Introduction Since independence in, Kenya has had its share of the struggle to make it possible for its population attains education for all. This was out of the realization that education of the population would help fight ills that faced the society, among them included; poverty, ignorance, and disease. In fact, the government treated education as a basic right for every Kenyan child. Education has ever since been regarded as a fundamental factor for human capital development. In response to this urge, government developed policy documents that sort to expand access to education for its citizens.
It is internationally recognized that everyone has a right to education, as agreed upon at various international conferences. Kenya tried to take the declarations seriously by ensuring that children have free access to basic education. The introduction of the Free Primary Education Policy in Kenya in 2003, however, provokes analysts to offer criticisms on the same. We can try to understand the concept of Free Primary Education by raising fundamental philosophical questions that may help us reflect on the policy. Reasons for introducing Free primary education.
As already introduced earlier, there have been good reasons for the provision of education for all citizens. The Kenyan government and other leaders believed that an educated populace will, among other things, be in a position to combat poverty, ignorance, and fight diseases. Inspired by these objectives and that of international concern, Kenya may be justified in its continued quest for the introduction of policies that seek to expand the education sector. Since independence, the country has witnessed an increase in the number of learning institutions.
Literacy levels, especially, among the adults have increased tremendously. Educational services and facilities have spread all over the country ensuring relative uniformity in the levels of education among the people. Research findings revealed that the enrollment at primary schools has more than doubled and indication that people needed the service seriously. However, there have been significant regional disparities as well as gender disparities in the primary schools as far as access to education is concerned (UNESCO, 2005).
This has been one of the major reasons for the continued need for Universal Primary Education (UPE). This actually acknowledges that the need for free primary education is justifiable. With these as mental notes politicians used it to identify a powerful tool to include in their campaign manifestos. And in 2002, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) politicians effectively tapped the opportunity resulting in their landslide victory to power during the general election. Nature of free primary school Those who came up with the policy mush have thought out well the use of the terms that would sell the policy.
In its technical sense, the statement meant the abolition of fees in all government schools as from 2003 academic year, provision of some learning materials to pupils, parents would continue to buy school uniforms and other agreed-upon levies, and that the funding of other non-salary expenditure comes in the form of grants from the government. However, with the political euphoria that swept the country then, the literal meaning of the policy was oversimplified to the level that it even confused further the actors in education.
For purposes of wooing voters, politicians implied that the education of their children would be completely free of charge. Parents were the most affected by this assertion since by January 2003 they had no plans to incur any costs in the education of their children at the primary school level. The then Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) declared the FPE Policy in Kenya. The government and development partners were to pay fees and levies for tuition, meet the cost of basic teaching and learning materials as well as wages for critical non-teaching staff and co-curricular activities.
Parents were then expected to facilitate the refurbishing of existing facilities. Any additional charges were to be approved by the government through the ministry of education. The complexity of the problem is heightened by the use of the word ‘free’. Free as a term in English means to be able to act at will, not hampered; not under compulsion or restraint to do something. It also means costing nothing. The term has other numerous meanings that differ under given circumstances or contexts. We may therefore even wonder whether education can be free or not.
Is it possible to resist education incase one is not interested in taking it freely? If free is taken to mean what is supposed to mean in this context, how free is free? This term, therefore, may be ambiguous and is subject to misrepresentations and hence prone to misinterpretations. This is most likely to occur if little effort is made to clarify the meaning of the usage. Clarity is one of the most important elements of any policy so as to avoid multiple interpretations. Community participation The third concern here is the need to understand how the stakeholders in the education understood the policy.
The policy was formulated without consulting those who are closely concerned with practice of education and those are teachers and parents. This resulted in the lack of clear guidelines for the implementation of free education as a government policy. The teachers were not adequately prepared to manage the influx of pupils of all ages. Little effort was made to in-service teachers and carry out seminars for the parents in order to prepare them for the great changes that awaited them. In fact, as already mentioned above, many parents had a general misconception about the meaning of ‘free’ education.
Most of them thought that they were no longer expected to play any role in the running of the school hence they lost a sense of ownership. Since the local fundraising and voluntary contributions for schools, by implication, were abolished, communities also thought that they had no role to play in the running of the school since the government will take care of everything. This lack of proper communication becomes our major concern; from a philosophical perspective. This, therefore, calls for a sustained and comprehensive communication strategy for the policy if it is to remain practical.
