Increase early childhood education funding, state urged

Monday, July 26th, 2021 00:00 |
Kenyatta University senior lecturer, Early Childhood and Special Needs Education, Dr Teresa Mwoma. BELOW: A parent supervises her children as they do a take-home assignment under the Competency Based Curriculum. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Education stakeholders  ask that government consider allocating at least 10 per cent of the education budgetary fund to early childhood development in order to give pre-primary learners a firm start to life.

Irene Githinji @gitshee 

Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) experts have made an urgent call to the Government to increase funding for the sector, which they say is key for laying a firm foundation to learners and critical for rapid brain development. 

The stakeholders are seeking an allocation of at least 10 per cent of the total education budget towards ECDE as a way of supporting pre-primary education, coming against the backdrop of the countries preparing for the Global Partnership on Education (GPE) replenishment summit scheduled for next week in London.

GPE seeks to raise up to $5 billion (Sh540.7 billion) to support education systems in up to 90 countries that will enable 175 million girls and boys learn, reach 140 million students with professionally trained teachers and get 88 million more children, including 46 million girls in school.

According to a senior lecturer Dr Teresa Mwoma from Kenyatta University, Department of Early Childhood and Special Needs Education, funding ECDE is low since the sector receives only 1.8 per cent of all education funding, which is inadequate.

“There is need for Government to make a commitment in supporting pre-primary education.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda demands that by 2030, all boys and girls access quality education,” she said.

According to Dr Mwoma, statistics show that at least 23 per cent of Kenyan children are not enrolled in ECDE centres countrywide and challenged the government to find where these children are to have them enrolled in pre-primary schools.

No allocation for training

Dr Mwoma also said that a lot of money is spent on infrastructure for ECDE centres and bursaries, as opposed to also allocating it to teaching and support towards learning of the child.

She said that there are at least 92,000 pre-primary teachers out of whom 53 per cent have been hired by county governments, which means 47 per cent are either hired by parents, are in the private sector or unemployed.

“In terms of funding it is important if we can raise it to at least 10 per cent of all education resources so that counties are able to hire teachers, provide teaching and learning materials, put up infrastructure that is age appropriate and also pay teachers well,” said Dr Mwoma.

While ECDE teachers push to be hired by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), she explained that the Constitution devolved pre-primary education, which means the hiring task has been left to counties.

To allow the TSC to directly employ ECDE teachers, she said that it would require an amendment of certain clauses, but also challenged counties to pull up their socks in managing the centres.

At the same time, she says there has been no uniformity in paying ECDE teachers and despite the Council of Governors coming up with terms of service and grades, they still have not been implemented.

However, she admitted that the situation coils back to funding hence the push for at least 10 per cent allocation so that governors can be held responsible for not reforming the sector.

Another challenge for the sector, she says is the gap in training of pre-primary teachers to understand how best to implement the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC).

“Not much focus has been put in training pre-primary teachers to be able to implement the new curriculum effectively compared to those in primary schools who are trained often… this is one of the greatest gaps we have,” she stated.

She explained that the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) calls for provision of quality early childhood education, which will generate positive learning outcomes at later levels of learning.

“Globally, 50 per cent of pre-primary age children (175 million) are not enrolled in preprimary.

In low-income countries, only one in every five children is enrolled while in high income countries fourbin ever five children are enrolled in pre-primary.

Positive transformation

She says provision of quality preprimary education is the best investment of ensuring future success in education, especially for children from low income backgrounds.

“Quality preprimary education contributes to positive transformation in learning outcomes in a child’s lifetime,” says Dr Mwoma.

She said that some of the factors contributing to exclusion from attending pre-primary education, include household economic status and mothers level of education, which are some of the greatest barriers.

Poverty has also contributed to children not attending pre-primary education with Dr Mwoma saying that those from very well to do families are seven times more likely to attend than those from poor families.

Currently, there are about are 2.7 million children enrolled in preprimary schools in the country out of which, about 2 million are in public and another 821,897 in private centres.

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