At a meeting chaired by President Mwai Kibaki in early August this year, the cabinet approved The Basic Education Bill 2012. Proponents of the bill believe that it provides the best way to ensure children are granted the right to a basic education as provided by Kenya’s new Constitution. Opponents of the bill however, argue it contains serious flaws, needs radical changes and is a serious ‘challenge’ to parents.
The bill, which is yet to be tabled in parliament, sets out among other things stiff penalties for parents who fail to take their children to the level of secondary school. Parents or guardians who decline sending their children to school risk a maximum penalty of a five-year jail term or a fine not exceeding Sh100,000, or in extreme cases, both.
WHY THE BASIC EDUCATION BILL 2012 NEEDS RADICAL CHANGE
A thoroughly well-argued article that stood out among the many that were written by opponents of the bill was one published in The Star on Thursday November 8 (‘Bill on basic education needs radical changes’), which the Kenya Forum recommends to its readers), written by Dunstan Ngumo and Francis Mugo.
In the article, Ngumo and Mugo, who are described as ‘commentators on topical issued, point out that the bill has serious flaws and shortcomings. Key among these, the writers argue, is the proposed standardisation and uniformity in the management of all basic education institutions; the proposal to open up schools to either gender; the proposal to criminalise all parents who fail to take their children to school; and the conspicuous absence in the bill of ways to stimulate excellence and quality in Kenya’s education system.
Many parents feel that the bill shuts them out on the rights they have on their children and gives so much power to the government. The government interference in the management of private institutions has also been criticised.
PARENTS SHOULD BE WORRIED?
Another excellent article on the subject was published in the Daily Nation at the end of October. Entitled ‘New-fangled Education Bill locks out parents from their children’s schooling’ (which the Kenya Forum also recommends to its readers), the article by Mary Kibera, a programme director of Family Network International, is hard-hitting.
Mary Kibera’s opening paragraph reads: ‘Parents have never before faced the type of challenge that looms over them right now in the name of the Education Bill 2012’. Kibera poses the question, ‘Should parents worry?’ and answers it herself with one word: ‘Probably’.
PARENTS SHUT OUT FROM SEX EDUCATION DECISIONS
She goes on to state that, ‘The Education Bill totally shuts out parents’, including from the matter of sex education programmes, ‘mentioning them only when it coerces them to take their children to school under pain of a fine or imprisonment, or both’.
Mary Kiberia argues that the bill leaves parents with no say in the children’s education and ‘gives the State, through the Cabinet Secretary, supreme control over all schools including their governance and management’.
MUTULA KILONZO – BILL DOES NOT TAKE AWAY PARENTAL ROLE
The Education Minister, Mutula Kilonzo, argues that the Education Bill will not take away the parental role in the education of children, that the bill does not outlaw single-sex schools as interpreted by critics and also added that the Bill has not affected the gender status of schools.
“The Basic Education Bill, 2012 now before Parliament seeks to provide a strong foundation that obligates the society to give the best education possible to the Kenya child, the Minister for Education”, Mutula Kilonzo has said.
KILONZO OPEN TO IDEAS…
Mutula Kilonzo has publicly announced that he is open for ideas and consultations regarding the Basic Education Bill 2012. The Kenya Forum hopes he is to true to his word. Reform in Kenya’s education sector is much needed but this bill needs further scrutiny.