• The CBL thing was beginning to sound like the musings of a sleepwalker, filled with fumbling, confusion, uncertainty. Nobody could understand what it was all about.
• Fortunately, the court stepped in and suspended CBL. Now Magoha can try to think clearly and end the gropings in the dark.
By Wednesday I could understand the worry, anger and desperation that made Gladys Madere post on Facebook, “This is confusing parents. Makhoha [sic] is incompetent.
He should be able to give us proper measures [with] the safety of the pupil's [sic] put into consideration. The fate of the isolation centres proposed in some schools".
I couldn’t be that bold but it didn’t mean I could’ve told you for certain I understood what the 'community-based learning (CBL) programme' – a five-hour five-day-per week engagement – under trees, in open fields, churches and abandoned school halls - by teachers with primary pupils and secondary students marooned at home by coronavirus, is all about.
The supervision of CBL was allocated to – of all government functionaries – chiefs. Now, you may wonder why. But I still don’t - despite perusing volumes from the TSC and reportage – understand just what the CBL is all about, its purpose, delivery and outcome. It seems to have been built on experimental guess work.
So, Wednesday was redemption day because two interventions saved the day for Ministry of Education mandarins’ aimless wonderings. We woke up to the news that the previous day, a court had suspended CBL that was to be launched under a cloud of uncertainty on Tuesday next week.
That must’ve been welcome news for Prof George Magoha because it allows him enough lead time to clearly think through what he wants to do with our children during this time of Covid-19.
The fumbling must be over because more saving grace was extended to him by the President.
In his eleventh address to Kenyans on Covid-19, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the good professor a soft-landing through an escape chute directive that he must cuddle for dear life.
“…the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government in conjunction with the Chairperson of the Council of Governors, shall, in three weeks, convene an inclusive National Consultative Conference to review our national and county Covid response and, together with all stakeholders, chart Kenya’s post-Covid future,” the President ordered.
No more groping in the dark. The gift for the professor is in the constitution of the National Consultative Conference (NCC). Whereas he seemed to be out of breath in bringing together all education stakeholders to chart the way forward for the Covid-19 ravaged education sector, he has a golden opportunity to do so within three weeks and then offload their ideas at the NCC.
Parents will forever be grateful to the professor because the CBL thing was beginning to sound like the musings of a sleepwalker.
Within the corridors of the Ministries of Education, Health and Interior, the Teachers Service Commission and Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, welfare and trade unions, parents lacked coherent unanimity on everything -whether to open schools, when, CBL or not, and how to resume normality in education institutions.
NCC is therefore the right forum to thrash out contending positions without the professor taking the flak.
Gladys Madere and I are not alone in decrying the agony wrought by the differing positions by all these institutions.
We couldn’t place what CBL was or ought to be. Was it an abridged version of the Competency- based Curriculum (CBC) brought forward to apply to all learners?
I couldn’t break through the mist but for a scintillating online critique, Reopening schools: The good and the bad Kenya can expect', by Japheth Ogila of August 24
The nuanced article puts Magoha on the spot for maintaining that the 2021 target for reopening schools remains a temporary decision but “his statement during a visit to Siaya Technical Institute on Thursday, August 20, revealed the brewing desperation at the ministry." The opening date remained a moving target until he dropped the live wire.
“More than 100,000 schools remain closed across the country but the decision to reopen them lies with President Uhuru. He is the one to decide whether he can take the risk,” Magoha is quoted as saying, placing the gauntlet at the feet of the President. By announcing formation of the NCC, the President has returned Prof Magoha a favour."
Earlier on July 7, the professor had declared, "The 2020 school calendar year will be considered lost due to Covid-19 restrictions,” ruling out the possibility of reopening schools due to the lingering danger of the virus.
But then the Ministry came under immense pressure as parents called for the reopening of schools, citing the possibility of interfering with the progress of learners.
Magoha was on the receiving end of a demand letter served by parents dated August 16. The parents accused Magoha of closing both public and private schools indefinitely without giving clear-cut reopening schedule.
That’s when the flip-flopping began. It is here that Ogila has a prescription that “under this crossroad and the pressure to make a decision are a number of case studies around the world, good and bad, that Prof Magoha could evaluate before reopening schools,” and goes ahead to itemise situations in the fatal haste Israeli decision, how scientists delivered in Uruguay and WHO reasoning in urging Kenya to reopen schools.
But what are the issues in contention on CBL?
The roll out of CBL in primary and secondary schools across the country came out of the blue, even as the ministry insisted all stakeholders were on board. Teachers and parents denied being enjoined in the decision.
Then followed different versions of guidelines ostensibly developed jointly by the ministry, the TSC, Kenya National Examinations Council, and KICD.
Each had a varied interpretation of the guidelines while the issue of induction of teachers remained vague.
It was at some point argued that the programme is targeting learners who are not able to access the digital and mass media learning platforms already in place.
However, this was torpedoed with statements that CBL will apply to all primary and secondary schools across the country.
This was a contradiction of guidelines where learners use digital gadgets!
More so the expected outcomes of CBL were more opaque, like, “At the end of the programme ... learners should be able to cope with the social and emotional effects of Covid-19 and identify the right information about the disease," and that, “They are also expected to undertake basic and numeracy outdoor games, express themselves through different ways such as poems, songs, drawing, presentations and posters and participate in community service learning."
What was even more wanting was the absence of delivery and evaluation guides to teachers. They were also assumed to have the competences to deliver a completely new set of learning experiences.
Furthermore, the legality of CBL without Parliament's approval suggests a legal minefield.
Then came the anxiety over CBL's burdensome implications for parents who hadn’t been sensitised at all.
It is this oversight that led some parents to move to court and got them stay orders against CBL. It’s just as well the courts intervened to allow for reflection and Uhuru gave the ministry a lifeline out the quandary creating the NCC.