Understandably, all parents don’t glorify failures in national examinations but recent primitive protests against schools and teachers over the dismal performance in the 2011 primary examination cannot be condoned.
Armed with crude weapons, parents protesting the poor performance in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) descended on schools and attacked teachers in front of their pupils. The barbaric attacks point to a society flirting with the law of the jungle in place of the rule of law and no doubt could only lead to further deterioration of discipline amongst school children and lack of respect for teachers.
Unknown to parents, their unruly behaviour could only lead to worse results in future. Already, the confidence in teachers has been eroded beyond repair in the aftermath of these brutalities. Such reactions are uncalled for now and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.
Aggrieved parents should use appropriate channels to air their grievances, exercise restraint no matter what the KCPE results looked like and treat the teachers with the respect and dignity they deserve as professionals on whose hands the future of this nation lies. The ensuing ugly incidents explain the outrage with which those results elicited countrywide. Some pupils even committed suicide.
The overall performance in the last year’s KCPE, the worst in living history could be attributed to a number of factors and parents would agree that they are partly to blame for the declining standards.
In the 1980s, for example, Murang’a district was an education giant but has since fallen to an academic dwarf going by the last year’s results that ranked schools based on counties with Kirinyaga topping and Kilifi trailing in the KCPE examination.
The blame game and lamentations over last year’s poor KCPE results should stop and instead stakeholders should take the lead by calling for an inclusive post-mortem conference to thrash out the matter and find an acceptable way forward.
Let there be consultations between Boards of Governors, Parents Teachers Associations (PTAs), Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) ,community sponsors, well-wishers and the school administration together with the Community Based Organizations (CBO’s).
It must be understood that the performance of schools is the collective responsibility of parents, teachers and many players including the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC), the Ministry of Education, and the students themselves, among others.
A child who spends most of his or her time with parents in front of a television screen watching non educational films and listening to vernacular radio stations cannot perform better in any examination let alone KCPE. Those images add no value to a child’s performance in national and terminal exams.
Some parents don’t even provide their children with basic learning materials and necessary textbooks that could help them improve their performance. It is not a secret that the majority of parents hardly check on the education progress of their children, some of whom may not be attending classes at all.
Teachers cannot force children to learn but a disciplined parent can enforce a reading culture in the child. Indeed, the community has to be urged to incorporate their academia, professionals and successful businessmen to provide academic and professional leadership in their primary and secondary schools.
Learning and teaching environments in our schools must be improved and parents involved in a more positive way so that they can have ownership of the learning institutions. The stakeholders must join hands to promote incentives and competition including competition with local surrounding schools to improve performance.
The authorities should fully monitor implementation to ensure compliance and establish whether children are getting value for the money invested on them by both parents and government. Specifically, the Education Inspectorate must ensure proper and easy implementation of the set curriculum by the schools.
Supervision of teaching and management of schools must be intensified and regular impromptu inspections conducted to ensure both learners and teachers are adhering to the set curriculum and learning periods.
The Education Ministry must invest largely on the positive upward mobility of teachers and reward those who excel in their areas of specialty. This will encourage teachers to dedicate their efforts towards better results in our schools.
Schools should compete on an equal pedestal during national examinations and strive to eliminate a scenario being witnessed today where parents beat school heads in front of their pupils, locking up schools and chasing away learners.
Those charged with the administration of the education sector, especially in the area of basic education must ensure adequate staffing in schools. Enforce the laws guarding against substance abuse such as alcohol and hard drugs in the learning institutions. Both teachers and students must distance themselves from these life threatening substances.
The writer is the former Minister for Education and one-time secretary general of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) – Email; firstname.lastname@example.org