The Promises and Gaps of Community-based Learning

Prof. George Magoha

Community-based learning is a new normal in the education sector in Kenya. It is gradually becoming a mainstream adage in our localities. Teachers are also turning their attention to the new teaching and learning approach, which is rich in promises

The programme aims at promoting practical knowledge and skills among learners in the community. It also keeps them occupied during this COVID-19 period, leading to reduced cases of teenage pregnancies and drug abuse. Clearly, CBL is a worthwhile undertaking, but is our country prepared for it?

Speaking to fellow teachers about this emerging issue, I often get varying responses. TSC has unintentionally revealed a multiplicity of judgment among its employees. From what I gather, teachers are saying things like these:

“The kids will not show up for this programme.”

“I am a young and energetic man, and I get girls coming for lessons with their cleavages exposed, and thighs shaking invitingly.”

“You will get 20-years in prison man, control your manhood.”

“I will take the students to my farm to teach them weeding and cultivation lessons.”

Are these not part of the activities envisaged under the community-based learning? I wonder. Yet it raises issues of professionalism and ethics.

Teachers often subscribe to an unqualified code of ethics when they take “oath of office”, but the animal instinct in them might unravel in peculiar circumstances.

The Teachers Services Commission has rightfully set out some guidelines for the community-based teaching and learning programme, but it looks more of an informal engagement than a learning process. Whatever the students and their teachers do under the trees or in assembly halls will depend on the professionalism and seriousness of the teacher.

This thing requires a teacher with unquestionable character and dedication to support learners under all circumstances. In the formal schools, the head teachers and the system as a whole create some rules and procedures to ensure responsible leadership on the part of the teacher. Yet under such circumstances, there were still cases of teachers impregnating young girls.

In the new system, learning is guided by a completely strange framework. One that no one among us teachers can confidently and conclusively claim to understand. We do our part by penning down our personal information and appending our signatures on the white sheets. Beyond that, we use our natural or nurtured skills to mentor a vigorous lot of teenagers and children.

Most of us will adhere to the required professional standards. We are committed to the course of education, but we are not supernatural either. We need a set of rules to follow. We require clearly stipulated objectives of learning and a proper curriculum.

Who will train teachers to adapt to the new norm? The problem is that we have given teachers too much expectations. We have raised the bar too high. We believe the teacher will automatically fit in without training, preparation, and motivation. Educators are told to register and gather children within their communities. Teach them life skills, they say. Cultivation, weeding, agribusiness, debate, stories. There comes the elephant in the room. Whatever stories the students will tell, the teacher may not be willing to tell.

If the teacher fails to control whatever happens in those halls and shades, what criteria will he use to restore sanity? How will we enforce order under trees and open grounds in the villages? This thing has come too soon. Too little is known and too much expectations are placed on the teacher. Will it be effective? Time will tell.

What I like about the CBL is its attempt at collaboration. It appears that the programme will involve multidisciplinary teams including local administration, Nyumba Kumi, TSC, parents, and teachers. This is a good enterprise because it embeds learning into the community system, making learners to gain practical knowledge and skills that are relevant to their social and cultural values. I believe this approach has the potential of developing responsible citizens and future leaders. Only that the guidelines are limited, too broad, and vague.

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