Last week, the Ministry of Education asked KCPE candidates to revise the choices of sub-county secondary schools. This was aimed at ensuring that the schools they select for possible placement and admission are within commutable distance from their homes.
This was well meant. However, Beryl Otieno criticised the move in a letter, “Don’t think of abolishing boarding schools” (DN, February 19), saying the ministry was abolishing boarding schools.
For a long time, Kenyans have held boarding schools in high regard, thinking they are superior to day schools. The misconception is heightened by the numerous examination results that have put boarders on top of other students, giving them a better career path because of grades. Ms Otieno argues that lack of distraction in boarding facilities provides the students with ample time to study, revise for exams and learn without a break.
However, there is as much learning in day secondary schools as in boarding ones. The ministry has rules and regulations allocating appropriate time within which all school activities, including teaching hours, should be conducted. For example, the Basic Education Regulations (2015) provide the official hours for classes and co-curricular activities from Monday to Friday.
The timetable applies to boarding and day secondary schools alike. It’s based on scientific studies on the amount of time required of every subject to finish the syllabus as provided by KICD. And, like their boarding colleagues, day school students have the opportunity to equally receive quality tuition. They can also interact with their respective local environment, learning priceless life lessons from it.
One cannot, therefore, argue that day scholars stop learning once they leave the school compound. Education takes place in a formal school environment, on pathways and in homes. It’s not, therefore, true that learning is 24/7 only in boarding schools.
Regrettably, some boarding school heads believe the only source of education or knowledge is continuous classroom tuition. This environment is stressful and a nuisance to students.
Students in day secondary schools engage in highly productive and inherently educational activities at home. They gain valuable life skills as they participate in domestic chores and farming. This fact has been proved by the bewildering array of talents that bloomed among learners during the long Covid-19-induced school closure.
We should not glorify the teaching that takes place outside the official teaching hours as per section 84 of the 2015 regulations... that is training students to pass exams, turning boarding schools into ‘conditioned zoos’. What matters is the curriculum design, teaching and learning materials at the disposal of learners as well as the quality of the teachers.
Agot Bonface, Nairobi