Nakuru County government has rolled out an ambitious school feeding programme to help boost enrolment in Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) centres in the region.
County Executive Committee Member for Education, Youth, ICT and e- Government Zipporah Ngugi said the County had embarked on a campaign to enhance delivery of early childhood education where they were keen to employ more teachers and refurbish the ECD centres.
The CECM regretted that education standards in some parts of the county had been dwindling due to lack of access to basic early childhood education, adding that refurbishing the centres and employing more teachers will help increase the enrolment.
She indicated that Governor Susan Kihika’s administration seeks to establish the feeding programme to ensure pupils get nutritious meals, clean water, child-friendly toilets and hand washing facilities, a move she said will guarantee comfort and retention of all pupils in ECDEs across the county.
Ms. Ngugi made the remarks during a consultative meeting with various stakeholders and development partners to discuss areas of collaboration to be integrated into the implementation of projects as the devolved unit prepares its 5-year County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP 2023-2027).
“Early childhood education is a crucial stage of human development and we are seeking to give it the attention it deserves,” said Ms. Ngugi.
She called on those with children living with special needs to take them to integrated schools to enable them have equal education opportunities like the normal ones.
As part of the campaign, Ms. Ngugi added that the county government had already employed more than 300 teachers on permanent and pensionable terms, in a bid to put the institutions to good use. Initially, parents had been shouldering the burden of paying ECDE teachers who were employed on contract.
Ms. Ngugi was happy that all ECDE teachers absorbed by the devolved unit will benefit from a new scheme of service developed by the Department of Education together with the County Public Service Board, the Ministry of Public Service, the Public Service Commission, and the Teachers Service Commission.
Ms. Ngugi noted that the new terms of service for ECDE teachers provide better remuneration for the ECDE teachers who have been underpaid for a long time and also provide for a clear career progression path.
She observed that shortage of public ECDE centres has given rise to private nursery schools, locking out children from poor backgrounds whose families cannot afford the fees charged at the private institutions.
The consultative meeting was attended by representatives from Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE), International Labour Organisations (ILO), Feeding Futures, Build Africa Kenya (BAK), KEPSHA, Metro World Child, Moran Publishers, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), EIDU and KCB Foundation.
Nakuru County Assembly Education Committee Chairperson Peter Njoroge Maina said that early childhood education forms an integral part in providing a solid foundation for children in their onset years of education, saying the feeding programme will motivate parents to send their children to school.
He said his committee would ensure the feeding programme is allocated more funds in the next financial year.
He said that a strict system of monitoring the performance of the teachers to be recruited has been formulated as means of ensuring that there is firm and continuous adherence to the guidelines in the provision of quality of education to the young children.
At the inception of devolution, the national government handed over the management of the pre-primary institutions to county governments.
Education experts say infrastructure and ECDE staff remains a major setback in most counties since the advent of devolution.
By Esther Mwangi and Charloth Chepkemoi