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It’s Wednesday morning at Mariakani Primary school in Kajiado County. The school bell rings and the students excitedly rush back into their respectful classes to resume their mid-morning classes. A lot of noises can be heard in various classes throughout the school. One is left wondering why so much scuffle and noise in the classes. Playtime was over, they should be learning? But that is not the case; however they are scrambling for textbooks.
Sadly, this is the kind of scenario that is experienced by most schools in the country, especially primary schools in the rural areas. Many of these schools have scarce learning resources including textbooks where more than eight students may be forced to share a single textbook. In some schools, the situation is even worse because the teacher is the only one with a textbook and has to read relevant sections out to the class and write notes on the board.
Over the years textbook shortages are a common thing in public schools at both primary and secondary level. The critical shortage of textbooks and other teaching and learning materials has affected the education sector a great deal. The teachers have been the worst affected because they have been left with a bulk of workload that the textbooks are supposed to alleviate.
“Eight pupils have to share a single book. It is difficult for those in the far corners to access the contents and in the end they lose out on some concepts and it becomes difficult for pupils to attain good grades, we the teachers are forced to put extra work to bridge the gap” says a distraught class 7 teacher at Mariakani primary school.
Because of the extra workload presented, the teachers have to transfer what is in the books onto the chalkboard. This is a very tedious and time consuming process. The pupils end up relying on the teacher and the chalkboard, which makes it difficult to progress fast. If the syllabus is not completed by the time allocated by the school, the students may lack enough time for revisions, which normally prepare pupils for examinations.
Another group of students affected by the insufficient number of textbooks in schools are those in class one. Grade one students learn through seeing and experiencing the real thing (visual illustrations) and not through abstracts. Spelling and word construction foundation is also established at the first stage of primary education and it is necessary that it is strong.
Textbooks make it very easy for teachers to teach class one students especially where each pupil have their own books. It is practically impossible to transfer all the content on a chalkboard. Using abstracts with no illustrations may not help either. That’s why you find some students pronounce or write words differently from the normal way because they relied on a teacher (who may be affected by accentor handwriting) to learn .This may generally disrupt a child’s learning process.
The challenges that teachers and pupils are facing in the wake of acute shortage of textbooks and other learning materials could, however, be reduced if more schools adopted a donor-driven textbook provision scheme. Such schemes seek to counter the shortage of resources in the education sector and reduce the student-textbook ratio to 1:1.
Schools can enter into partnerships with the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, UNICEF and any other willing donors in the community. Such partnerships which can be made under the Education Transition Fund (ETF) would greatly help to produce textbooks and stationery kits in a bid to improve the quality of education in schools.