The Cabinet has made a bold move to approve proposals contained in the Basic Education Bill 2012.
The Bill, which makes education free and compulsory for every child, is among the raft of measures sought by the ministry to ensure education for all. According to the proposed Bill, it will soon be criminal for parents to deny their children basic education.
Parents will be mandated to ensure their children receive pre-primary, primary and secondary education failure to which they would be jailed for a year, with the option of Sh100,000 fine or both. The Bill also provides a one-year jail term, Sh5,000 fine or both if the child fails to attend school regularly.
The Bill also states that it is illegal to employ a child of school age and punitive action would be taken against those who exercise cruelty towards children.
A report by the Ministry of Education released early this month showed more than 800,000 children of school-going age were out of school because of child labour.
The move by the Cabinet to give the Bill a nod came at a time Mr Mutula ordered schools to stop extra tuition during the holidays. This week, there has been debate over the pros and cons of extra tuition. Those who support the extra tuition say it helps weak students. Those against it say some teachers use it to exploit parents.
However, once the proposed Bill is passed by Parliament, parents and teachers found engaging in or abetting the practice, which is popular in public and private schools countrywide, will face criminal charges and risk jail terms. It is worrying that even after the introduction of free primary education by President Kibaki in 2003, many children who should be in school continue to roam the streets while others are forced into child labour by their parents or guardians.
We laud the Cabinet’s move to give a nod to the Bill that will punish parents or guardians who fail to take their children to school. Denying children a right to education amounts to denying them opportunities in life.
We are a country that has been talking about making great strides in development. In line with this, we have embraced Vision 2030, the country’s development blueprint whose objective is to help transform Kenya into a “middle-income country providing a high quality life to all its citizens by the year 2030”. In its social pillar, the blueprint targets investing in people to improve the quality of life by targeting a cross-section of human and social welfare projects and programmes. Education falls under this pillar.
For us to attain the dream, we must ensure we set a strong foundation for the future generation. That is why we should not gamble with the education of our children. Again, we must remember that denying our children education amounts to denying them their basic rights.
At the same time, we must not lose focus on the second Millennium Development Goal which aims at achieving universal education for all by 2015. Kenya, as a signatory, has pledged to play its part to make this a reality.