Let’s face the elephant in the room. The new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) System of Education in Kenya is simply untenable.

For starters, it is making education so punitive on the Kenyan parents and a majority of them are suffering silently.

The Covid-19 pandemic that is currently ravaging the globe hasn’t made things any easier for parents.

Currently, we are doing four school-terms a year, with an average of 10-day breaks in between. This way, the Ministry of Education (MoE) hopes to recoup the whole year wasted in 2020.

The efforts of trying to make up for the time lost in 2020 can be understood and should be lauded.

But, still, other than overworking learners, parents are expected to get school fees for the next term within these 10-day short breaks in-between the terms!

Lest we forget, most of these parents are reeling from the devastating aftershocks of the marauding corona virus: massive job losses, collapsed businesses, broken families and all!

Now, to my main topic of the day; there is a new animal on the block called Competency Based Curriculum (CBC). 🤔

Have you realized that most – if not all – the people heaping praises on this new system don’t have any child of their own going through it? Yet, it is the wearer of the shoe who is supposed to know where it pinches most!

The worst kept secret in this country is that most of the policy-makers in government take their children to fancy schools, such as Braeburn and Brookhouse group of schools, where they are taken through the British or American education systems.

Why are their children not going through the system that they are heaping praises on and ramming down our throats?

Truth be told, the CBC generation parents are silently suffocating under the new system. If I was to describe it, I would use four adjectives: taxing, demanding, exploitative and punitive 😥

To begin with, parents have been suddenly turned into experts of sorts in all the subjects that the pupils are learning in school.

There is a reason why teachers specialize in subjects; but the new system expects parents to suddenly become know-it-all kinda geniuses.

That’s why even Google is about to protest against the kind of questions Kenyan parents have been asking the giant search engine of late!

The parent typically gets home after a long day of hustling and meets with the homework memo, which always starts with these words : “with the help of the parent….do blah!blah! blah!..

If you have 2-3 children in this system, I understand why you urgently need a hug and a reassuring pat on the back, with the words “it shall be well,” softly spoken into your ear.

My thoughts and prayers remain with that illiterate parent, in my Nyachururu-Nyangena village and any other far flung village, who doesn’t even know that Google exists. How are pupils in remote villages coping with CBC?

The worst part of it all is that, under this new system, education has been finally fully commercialized, at the expense of the already overstretched parents. We are being openly exploited in the name of offering a better education to our kids!

Let me give you a personal anecdote.

At the beginning of the current term, I bought books worth 10k for my grade 4 son and 8k worth of books for my grade 1 daughter. Hapo fees bado hatujaanza kuongea…🤔

And man! I was left wondering; I never carried such a huge cargo of books to school when I joined high school. And we still survived. Nay. We thrived.

We used hand-me-down text books, and trust me, we never died. Neither did we end up that badly. We excelled.

The books I bought constitute text books and workbooks. A workbook looks like the one in the photo.

Pictured is a voluminous 382-page CBC workbook, which cost 850/= . It can only be used once since the class-work is done and marked within it.

The pupils are expected to do their work in the workbooks. Once the work is marked, the voluminous books (like the encyclopedia-sized, 382-page book in the photo) can’t be used again!

My son used this one in grade 3 and it cost 850/=. His sister will not use it once she is in the same grade. The parents have to buy a workbook for each subject.

With the subjects under assessment in the CBC having doubled, compared to those done offered under the 8-4-4 system, you can do your math on the potential damage the workbooks alone inflict on a hapless parent’s finances.

The class-work is done and marked within the workbooks.

Isn’t it a shame that these expensive books will never be used by another younger sibling just because the kids write in those damn books? Yet we pay for exercise books!

And the mother of all shockers is that the pupils are being made to do their work in text books too. Yes, I said textbooks folks!

The work is marked right in there, rendering the text book useless for any younger siblings. Why not answer questions in exercise books and leave the textbooks alone? This must be a deliberate move to milk parents by making them buy the same books year in year out.

A CBC grade 1 Textbook. The kids do their assignments in the book, which averagely costs 350/=

Most primary schools, especially in the private sector, charge money for stationery in their school fees. What purposes does this money serve now that kids are doing their work in workbooks and textbooks?

The work is done and marked right in the textbook, making it unusable by any sibling coming from behind.

As if that isn’t enough, if your child is joining grade 1, you have to part with a “book fund” of about 6k. Never mind this is after buying a whole cargo of text books and workbooks!

I don’t even want to mention the sheer amount of stuff parents have to buy or print every week. It’s mind boggling.

I was talking to a friend recently and he intimated to me that he was contemplating buying a printer in his house, just for the purpose of printing CBC stuff for his children.

According to him, this would be cost-effective instead of spending hundreds of shillings printing CBC stuff in the cyber cafes every week.

Can somebody from the MoE look parents in the eye and tell them that this CBC books issue isn’t a well choreographed conspiracy to defraud parents?

Someone might argue that it’s only in the commercial academies where such things happen. But look at the alternative ~ public schools!

The average number of pupils per class (per teacher) in Nairobi’s public primary schools is 100.

One wonders whether the teacher even remembers all his/her pupils by name, let alone properly check their progress. How is CBC being implemented in such public schools?

Social distancing in such schools, during this pandemic, is one huge nightmare.

The teachers are stretched to untold limits. What happens to the quality of education in such conditions? Your guess is as good as mine.

Truth be told, none of the main education stakeholders was fully prepared for the CBC rollout. The MoE, the teachers and the parents all seem to have been caught off guard. That’s why we are all struggling with the implementation of the CBC.

Parents should have been prepared for the new responsibilities that come with CBC while teachers should have been trained on the new modes of delivery.

It’s absolutely appalling that teachers are being trained as they implement the system! Our children are not guinea pigs to be used in experiments.

After 2022, the first cohort of CBC graduates from primary school (grade 6) are supposed to join junior high school. Where are these junior secondary schools? Can the currently overstretched secondary schools accommodate the extra junior high school students?

We haven’t seen the MoE take any tangible steps aimed at building the requisite additional infrastructure, in secondary schools, in preparation for the first junior high school cohort.

Bottomline is, the CBC rollout was rushed and ill-timed. Enough time wasn’t taken to critically look at what it portended and now it’s badly boomeranging on all of us.

A CBC workbook. A child needs a workbook per subject. The workbooks are more expensive than textbooks!

What’s more, education is becoming too expensive in this country. It doesn’t make sense at all when educating a child in lower primary becomes more expensive than educating a child in high school.

Now more than ever, the inequalities in education are becoming more pronounced under the CBC system.

The children in urban areas and in private academies (whose parents can afford the expensive demands of CBC) are getting a totally different serving of education, compared to their counterparts in poor rural areas and informal settlements.

With public universities , such as the UON, contemplating doubling their fees, to sustain their operations, soon only children of the rich will be in a position to access quality education in this country.

Something smells extremely fishy about this CBC system. The intentions might have been noble, but it seems some shadowy cartels hijacked it and they are cutting deals at the expense of the poor parent, especially in the book industry.

Must education be so punitive on the parents? The system is simply doing business with parents, while milking them dry!

There seems to be an unholy conspiracy between publishers and the peddlers of education in this country, hatched to fleece the already overburdened parent and soon this is bound to reach its elastic limit.

Parents are already up in arms. If the policy makers and other education stakeholders fail to take a hard relook into the current mess that is the Kenyan education system, a huge crisis is in the offing in this vital sector.

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