BUDGET ADVOCACY HELPING SKILLS-BASED LEARNING IN KENYAN SCHOOLS
Children enjoying playful learning in a school in the Dadaab Refugee Camps.
By Geoffrey Tanui
In this fast-changing world, Save the Children recognises that children need to be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and education to become creative, productive, lifelong learners. This is entrenched in Save the Children’s Kenya and Madagascar goal 4 in the Country Strategic Plan, ensuring children have access to “Safe and Quality Education”. An alarming fact is that 40% of global employers find it difficult to recruit people with the skills they are looking for, to get the job done. Owing to this, education systems need to evolve to deliver those technical, social, and critical thinking skills that will enable children to realise their full potential as adults.
World leaders have recognised the value of holistic skills-based education with commitments in the Incheon andGEM Declarations. However, implementation is limited due to a lack of consensus in the education community, decentralization, resources, teacher training and methodology and over-emphasis on academic knowledge. These challenges however are not unique to Kenya.
Global challenges, for instance COVID-19, made the learning situation in most countries very difficult. 90% of the world’s children saw their schools close. Even if remote learning was scaled up, it was with limited reach, and often a narrow focus.
It is challenges like this and others like climate change and conflict, that necessitate engagement with education stakeholders on the need for urgency of action in placing value of investing in education systems which support children's cognitive skills, creativity, resilience and adaptability to achieve their full potential.
Genuine change in education will need commitment from policy makers, teachers, parents, community leaders, and children across diverse age groups and contexts. Kenya’s experience in rolling out the Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC), a program that aims to equip children with holistic skills development for the 21st century, has not been a ride in the park, the process has been marred with blockades.
However, the roll out is a great milestone that anchors on the global shift towards value-based education programs that encourage holistic skills development. The new education system includes schooling and co-curriculum activities that nurture, mentor, and mould children into productive, empowered citizens presenting a major opportunity to operationalize skills-based learning.
Save the Children Kenya and Madagascar in collaboration with the Institute of Public Certified Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) recently conducted a budget analysis and published a report indicating how national and decentralized budgets have failed to respond to the gaps in the roll out of CBC. This problem underpins the agency by Save the Children Kenya & Madagascar for education budgets to guarantee holistic skills development in basic education systems.
Considering this, the Breadth of Skills (BOS) a project being implemented in five countries (South Korea, India, Kenya, South Africa and Colombia) was born. The project aims to highlight the power of skills-based education including the transformative power of playful learning. The aim is to convince decision makers to shift the narrative from commitment to implementation in the education systems of these countries.
This project has seen a wide range of stakeholders engaged at national and the specific counties we are working with: Bungoma, Turkana, Wajir and Dadaab, to advocate for tangible education reforms such as the inclusion of holistic skills development in the education budgets. This was informed by an analysis of the Kenya’s, basic education budget which showed that per capita grants and budget lines meant for co-curriculum activities had not been reviewed to reflect the CBC curriculum needs despite the roll out of the new curriculum in 2019.
Important stakeholders we have been working with in this project include Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD), teacher unions, head teacher associations - (Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KSSHA), Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (KEPSHA), Special Schools Head Association (SSHAK) and County Civil Society Networks (CSOs). Key targets included Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER), parliamentarians, Members of County Assemblies (MCAs), directors of education, county economists and county executive members of finance and education
In partnership with the heads of schools Associations, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) and other Civil Society Organisations, Save the Children Kenya & Madagascar has been advocating for increased budgetary allocations towards basic education. One of the project’s objectives was to establish specific budget lines to integrate holistic skills in public/primary and secondary institutions at the national level. Similarly, the project sought to introduce per capita budget lines supporting holistic skills development for pre-primary level of education within the four target counties.
When the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) taskforce was formed to look at the CBC curriculum and what could be done to improve it, Save the Children took advantage and was able to give recommendations on improving the education sector in the country by submitting memoranda with key recommendations around the curriculum implementation structure, appropriate financing framework including capitation and minimum essential package grants for all levels of basic education, equitable access to education, governance of the basic education sub-sector, a framework for physical and e-infrastructure development and coordination of public-private partnerships for improved access and quality education and teacher education and training framework for both pre-service and in-service .
The recommendations by PWPER on capitation for basic education has enumerated specific budget lines for holistic skills development and an increment on the current capitation from KES.1,420 to kes.2,238 for primary level, KES.15,000 for Junior School, and introduction of per capita grants of KES.1,170 for pre-primary. Additionally, there are recommendations to introduce a minimum essential package of KES.70,200 for Pre-primary, KES.537,120 for Primary Education (grades one to Six), KES.2,030, 805 for Junior School and KES.3,041,145 for Senior School to cover financial obligations in schools to ensure comprehensive delivery of CBC.
Save the Children and other CSOs also presented a memorandum to Parliament calling for increased investment in education and in particular, employing more teachers and the review of free primary and free day secondary education per capita grants. The Budget Statement for the FY 2023-24 and the budget estimates made allocations to facilitate the hiring of 116,000 intern teachers and a further 30,000 teachers on a permanent and pensionable basis. In addition, parliament has increased the overall education budget by more than KES.80 billion to accommodate other capitation reforms for basic education.
At sub national level, the five-year County Integrated Development Plans (CIDP) for Bungoma, Turkana and Wajir counties have outlined key holistic education priorities that will inform pre-primary education budgets and policy processes for the next five years (2023 – 2027). Per capita grants, information and communication technology, teacher capacity building on CBC, and provision of play, learning and teaching materials are some of the new items that have been included in the sub-national CIDPs. The published Bungoma County CIDP for example, have proposed a per capita grant of KES.950 to cater for learning materials, play equipment and training materials like crayons, chalks, and stationery which is a great win.
With the said wins, the rally towards improving the quality of education is far from over. Save the Children will continue rallying behind CSO networks, head teachers' associations and teacher unions, ICPAK as well as allies in government to advocate for adequate financing during key advocacy moments including the budget cycle for 2024/2025 at both national and sub-national levels.
To learn more about the Breadth of Skills (BOS) project watch this video: