What Happened to Basic Education in Kenya?

Empty school corridors during the unending school holidays

Empty school corridors during the unending school holidays

Across the African continent the mean age of the 1.2 billion populations is twenty years. In Kenya it is reportedly put at nineteen years. This young population clearly indicates just under around half of Kenya’s population is within the school age bracket.

Enormous financial and human resources go into education and so it is no wonder it is always in the social spotlight.   Education reform is on the agenda in Kenya. Many education stakeholders are ready to admit the highly academic focused 8-4-4 system has failed.  A new Competency based Curriculum for primary schools has been adopted at the lower levels of the primary education.   The point of this article is not to get into that domain of what to teach and how to teach but rather ask the question on when does learning occur and for how long each year.

An academic year or school year is a period of time which schoolscolleges and universities use to measure a quantity of study.

It is usually within the confines of a calendar year. Around the world this period of time can vary with the age and academic material or course that is being undertaken.

Unfortunately in Kenya today the term is a euphemism for an injustice or violation of human rights inflicted on young students and their parents who are funding their education.

In 2019 the Public Education system added even more insults to injury when they added more holidays to an ever-diminishing time in schools. Three mid term one-week holiday breaks have been added. This brings the school holidays to 18 weeks in a year of fifty-two weeks.

If that wasn’t bad enough, lets look carefully at the  reality of real learning time for a primary and secondary student. Learning traditionally defined as-

The acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught”…. Oxford Dictionary.

 So taking this definition seriously means the  first week of  the year (while a time table is worked on and students arrive back to school) the   three  separate weeks for  the mid term tests, the three  weeks for final  term tests and the subsequent   three weeks that follow exam weeks ( for marking ) all  clearly  falls out side the definition of learning and therefore should be added to the gazetted holidays, bringing the total number of non learning weeks for a student in Kenya to twenty eight weeks in the fifty two week  calendar year.  

Academic year has become a euphemism for a national tragedy that will impact in very real terms on the future of the next generation of adults and of course  the nation.

The national tragedy (how dare I call it the academic year)  is three terms of eight weeks. 

 Updates March 2019

 All public schools in Kenya used the week Monday March 11th – Friday 15th doing mid term examinations, a euphemism for shading in hideous multiple choice questions.  Mid term holidays followed Monday 18th – Friday 22nd

School resumed on Monday 25th and now after an intense three and half weeks of   teaching and learning, the schools started end of Term examination.  The shading of multiple choice answers continued until Thursday 28th and then students would roam free in the school grounds for a further week while teachers correct this examination and finally term 1 has come to its end with distribution of academic reports.       On Wednesday April 3rd, schools close to be re opened on 29th April 2019.

Clearly physical, emotionally, and intellectually drained and exhausted children will need the three week school holidays that follow before they tackle the onerous task of learning for the eight weeks of term 2.

The National tragedy is alive and well. 

Ruben Centre