We regard it as unjustifiable that publicly funded schools are still permitted to teach RE solely from their own exclusive viewpoint, and in a confessional way. Such a situation not only undermines the integrity of a state education system but also undermines young people’s religious freedom.
It is worth noting that not all pupils at such schools are admitted on religious grounds in accordance with their parents’ stated religion. Some choose a school because of its proximity. In other areas, a shortage of school places means many parents have no option other than to send their children to a faith school.
As a result, the subject too often morphs into religious instruction or acts as a conduit for promoting religious belief.
We argue that in a religiously plural democracy it is inappropriate for any belief system to be privileged in publicly funded schools. The current religious education curriculum privileges Christianity, Islam and Hindu by stipulating that the religious education agreed syllabus must reflect that the religious traditions in Kenya are, in the main, Christian, Islam, and Hindu while taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Kenya.
Policymakers may not wish to move away from the subject of religious education for political and cultural reasons, or for fear of the condemnation of religious leaders protecting their self-interest. This is why we are moving to court on this issue.
2. Classroom evangelism
The lack of impartiality in the teaching of RE is compounded by the significant number of Christian/ Muslim groups involved with the provision of religious education. We are concerned that the presence of such groups fundamentally undermines the objectivity and educational integrity of religious education.
By packaging proselytization as education, well-funded and well-organized religious groups are fulfilling their objectives to ‘bring children to Jesus’ or ‘convert children to Islam’ by providing schools with manipulative teaching resources and preaching to pupils during schools visits.
With religious education regarded as a low priority for many schools and specialist RE teachers being in short supply, evangelical groups are exploiting this situation by increasingly approaching schools with offers to contribute to and/or deliver work related to religious education.
3. Unclear purpose
The partial and evangelist nature of some RE teaching is facilitated by a degree of ambiguity about the specific aims and purpose of religious education.