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Initiative Set to Boost Literacy

The Daily Nation, 26 February 2001

A task force has been appointed to draft amendments to the adult education Act to ensure it reflects current realities.

The draft amendment Bill that spells out the roles of the Adult Education Board is expected to be ready in a month's time.

The new Bill, to be tabled in Parliament later, is to streamline the operations of the department and ensure it expands adult literacy programmes.

The adult literacy programmes are tottering on the brink of collapse due to the obsolete legislation, inadequate funding and shortage of teachers.

More than 50 participants at a seminar at the Kenya College of Communications Technology, Mbagathi, last week mandated the task force to come up with a draft policy to guide service providers and set quality standards.

Amendments to the Act were considered necessary to give the Board of Adult Education autonomy and enable it to work effectively with its partners.

Participants noted that the board was toothless and was unable to tackle current challenges facing the programmes.

In particular, the Act does not provide for the creation of a secretariat to run literacy activities. Neither does it stipulate the mode of membership and inspections.

Moreover, the board lacks powers to issue guidelines to various players and source funds for the association.

The participants, who included provincial adult education officers and academics admitted that the board, under the current laws, lacked benchmarks for ensuring accountability and quality in running programmes.

&There is need for us to register providers of Adult and Continuing Education (ACE) programmes with non-governmental organisations and the private sector,& the participants resolved.

They are seeking to empower the board so that it can advise, initiate, coordinate, monitor and assess adult education programmes and other forms of basic education.

It is envisaged that the board will be given teeth to &license and regulate ACE programmes&. It will also advise the government on related issues.

In a key presentation by the deputy director of the Department of Adult Education, Mrs Joyce Kebathi, the board should network with, among others, universities and NGOs in providing continuing education. The network should include training, community education and research.

Mrs Kebathi said networking will stamp out duplication of resources and avoid waistcoats.

&It will allow us to share ideas, experiences strategies and pool together resources,& she said.

Opening the seminar, Labour and Human Resource Development Permanent Secretary Joshua Terer said the obsolete legislation had frustrated efforts to provide access to adult education.

&It is imperative that the adult's right to education be enshrined in our Constitution and be subject of an up to date legislation,& he said.

The existing Act that regulates adult education was enacted in 1966 and was revised in 1967.

&It is now obsolete and completely incapable of responding to the current challenges facing adult education,& Mr Terer said.

He cited some of the faulty areas as including failure to provide the board with the basis to form a secretariat, ensure accountability and quality control.

A new dimension necessary in adult education would be to ensure older people acquired new information technology &within the contexts of life-long learning&.

Mr Terer regretted that economic and social challenges had frustrated the country's efforts to provide education for all.

The 1999 census results released recently show that the number of illiterate Kenyans stood at four million. However, statistics provided by Vocational Training Minister Isaac Ruto late last year indicated that more than eight million Kenyans -35 per cent- of the total population were illiterate.

This is largely attributed to the declining enrolment ratios in the primary school, the high wastage through drop out and low transition rates to secondary schools.

The chairperson of the Adult Education Board, Prof Florida Karani, said the board wants to register adult education teachers.

&Since we do not have a secretariat, our role has been limited to coordination,& she said.

Prof Karani, also the vice-chancellor of the University of Nairobi, called for proper structures for inspection of adult education activities.

Closing the seminar, Commission for Higher Education Secretary Justin Irina challenged the Ministry of Education to address &pragmatically& the root cause of low enrolment ratios in primary schools and the ever decreasing completion rates.

Prof Irina proposed that the Government shifts its policy from emphasis on formal education to non-formal education.

The director of adult education, Mrs Elizabeth Wafula, said more than three million adults had benefited from the programme since it was launched more than 20 years ago.

Currently, there are about 101,000 adults enrolled in the programme. She, however, said lack of facilities hampered the progress of the programmes. Lack of working tools like stationery had forced some learners to drop out, she added.

The number of full-time teachers had gone down due to death, resignation or retirement.

The situation has been worsened by the ongoing retrenchment, a situation Mrs Wafula says was likely to hurt the war against illiteracy.

Copyright 2001 The Daily Nation. Distributed by allAfrica.com. For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.