Education stakeholders in the semi-arid Nyandarua North sub-county have blamed poverty for declining school enrolment.
Nyandarua North is part of Ndaragwa constituency and is the driest part of Nyandarua County.
Several public schools in the sub-county have recorded high dropout rates, as children quit classes to help fend for their families.
For instance, Aberdare Secondary, with a capacity of 600 students, has 114 students, mainly girls.
At St Mary’s Aberdare Secondary School, enrolment has plummeted from 200 one year ago to 147 now.
It is the same story at neighbouring Dedan Kimathi Secondary, which has 81 students, with only six of them in Form One.
“In a couple of months, the student population has dropped from 196 to 147,” said St Mary’s Aberdare Principal Jason Mwangi.
While blaming the ongoing drought in the area, Mr Mwangi added that most students did not return to school after they were sent home over unpaid school fees.
“This is a day school and students pay only Sh12,000 per year, but some parents cannot afford the fees,” he said.
He said students had resorted to logging in the nearby Ndaragwa forest and operating motorcycle taxis to earn a living.
He also cited drug abuse, especially marijuana smoking, and teenage pregnancies as other factors raising the dropout rate.
Dedan Kimathi Secondary Principal Beth Kiiru said people from the surrounding community were migrating to urban centres, reducing the number of young people attending public schools.
“The area lacks enough primary schools to feed us with students. Currently, this school relies on one primary school as its catchment area for students,” she said.
Nyandarua North Deputy County Commissioner Walter Ngaira has urged school heads to do whatever it takes to keep students at school.
“Teachers should not give up on urging parents to value education and let their children pursue education. They should do whatever they can, including utilising the land for agricultural activities, to afford the students lunch,” Mr Ngaira said.