Primary school heads have called for the abolishment of boarding secondary schools, blaming the institutions for worsening indiscipline among learners.
They proposed that secondary boarding schools be converted into day learning institutions to create room for parents to instil discipline in their children. The call came against the backdrop of increased cases of indiscipline in boarding schools as reflected through massive destruction of property and learning disruption.
Doing away with boarding schools was one of the resolutions made yesterday at the close of the 17th annual Kenya Primary Schools Headteachers Association (Kepsha) delegates’ conference in Mombasa. The four-day event was attended by more than 23,000 heads.
"Kepsha proposes that secondary schools become day schools so that parents are involved in raising their children. We will collaborate with the Kenya National Parents’ Association to promote strong partnership, coordination and parental engagement to help children’s re-entry to schools and 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary," stated the resolution read by Kepsha national secretary Philip Mitei.
The 100 per cent transition policy has been blamed for congestion in boarding schools, stretching existing infrastructure beyond their capacity.
Congestion has been blamed by secondary school principals for the runaway indiscipline. Learners who exit more than 23,000 public primary schools and 11,000 private institutions are squeezed into 10,359 public secondary schools and 1,600 private ones.
Guidance and counselling
“The kind of (mis)behaviour children have in secondary schools shall only be curbed by letting children be with their parents most of the time for guidance and counselling. As the child goes home, they are guided and at school, they find a different kind of guidance from teachers. We can instil discipline together. We shall have no more burning of schools,” said Kepsha chairman Johnson Nzioka.
Yesterday, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha welcomed the debate on the fate of boarding secondary schools.
“First of all before we talk about indiscipline, we should ask ourselves whether we need boarding schools or not? In an ideal society where people are normal, boarding schools are supposed to flourish, isn’t it? But it is society to decide whether they continue to be there or not,” he told head teachers of national schools during a conference in Kisumu.
“Where we are headed, I want to join the debate because maybe CBC will solve the problem once they reach high school because we have given them proper grounding.”
Abolishing boarding schools would mean turning all national, extra-county and county schools into day schools. These categories are much sought after, as they are associated with good academic performance due to their superior facilities and staffing compared to sub-county schools, which hold most of the secondary school learners.
Mr Nzioka noted there is a gap in children’s upbringing and called for collective responsibility and involvement of teachers, parents, political leadership and other stakeholders.
He further warned against reintroduction of caning in schools, saying errant learners should instead be guided and counselled.
Kepsha’s resolution contrasts sharply with the views of Prof Magoha, who in July ruled out rushed abolishment of boarding schools even as pressure piled from teachers’ unions.
Prof Magoha said such a move would have to be gradual. He has on numerous occasions called for reintroduction of caning, which was outlawed by the Children’s Act, 2001.
Mr Nzioka blamed politicians for serving as bad role models to children following Wednesday’s chaotic scenes in the National Assembly where MPs engaged in fistfights.
“When they are fighting, what do they expect children to do? But we are not for caning, children should be guided. That’s why we support the inclusion of parents in disciplining children so that we mould the child together. There has been a disconnect somewhere and this is the gap we should close,” added Mr Nzioka.
National Parents’ Association chairperson Nicholas Maiyo told the Daily Nation that such a proposal would pose challenges and take time to actualise.
“It’s not practical, especially for national schools. There are schools that can’t be closed in arid and semi-arid areas where learners come from far. It would take a lot of time to abolish boarding schools. As we wait for that time, we can use other means to instil discipline in children,” he said, adding that day schools would work best under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).
A report by a task force appointed to make recommendations on the implementation of the CBC appears to favour day schools, especially for junior secondary school.
“Designate day secondary schools will be the key transition point into secondary education except for arid areas, areas with long commutable distances and inadequate sub-county schools,” the report reads.
“Day-schooling promotes parents’ engagement and involvement in their children’s learning and development.”
At the same time, the head teachers want their employer, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), to pay a hardship allowance to teachers transferred in accordance with the delocalisation policy. They also appealed for married teachers not to be separated through the policy. They said they would support the Ministry of Education in the implementation of TSC policies for improvement in management of schools.
The association promised to work with the government to provide more desks to schools in 2022 and map out learning institutions in the slums so that all bright but needy learners are assisted. In their proposals, the school heads said they would continue lobbying and engaging the ministry to ensure all schools receive funds by the beginning of the term and further increase capitation.
"We shall support the process of engineering and refining the National Education Management Information System (Nemis) number to enhance efficiency in data collection. Kepsha will work with education officials to address issues of teachers’ transfers, capacity, funding to schools and the gaps experienced when learners transfer as CBC is implemented," they resolved.
The association said it would work with education officials and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to ensure textbooks are supplied for every new grade before learners can transition.
The teachers threw their weight behind the CBC, saying they would fully support its implementation. However, they urged the TSC to create opportunities for their capacity enhancement through seminars, conferences, workshops and short courses.
“We will support the government’s initiative of integrating ICT into education through digital learning programmes. We want to recruit new members to join our association. We shall engage education stakeholders to address challenges faced by the head teachers in our quest to positively influence learning outcomes,” he added.
Additional reporting by David Muchunguh