The policy should also clarify the sources of funding for the program, adequately explain the roles of various stakeholders, provide a framework for instilling discipline especially due to the age-variation in the enrolled pupils, and provide regular communication about the developments in the program. For a young graduate of less than thirty years expecting an old man like Mzee Maruga in class, it has effects on production and end results of the teacher. How ell prepared was the teacher to handle such age disparities among the pupils? This then becomes an enigmatic question.
With the challenges facing the implementation of the FPE program, we may also investigate to know whether adequate logistics for its implementation were put in place. A well designed policy should be logically arranged from the point of initial implementation and the subsequent stages. This implies that the policy makers should be in a position to anticipate the possible risks and take precautionary measures to address them. However, from a critical analysis of the free education in Kenya, it is evident that little was done as far as ensuring the successful implementation of the program is concerned.
A good policy is supposed to point out the possible huddles and recommendations for overcoming them. Poor planning has affected the program in many ways. One of the most obvious is shortage of teaching and learning resources. The delay in remittance of the funds and the its poor management at the school level has cause a serious problem where what is supposed to have been supplied is only there in record but not in reality. Even the research that has been done by the donor organizations, showed serious shortages caused by absence of what was supposed to have been supplied.
Given that the managers, who in this case are the head teachers, were not trained on management of finances and how to make reports, advantage was taken quickly to syphone the same funds into their own usage. Overcrowding The other aspect is characterized by overcrowding in most primary schools due to increased enrollments and hence increased pupil-teacher ratio. In fact, congestion in classrooms has made a mockery of the rationale for the introduction of FPE program. The characteristic delay in the release of government funds only serve to crown the already created problems.
It beats logic to cause more problems in the process of solving another. The report by the Development bank for Reconstruction and Development 2009, reported that, most communities did not bother to support the buildings of the school for they were assured that the government would do all. But this was not the case, most schools now look ike abandoned dens, where no human beings dwell. The buildings are dilapidated and now parents are withdrawing their children to private schools, and thus see the growth of private schools.
The policy is also strict on any attempts by the school committees to solicit funds from parents. This has made them feel so constrained in their duties of managing the school owing to the cumbersome procedures required for instituting levies. Turning a blind eye on the potential threats accompanying such a sensitive policy as is FPE is utmost disregard of fundamental concerns. In addition to clarity, therefore, logic requires a comprehensive analysis of a policy like the FPE with an aim of identifying the underlying assumptions and the ultimate implications, especially upon implementation.
This will ensure systematic implementation and timely solution of emerging issues. The government should make an effort to supervise the policy at the grassroots level. Up to recent most poor parents still belief that the promises government made at election time will still be done forgetting that much was election promise and once the vote is given all is forgotten. Even to increase the number of teachers as a basic concern has not been looked at. Why then should the government give people something that does not work?
Too few teachers as compared to too many students results into poor performance, while the children of the able ones get better education in private schools. Education and social change Looking at all these aspects how can education be looked upon as the ultimate solution to societal problems? Although research findings reveal that there is a positive correlation between the level of education and economic prosperity, it may be a misguided opinion to believe that free education is the sole solution of social problems. This concern is related to the motives of introducing free education programs by the government of Kenya since independence.
Pupils will still drop out of school due to other reasons and not for economic reasons. Holistic approaches as advocated by the international Universal Primary Education (UPE), therefore, should be adopted if education is to play a greater role in empowering the populace. Conclusion The challenges experienced in the implementation of FPE program can be traced to the uncritical design of the policy. Many political considerations seem to take center-stage during the proposal and formulation of such policies which end up creating more problems later.
This implies that a clear and logical situation analysis should be conducted if meaningful policies are to be developed and hence ensuring their sustainability. The bottom line here, therefore, is the need to raise fundamental philosophical questions during the primary stages of any policy formulation in order to ensure that all concerns are dealt with in advance. That implies that good planning is required. This ensures logistical problems to be sorted out in advance, training be done of those who are directly involved from the grassroots levels.
And in the case of primary schools, parents and teachers are to be explained to understand the role for each player. Unless the community is meant to understand it becomes hard for the policy to succeed. References 1. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2009). Abolishing school fees in Africa: lessons from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Mozambique: a publication of the World Bank in Collaboration with UNICEF. World Bank Publications 2. UNESCO (March 2005). Challenges of Implementing free Primary Education in Kenya. Assessment Report. UNESCO Nairobi Office.