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Teachers reject new syllabus launch date

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By NATION TEAM
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Teachers have rejected the planned roll-out of the new curriculum in January until the government addresses the gaps pointed out by evaluators, setting the stage for yet another bruising battle with the State when schools reopen next week.

And, on Sunday, the union further stoked the confusion surrounding the first school term of 2019 when it rejected the surprise announcement last Friday by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed that the government had back-pedalled on its earlier plans to delay the roll-out of the new curriculum by a year, and that the new system will begin next month.

In a statement to the media, Ms Mohamed said the decision had been arrived at after consultation with various stakeholders, including faith-based organisations, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Kenya National Examinations Council, Kenya Private Schools Association, Kenya Publishers Association, Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association, Kenya Primary School Heads Association, and the National Parents Association.

Knut secretary-general Wilson Sossion said teachers were not consulted during that meeting, and that the omission had rendered Ms Mohamed’s surprise announcement null.

In any case, Mr Sossion continued, a meeting with the ministry and other education stakeholders on December 15 this year at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development had agreed to push the roll-out to 2020.

“It is wrong for us to push this system when we have been told about its weaknesses,” he said. “We need to fix these, probably next year, before the national roll-out.”

He was referring to an October 2018 report by KICD, which indicated that teachers were ill-prepared to instruct pupils using the methods proposed in the new Competency-Based Curriculum, which is designed to influence learner behaviour and tap talent early.

“Some teachers are struggling with the concept and lack the capacity demanded by the new curriculum,” said the report that also pointed out that many schools did not have adequate or any learning materials for the roll-out.

The proposed curriculum is a replacement of the current 8-4-4 system, introduced in 1985 by then President Daniel Arap Moi. The curriculum is designed to provide eight years of primary education, four years of secondary education and four years of university, and places emphasis on mathematics, English and vocational subjects.

Another study by external evaluators, led by former Moi University Vice-Chancellor Prof Laban Ayiro, found out that the role of teachers in the new curriculum design had been marginal, and the system of instruction had used such technical language that teachers could make little sense of.

As the confusion regarding how thousands of pupils will be taught, if at all, grew, the Nation learnt that pressure from high office could have forced Ms Mohamed to backtrack on her earlier decision to postpone the national launch.

Ms Mohamed is said to have been instructed to roll out the curriculum immediately and address the gaps identified by the evaluators — including lack of funds, ill-trained teachers, and failure by the government to anchor the review process in law — during the implementation.

A source, whom we cannot identify because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said there has been growing concern that Ms Mohamed is not keen on the Jubilee government’s pet project, and so she needed a little nudging.

On Friday, Ms Mohamed met with President Kenyatta to brief him about this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results before she released them at Kenya National Examination Council headquarters on Dennis Pritt Road in Nairobi.

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At Knec, Ms Mohamed held a meeting with her Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang and KICD chief executive officer Julius Jwan. That meeting reversed the decision of the National Steering Committee almost two weeks earlier to delay the new curriculum.

The source said that, unlike the December meeting during which the issue was extensively discussed before being agreed upon, on Friday various stakeholders were unaware of the meeting at Knec and were only called to be informed of the new decision via mobile phone.

“We were told that a decision had been made that we roll out the new curriculum starting January,” said a member of the National Steering Committee. “We were not asked for our opinion. Instead, we were instructed on the launch.”

Last evening, National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo backed the January launch date, saying parents are ready for it.

“They have already bought books and, therefore, we should move on,” Mr Maiyo said, adding that the benefits of the new system outweigh the risks by far.

Away from the boardrooms at Knec and KICD, private schools and publishers are also said to have lobbied for the reversal of the 2020 roll-out decision, saying, they had already invested heavily and risked making huge losses. They issued hasty statements to support Ms Mohamed’s Friday about-turn.

Despite the enthusiastic support, roll-out of the new syllabus could run into legal headwinds as there still is no National Curriculum Policy Framework and the Sessional Paper on Curriculum Reforms, Education and Training is yet to be tabled before Parliament.

This means the January roll-out will be an illegality unless Parliament approves the sessional paper and policy framework before January 2, when schools reopen.

The external evaluators also found that there was inconsistency in the understanding and implementation of the constructs and standards of curriculum, and lack of understanding and inability to infuse core competencies, particularly digital literacy.

“Assessment of the curriculum in the study lies at eight per cent across PP1, PP2, Grade I and Grade II across 46 counties in the country,” noted the researchers. “The tools developed for assessment by Knec are non-existent across all schools in the country (and) while it is heartening to note that the training outreach stood at approximately 65 per cent, orientation, training and development of teachers and follow-up support were inadequate.”

Learning support materials were also of variable quality, often unavailable, and not sufficiently used in classrooms, the researchers noted.

On December 15, Ms Amina admitted that there were immense gaps in the implementation process, and so, while pushing the roll-out by a year, announced a raft of measures to turn the ship around within six months.

These included the launch of the National Curriculum Policy Framework in January 2019, presentation of the Sessional Paper on Reforming Education and Training Sector in Kenya before Parliament in February 2019, launch of the National Education Sector Strategic Plan for the period 2018-2022 by February 2019, training of Quality Assurance Officers for the review process in February, and the setting up of a dedicated fund for teacher training in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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