Urban Migration, quickly the slum started filling up and that id how the school’s population started growing rapidly, Mark you, the school was the only public school in Mukuru in the early years.
The NARC government introduced FPE in January 2003. And as was expected in a country where a substantial proportion of children were out of school, the response was overwhelming. In many schools, the head teachers found themselves with more children to enroll than their capacity could hold. The main objective of this programme was to make primary education accessible to all children irrespective of their economic backgrounds.
The major government task was to provide public schools with basic learning/teaching materials like chalk and textbooks, teachers and abolish all kinds of fees levied and charges that have for decades kept a large number of children/ learners out of school. However, a sudden increase in pupil population was likely to have far-reaching implications in terms of existing physical facilities and human resources not only for us here in Mukuru but also in the country with the major issue being budgetary constraints to employ enough teachers to cater for the big population
Ruben Centre, An organisation running on donor fundshas been spending Millions of Shillings on paying an additional of 30 project teachers to compliment the 28 government employed teachers to at least keep the school running. Which donor wants to fund recurrent expenditure in the name of ‘salaries’ to sustain a school that should be staffed by the Government? Just wait, is Primary Education not free in Kenya? These are the hard questions that we are faced with most times when we apply for funding for teachers to keep the school running.
The organization has continually negotiated with the Government to give additional teachers through writing letters and making regular meetings to the Teachers Service commission to keep reminding the government of the need existing in Ruben Primary School but our efforts often bear little or no fruits at times. Over the years, we have had a few teachers posted to our school and this too does not go without challenges. Most Teachers who are posted to the Slums are often unwilling to stay due to the difficult environment the school is located in.
Most teachers dread the slums and thus very difficult to get teachers. We are lobbying the government to consider absorbing the project teachers who are not yet employed by the government and retaining them here at Ruben as a way of avoiding the drama we experience with teachers who are posted to the slums and truly they cannot stand being here for a day and many opt to keep off or seek transfers to better areas. Most project teachers come from the neighborhood and most of them have adapted to the difficult conditions in the slums.
A team of four members of our School PTA and Board of Management echoed the same cry of “Give us more teachers’ to the Director of TSC today during their early morning meeting. The message was clear; “We need more teachers for our pupils to continue enjoying their right to Education. The director was very positive and assured the team that Ruben Primary School is in the list of schools with shortage of teachers in Nairobi. He also asked us to be patient as the Government is employing more teachers in the next month and we would be considered.
We can only wait in anticipation that we will surely be considered and this article quoted from the Standard ignites flames of hope that the best could happen in the near future. (Published Thu, May 17th 2018. Read more at: https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001280702/tsc-set-to-recruit-new-batch-of-sh8-000-teachers)
By: Margaret Kariuki
PR/Advocacy & Networking Cordinator