The rise of private schools and essence of education
What you need to know:
- According to the Teachers Service Commission’s figures, the teachers shortage in both primary and secondary schools stands at around 60,000.
- Kessha chairman Kahi Indimuli says the campaign to achieve 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools has created congestion in schools.
- Mr Kenyatta said last week that the government would put more money in public schools to adequately accommodate the high student numbers.
More Kenyans are enrolling their children in private schools, leading to an upsurge in the number of academies and an increase in tuition and other fees countrywide.
Though basic education — both primary and secondary — is generally free or heavily subsidised by the government, the wealthy and the middle class are shunning public schools in favour of private institutions, most of which charge anything between Sh50,000 and Sh800,000 a term.
The government introduced free and compulsory primary education in 2003 in line with a global push to scrap all charges after the adoption of the universal declaration of human rights in 1948, and which declared education a human right.
In secondary, the government has waived all fees in day schools, while parents pay between Sh50,000 and Sh75,000 yearly for their children in boarding schools, depending on the institution’s category.
In addition, students get free books and the government takes care of infrastructure and teaching staff.
Yet, despite this flow of national largesse, parents are opting to take out huge loans or direct their savings to pay considerable amounts of money in fees to private academies.
According to official Ministry of Education figures, the number of private primary schools has more than doubled over the past four years from 7,742 in 2014 to 16,594 this year.
On the other hand, public primary schools have only increased by 1,728 from 21,718 in 2014 to 23,446 currently.
A similar trend obtains in secondary schools, where private ones have increased fourfold - from 1,048 in 2014 to 4,310 currently. Public schools have only increased by 1,731, from 7,686 in 2014 to 9,417 this year.
In the category of private schools are the high-cost ones that specifically target the middle class and the very wealthy, who prefer to enrol their children in institutions offering foreign curricula.
Dr Geoffrey Wango, an education lecturer at the University of Nairobi, says parents opting for private education are simply going for quality.
“Private schools are obviously better equipped, not congested and mostly well-organised and structured,” he says, adding that the country’s rising population has also created the demand for more schools, which the government has not been able to cope with.
He also blames staff shortages in public schools, poor teacher morale and general indiscipline among the learners for the upsurge in academies.
The government’s efforts to make basic education affordable to millions of parents have paid off, resulting in an enrolment surge from around 5.3 million in 2003 to around 8.8 million currently in primary. In secondary, the enrolment has risen from an average of 800,000 to 2.8 million.
Yet, this influx has come at a huge cost for the schools, most of which are grappling with congestion because their infrastructure has not been expanded to cater for the student inflow.
According to the Teachers Service Commission’s figures, the teachers shortage in both primary and secondary schools stands at around 60,000.
“While the elite in years gone by previously favoured schools such as Mang’u, Starehe, Alliance and the like, the tables have turned and they are now rushing to high-cost academies,” Chris Khaemba, a former principal of Alliance High and currently a director and co-founder of Nova Pioneer Academies, a chain of schools in Kenya and South Africa, says.
He says parents are more discerning and they are taking advantage of globalisation trends and availability of information on marketable courses in a bid to give their children an edge in the job market.
Moved by the sorry situation in public schools, President Uhuru Kenyatta said last week that the government would put more money in public schools to adequately accommodate the high student numbers.
“I don’t mind our schools getting overcrowded, because it shows that our children are learning and they have not been left behind. But I will make sure we have the right infrastructure in place in all public schools,” he told a gathering at Mang’u High School, which is itself grappling with a huge population surge from about 1,259 in 2015 to 1,740 this year.
Mr Khaemba says he expects to see increased agitation by parents for better-equipped public schools, because millions of Kenyans cannot afford enrolling their children in academies.
Over the past three years, more than 100 public schools have been hit by fires, which have razed dormitories, dining halls and administration buildings.
Experts have blamed a communication breakdown between the students and teachers for the chaos.
They have also pointed fingers at frustrations and mental torture among students due to congestion and generally dilapidated infrastructure in many schools.
It is this disarray in public schools that has created the demand for academies, which have manageable student populations, top-notch facilities and a healthy teacher-to-learner ratio of about 1:30, compared with most public schools, which operate with an average rate of 1:60.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli says the campaign to achieve 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools has created congestion in classrooms, dormitories, school fields and toilets.
“This threatens to lower the quality of learning as the environment is not conducive enough, makeshift houses made of tents have been converted into classrooms, staffrooms and dining halls,” he says.
Some of the elite schools that have recently been registered include Woodcreek Schools and Crawford International School — both of which are international schools located on Kiambu-Ruiru Road.
Woodcreek Schools, which sits on 30 acres, was opened in January last year and offers International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) curriculum, which is examined by International Examinations Board.
The school's management has capped the capacity of each class at 15.
The facility, which has a population of close to 100 pupils, also has a fully operational primary school and junior high school units which range from year one to year 11, and pre-university — year 12 and year 13 — where students go up to the A-levels.
The kindergartens have television sets while the upper classes have large digital projectors, interactive smart boards, white boards and computers.
According to the director, Mr Peter Karoki, the infrastructure, which include carpeted floors for lower classes and equipment, have been designed to offer quality education and matches the fees.
“What matters in schools is infrastructure, facilities, human resource and environment. It is very difficult to provide such in high-end areas because you need adequate space, which is no longer available, Mr Karoki says.
Deputy Principal Daniel Muthee says they are in the process of putting up an amphitheatre to nurture art talents among the students, a library complex, science complex to cater for science subjects, innovation centre and boarding facility.
To educate your child at the school, which also has invested in extracurricular activities, the fees range between Sh93,000 and Sh105,000 per term for kindergarten and between Sh160,000 and Sh315,000 for years one to 11.
Crawford International School, which also opened in January last year and has capacity for 1,700 students, offers the Cambridge syllabus, and is part of South Africa’s JSE-listed ADvTECH Group, Africa’s largest private education provider.
The facility was designed by Boogertman and Partners Architects, and developed in conjunction with Rendeavour, one of Africa’s leading urban developers, and owner of Tatu City.
Just like at Woodcreek Schools, the classrooms are equipped with digital projectors, interactive smart boards and white boards.
Laptops are provided for all teaching staff. The design earned the school a finalist spot at the acclaimed International World Architecture Festival in Amsterdam.
The school’s managing director, Ms Jenny Coetzee, said: “Our decision to come to Kenya is informed by the insatiable demand from parents and students for international, yet locally relevant education systems in Kenya that can impart their children the right way and foster their career growth and development."
To educate your children in the school, the fees per term range between Sh136,667 and Sh146,667 for kindergarten and between Sh170,000 and Sh475,000 for the years one to 13.
Nova Pioneer Education Group, a Pan-African independent school network offering preschool through secondary education for students from ages three to 19, started a primary school in the area in 2016 and boys’ and girls’ secondary school, which started last year.
Nova Pioneer is situated on 20 acres of land along the Kiambu-Ruiru Road and includes modern dormitories, classrooms, an administration building, dual kitchen and dining building.
It offers the local curriculum with a strong emphasis on innovation, leadership, integrity and life skills.
The school, according to its website, states: “We prepare the next generation of leaders and innovators through world-class teaching methods with an emphasis on 21st century skills”.
Additional reporting by Eric Wainaina