NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15 – The issue of education characterised the debate among candidates for deputy president with outgoing MPs facing off on the Election Act that limits churches’ grip on schools they own and manage.
Jubilee deputy presidential Candidate William Ruto blamed late night sittings for passing the Education Act with ‘errors’ and with a lesser number of members present.
He pledged however, the commitment of the jubilee government to amend sections of the law that was offending to the church.
“The Education Act was passed in a hurry. We got representation from the church with their concerns but unfortunately some of those bills were being passed at night with very few members in the House,” said Ruto though refusing to take blame as part of the tenth Parliament.
Amani Deputy presidential candidate Jeremiah Kioni hit back claiming that the few Members of Parliament who sacrificed their time at night to pass the laws were the only ones consistent in Parliament even during the day.
“The Members of Parliament who sat even up to midnight to pass the laws was the same even at 11am in the morning; so the claim that bills passed were passed with mistakes because they were passed at night does not arise,” said Kioni in reply at the debate organised by churches.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka who is the running mate in the CORD coalition also pledged to consult with the education stakeholders to address issues raised by the church.
“Many of the schools owned by the church are among the best performing schools in the country; you cannot therefore change the spiritual leadership without compromising quality but the church should be assured that amending the offending sections can be done with a simple majority in the House,” assured Musyoka.
The church has been vocal on the Education Act arguing that the transfer of schools owned by the church was an undoing of the investment that the church had put in education.
The church has insisted that the schools they sponsor are on land owned by the church or held in trust by the church for the community and that the law must ensure ownership rights of religious sponsors are recognised and respected.
The church also wants that religious studies in public schools continue being taught and not at the discretion of parents.
Section 26 of the Education Act provides that: “If the parent of a pupil at a public school requests that the pupil be wholly or partly excused from attending religious worship, or religious worship and religious instruction, in the school, the pupil shall be excused such attendance until the request is withdrawn.”
The Act also provides that schools provide such facilities as may be practicable for a pupil to receive religious instruction in accordance with the preferences their parents wish.