By Fridah Okachi
Early childhood education is a crucial stepping stone in developing a child’s future by offering a platform to learn and interact with peers. In general, investing in Early Childhood Development (ECD) has strong returns to individuals, communities, and the national economy.
Over the years, early childhood education in Kenya has received massive support from the government, especially with the onset of devolution. Despite the progress made, like hiring more teachers and constructing new facilities, Kenya’s early childhood sector faces several challenges.
The investments have seen ECDE record the highest number of institutions across all school levels as per the CDIP report for Nairobi.
According to Dr. Teresa Mwoma, a senior lecturer at Kenyatta University and an early childhood specialist, the lack of enough teachers is the major setback facing the sector.
The Ministry of Education data indicates that the teacher-pupil ratio is 1:37 in public pre-primary schools and 1:21 in private institutions. The figures vary from the recommended 1:25 pupils.
Figures released by the ministry further indicate that there has been a steady growth in the number of primary education learning institutions and enrollments. The number of pre-primary learning centres increased from 41,779 in 2017 to 46,530 as of 2019. On enrolment, there were 2.7 million learners in pre-primary centres as of 2019.
To determine the actual situation on the ground, Mtaani Radio visited several institutions across the city. At Goodrich Academy in Dagoretti sub-county, Irene Mwache, an EDE teacher, notes that challenges such as insufficient learning materials still exist, but she acknowledged improvements in the sector.
She cites the lack of books and desks as the key obstacle in addition to the inadequate staff. Notably, most institutions grapple with a lack of appropriate desks to cater to the ECDE category.
The African Population Health Center report indicates that over 90% of the ECDE schools have age-appropriate desks and tables for learners. In comparison, slightly 84% of ECDE schools have age-appropriate chairs and benches.
Elsewhere, at Westlands Early Childhood Education Center, a public institution within Kangemi ward, Maurine Shimbika, with over ten years of experience, indicates that the sector has changed over the years.
Still, the high number of pupils poses a challenge compared to available resources.
In general, early childhood centers serve a critical stepping stone of preparing children for the future. Therefore, more investments need to be made to address emerging challenges.
Image: An ECDE class in session. Source: Globalgiving.org
This story was produced by Mtaani Radio in partnership with Code for Africa, Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET) and the Catholic Media Council with support from the German Cooperation as a part of the Our County Our Responsibility project.