Grades One and Two primary school pupils are set to enter the third week of the term without course books for the new curriculum after a printing backlog delayed their production and distribution.
Publishers have since the year began dedicated their resources to printing Form One, Standard Eight and Seven books for distribution to public schools, and have only now switched to printing new books for the two lower primary grades.
Musyoki Muli, the chief executive of Spear Sharp Education, a printing firm, says 90 per cent of the publishers that the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KIDC) had accredited to produce Grade One and Two books are yet to complete the task.
This means, pupils who reported to school early this month are yet to commence studies as envisaged by the new competence-based curriculum (CBC), which is meant to replace the current 8-4-4 system.
“We received approvals to produce Grade One and Grade Two as we were finishing up the huge order for Form One, Standard Seven and Eight books,” Mr Muli told the Business Daily in a telephone interview.
“Capacity issues meant that we couldn’t produce copies on time. However, printing has started and distribution will begin soon with 100 per cent availability in bookshops expected by end of next week.”
A spot-check across leading bookshops in Nairobi confirmed that the books in question are yet to hit the shelves.
Piloting of the new curriculum, which bills itself as focused on skills rather than knowledge, kicked off last year among 470 select schools, 10 from every county.
This year, the programme has been escalated to cover pre-school as well as Grade One and Two, with a few Grade Three institutions also taking part ahead of its implementation next year.
At the same time, the government recently spent Sh7.5 billion to ensure every student between Class Seven and Eight in primary schools, and Form One to Four in secondary schools, gets at least six books for the core subjects.
The Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB) printed approximately 70 per cent of the nearly 10 million books with the balance apportioned to private publishers like Longhorn, Moran, Spear Sharp, and Oxford University Press among others.
Simon Sossion, the vice-chairperson of the Kenya Publishers Association, said that the publishers had received KICD approvals on January 12, which is “a bit late because printing takes time.”
The KICD, however, downplayed the gravity of the delay, arguing that the facilitators (teachers) have been equipped to teach pupils even in the absence of the new books.
“We have supplied curriculum designs to all schools involved in the pilot. This will help facilitators come up with competence-based lessons, even using the old books,” said Ms Jacqueline Onyango, a senior director at KICD.
“That said, we have been in touch with the publishers and they have assured us that everything will be fine.”
The hiccup experienced this year will serve as a good learning point for stakeholders involved in the curriculum overhaul.
Actual implementation beginning next year will cover pre-school up to Standard four and move progressively up the system, with the pioneering students completing high school in 2027. In effect, 8-4-4 will continue until the last batch sits Form Four exams in 2026.
The piloting stage will involve training of all teachers, refining of the curriculum content, development of a framework for testing, and preparation of teaching and learning materials.