Let Them Play Golf

Brenda Wambui
6 March ,2018

While handing the flag to the Kenyan national boys and girls golf team, which was heading to Casablanca for the All Africa Junior Golf Championship, Uhuru Kenyatta said he wanted golf introduced in public schools as a way of developing the sport. He urged the ministries of Sports and Heritage, Education and Interior to finalize the development of a curriculum that will see golf introduced to public schools.

I could not believe it – our very own Marie Antoinette with a 21st Century “let them eat cake” moment.

Golf is an expensive sport to play. Golf clubs are expensive. The proper clothing and shoes are expensive. The set up and maintenance of golf courses is expensive. Everything about golf worldwide sets it up to be exclusionary. Golf club membership is expensive. Learning how to play takes time and money. Golf is thought of as a businessman’s game because chit chat about “business” is what tends to happen on the course.

Contrast that with the state of public schools. The Kenyan government under Mwai Kibaki introduced free primary education in January 2003 in order to make primary education accessible to all children irrespective of their economic backgrounds. However, this endeavor has been fraught with challenges. The unavailability of physical facilities, school furniture, equipment, teachers, and other resources has led to overcrowding in classes and overburdening of teachers. This has a negative effect on the quality of education, and further deepens inequality between those who attend private and public schools.

The Kenyan government under Uhuru Kenyatta introduced free secondary education in January 2018. This was one of the pledges the Jubilee party made while campaigning for re-election. Schools selected for this program, such as Kenya High School, Lenana School, Buruburu Girls High School, Dagoretti High School among others began accepting day students as part of this effort to increase secondary enrollment (the goal is a 100% transition from primary to secondary school), and delink admission from bed space in order to increase form one enrolment. Students are not required to pay tuition fees – they only buy uniform, pay for lunch (and those boarding pay boarding fees ranging between KES 40,000 and KES 53,000). However, just as with free primary education, there aren’t enough teachers, classrooms and materials at secondary school level. This will lead to a poor standard of education.

Arguably the most important aspect of a school, other than its infrastructure, is its teachers. Kenya currently has a pupil to teacher ratio of 57:1 (according to UNESCO, this should be no more than 40:1). Primary schools have a shortage of 40,972 teachers, while secondary schools have a shortage of 63,849. We need 104,821 more teachers if we are to meet our education goals as a country. This is expensive. To begin with, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) asked the Treasury for KES 16 billion to recruit 68,000 intern teachers as a temporary measure to address this shortage created by government policy. They also asked for KES 5 billion to recruit 12,000 teachers to address the current shortage and an additional KES 3.6 billion to hire another 5,476 to cater for the 100 per cent pupil transition from primary to secondary schools. These budget items have yet to be approved.

Perhaps the starkest indicator that the president is getting ahead of himself is the implementation of the new curriculum, which was supposed to be rolled out in January 2018. The 2-6-3-3-3 curriculum involves children spending two years in pre-primary and six years in primary school. In lower primary, they will learn Kiswahili, English, Literacy, and “Mother Tongue”, Science, Social Studies and Agricultural Activities. In upper primary, they will learn Kiswahili, English, Mathematics, Home Science, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Creative Arts, Moral and Life Skills, Physical and Health Education, and Social Studies, with an option of a foreign language (French, German, Chinese and Arabic).

Junior secondary will take three years, and students will study Mathematics, Kiswahili, English, Life Skills, Health Education, Social Studies, Integrated Science, Business Studies, Religious Education, Agriculture, Sports and Physical Education. They will also select one or two subjects that suit their career choices, personalities, abilities and interests. Senior secondary will also take three years, and students will focus on either Arts and Sports Science; Social Sciences; or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). After this, students can either go on to three years in university, or three years in a vocational training centre.

As is to be expected, the rollout of free secondary education at the same time as a resource intensive new curriculum, while requiring 100% transition from primary to secondary school without investing in school infrastructure and the hiring and training of teachers, has caused a mess. The teachers have not been trained adequately on the new curriculum, and TSC’s budget for doing so has been affected severely by budget cuts of up to 75%. Teacher training had been estimated to cost KES 900 million, while training and monitoring implementation of teacher performance appraisal in all public institutions was estimated to cost KES 200 million. However, their budget for this was reduced by KES 423 million of the operation and maintenance budget, limiting service delivery.

Schools have yet to receive teaching materials for this curriculum, leaving teachers confused. Since the government is distributing text books directly to schools, they have no option but to wait. Why? Because the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) relies on four printing firms to publish curriculum designs, and their printing materials are exhausted after the bulk printing of new curriculum materials. The paper used to print these materials is imported, and has taken long to arrive. So the children and their teachers can either wait, or revert to using 8-4-4 materials.

Even as all this happens, Uhuru Kenyatta, perhaps as a catalyst of some kind of Kenyan revolution, thinks it is important for golf to be introduced in public schools. The tragedy that is Kenya continues.

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