I don’t recall mum give a helping hand to me during my formative years while I’d get holed up at the dining table trying to make head or tail of the homework. I can’t fault her though. I mean, mum wasn’t privileged to study past class 7 back in the ’60s. My dad on the other hand ritually preserved the time to peruse the daily newspaper. Mind you there was no TV then nor wifi, which thanks to their absentia meant zero disruption. Speaking of which; the former was too luxurious for us due to the rural background that had a selected few homes that bragged of electricity while the latter was unfathomable. In hindsight, homework was meant to be strictly done with little assistance if any, by the guardians. Miss Gichuki, who happened to be my nursery school teacher would smell a kilometer away if one was assisted do the homework. She’d flag you off by screaming your name and humiliating you in front of the class. Speaking of which, I still fondly remember her liking for ponytail hairstyle and the long lean dresses that flattered her height.
First forward now, it is these same kids of yester-decades that have leapfrogged to find themselves in unfamiliar territory, struggling with contemporary parenting, of course, complicated by a fairly new curriculum dubbed CBC – competence-based curriculum. This is a syllabus that not only rattles modern parenting but more importantly underlines the importance of parents partaking as equal stakeholders in the educational welfare of their kids. Okay, I don’t mean just footing school fees, which is expected of them anyway. Modern parenting scoffs for more be it devoting oneself daily to familiarise with the homework but more over, supervising the kids do the assignments effectively. It is at this juncture that you pray not to come across a note from a Miss Nancy the class teacher instructing, not requesting, the pupils to bring along – a hundred sticks tied in tens if not making a scarecrow.
Predictably, the whole idea of CBC dragging parents in daily school activities of their kids hasn’t gone down well with many. The uproar is mainly due to the notion that society made peace with the fact that parents have little to offer in matters – school activities after settling the school fees. Parents assert that, teachers are paid to teach and teaching should strictly be conducted in a school environment. Parents have nothing to do with helping their kids scribble down a letter ki (k) that is long enough and within the line or teaching their kids knit a scarf or stone-carve a buffalo. They claim that, particularly in rural settings where grannies hardly express themselves in basic Swahili (no pun intended) living in smoky makeshifts with the little ones dumbed by Kanairo slayqueens, they will have little to offer on matters homework.
Another fact being thrown around is that CBC is an expensive affair. In the days of our lord when fuel and paraffin costs an arm and a leg compounded by the intrigues of a shrinking economy ravaging from the effects of Covid 19 and rising political intolerance, it’s a hard one for parents to grapple with. Moreover, since schools reopened amidst the pandemic, syllabuses have been rushed to make up for the lost time leaving parents with little room to reorganize their finances. That said, parents are now expected to dig deeper to provide more school materials that are necessitated by CBC.
Some parents have had to purchase music items, while other school institutions demand pupils to bring along modeling clay, coloring and counting materials, and of course dealing with the unpredictable take-homework. The other day, just when my daughter was retiring to bed, she recalled that teacher Nancy had instructed the class to bring along as many unused items as possible that could be traded in their class duka (local Shop). Kageshi had to think quickly enough and ransack the house past 9 pm stocking in the little girl’s bag, empty packets and bottles of hand wash, body oil, blue band, matchboxes, empty spices tins, yoghurt and coffee cans.
On an interesting note, CBC seems not to have a dull moment. While grade 3s are tasked with making a pair of carton gumboots, grade 2s grapple with an assignment involving making a bunny (rabbit) from modeling clay under the assistance of their guardians. Meanwhile, grade 4 take it a notch higher and conduct an elaborate religious wedding taking care of all the nitty-gritty of a typical church wedding except for the kissing which is replaced with hugging. This sounds like a very interesting affair especially if one ‘marries’ his or her secret admirer. While you deal that, grade 5 get involved in a home science class specifically in a tailoring topic that assigns them the duty of coming up with African costumes made of locally available materials, dressing and parading the participants in a complete fashion gala with the teachers assessing the work by grading the best dressed, well-researched theme and most creative work.
The formative grades are not overlooked, as grade 1s will be spotted in estate chemists taking photographs of family medicines and collecting empty packets as part of their homework. They are also tasked with visiting the chief’s camp or better put, a police station accompanied by their guardians and enquiring what happens when two people get involved in a fight. They are meant to compile a report for the teacher. This is the same grade that is tasked with standing in the sun together with their guardians, observing their shadows, discerning which is longer, paying attention while making some moves, and consequently reporting the same to their classmates. In the meantime, preparatory kids are exposed to a lot of coloring just to harness their grip of colours besides introducing artistic skills to their lives.
To the proponents of CBC, they argue that 8-4-4 is heavily criticized for conditioning the students to just pass exams. Exams were a matter of life and death. Moreover, the latter was too theoretical apart from losing touch with modern-day realities in the job environment. Many employers still complain of half-baked graduates regardless of their excellent papers. 8-4-4 wholly focused on the end result instead of doing much more like tapping talents, and building and sharpening students’ characters.
Bottom line; CBC is a non-conventional education system that is comparatively competitive and futuristic. One of its long-term objectives is to tap and nurture pupils’ characters by testing and harnessing wide arrays of contemporary children development assessments. However, with high social inequality levels in Kenya, CBC sadly will only be half effective if the government doesn’t offer subsidies to cost of education for instance non-taxation of learning materials and general support of low-income areas of the country in matters of education infrastructure just in order to make this nobble idea, a success!