The life skills curriculum in Kenyan primary schools has for a long time been faced by a chain of challenges. These challenges have consequently undermined the effective implementation of the curriculum in order to attain the goal it was designed for. This chain of problems ranges from: teacher related issues like; the teachers’ preparation, the teachers’ attitudes and teaching methods: pupil related issues like; attitude: society influenced problems and administrative related issues as discussed below.
TEACHER RELATED PROBLEMS
1. TEACHING METHODS
A teacher plays an important role in the implementation of any curriculum. This is mainly done through the lesson. Due to time factor, many teachers often use the lecture method of teaching. Though it does not require a lot of time, it limits the implementation of the curriculum since it’s more expository and pupils’ participation in the lesson is very limited. This in turn leads to poor understanding of the content since most pupils in the primary school grasp content in situations where active interaction between them and the teacher is applied. Although good teaching entails role play and homework assignments, in life skills teaching, many teachers do not role play and almost no assignments are given to the pupils. The huge focus on the lecture method creates confusion among the pupils, making the lesson difficulty to teach hence awakening a negative attitude from the students.
2. TEACHER PREPARATION
This is another big challenge facing the implementation of the life skills curriculum in primary schools. It is very hard for teachers to teach a content which they do not fully understand. This comes as a result of lack of in-service training in the course area. According to Chimombo (2001), training in life skills education should be supported by all major players in the program for its effective success. Moest (2004) says that life skills require a learning environment in which a teacher can organize active experimental learning activities. Since most primary schools do not have adequate resources to facilitate experimental learning and many primary school teachers have little knowledge and skills on experimental teaching. They find it very challenging to prepare for a practical lesson hence they embark on expository teaching without considering their pupils’ ability to relate their teachings to real life situations.
3. TEACHERS’ ATTITUDE
According to Chimombo (2001), many teachers see the life skills education as an inferior subject since it is accorded only one lesson a week and in addition it is not examined nationally. This leads to lack of interest in teaching it. Many teachers neglect it completely and do not bother to attend it hence giving room for students to utilize it negatively by making noise in classes. The Network of Adolescence and Youth of Africa (2011), in their situational analysis survey of primary schools in the country to ascertain the level of implementation of life skills education revealed that one of the challenges facing the implementation of the curriculum was inadequate trained teachers in sex education. WHO (1993), states that the problems facing implementation of life skills curriculum arise from the lack of adequately trained teachers in this particular field to enable the implementation in the most effective way.
PUPILS’ RELATED PROBLEMS
Pupils are the immediate recipients of any curriculum. After introduction to any curriculum, they develop either a positive or a negative attitude towards it. The fact that the life skills curriculum is not examined nationally acts as a catalyst which deviates the students’ attitude towards it. They view it as time consuming hence direct the time and energy to other subjects which are examined nationally since the Kenyan education system is exam oriented.
In addition, strong influence from adults who tend to be role models to the growing children and the impact of culture and religion. Pupils lack confidence in discussing private matters such as sex issues in class especially before an adult who in this case is a teacher hence degrading the life skills curriculum.
The fact that most of the upper primary school students are in their adolescent years is also a stumbling block in the implementation of the life skills curriculum. This is because of peer pressure which pushes them to indulge in drug abuse and premarital sex. Even when essential guidance is administered, the students are still driven by this force and desire to equal their counterparts who are most probably outside the school situation. They consequently tend to neglect the teachings of the life skills curriculum which they view as barriers to the satisfaction of their needs and desires.
SOCIETY INFLUENCED CHALLENGES
The society in which the school exists also poses a number of challenges that deter the effective implementation of the life skills curriculum. Kukreja (2005) notes that the challenges arising from outside the school situation include: peer pressure, traditional beliefs, religion and initiation practices. According to Bandura (1977), interactions between the moral upright child and a group of children who are immoral results to the conformation of the moral child. Moest (2004) observes that traditional practices such as female circumcision may work against health awareness created through programs initiated by life skills curriculum.
The Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network (2011) denotes that religious conservatism bars the effective implementation of the life skills curriculum through preaching against the teaching of sex education on the basis that it spoils the young generation.
ADMINISTRATIVE RELATED CHALLENGES
Administrative issues also pose some challenges to the effective implementation of the life skills curriculum in primary schools. Though the government via The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (K.I.C.D) incorporated the life skills curriculum in the primary schools, little support is offered by the government. The inadequacy of the government financing the life skills curriculum has to a larger extend stalled any further developments in the life skills curriculum implementation. The ministry of Education has also sat back and is watching the fall of the life skills curriculum in our schools. Recently, the ministry had their attempt of making sex education a subject in secondary schools which would include “practical” demonstration and issuance of contraceptive criticized and rejected by religious leaders.
On the other hand, Boards of Managers (B.O.M) of both public and private schools have drawn much of their attention in the schools’ academic excellence while neglecting the issue of life skills hence compromising the pupils’ moral standards.