Confusion mars first day of junior high as school heads bemoan logistical mess

Junior secondary school

Parents assist their children to carry items during the admission of junior secondary school learners at Moi Nyeri Complex School in Nyeri County on January 30, 2023.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

The first day of reporting for Grade Seven learners in the inaugural class of Junior Secondary School (JSS) nationwide was marred by confusion, with many public school headteachers lamenting over logistical challenges.

These ranged from new teachers who were yet to report to their work stations, congestion in classrooms, slow distribution of textbooks, uniform unavailability and failure to find hosting schools for institutions that had not been cleared to teach junior secondary education.

As a pointer to the congestion crisis, in some schools, a wooden desk that accommodates four students now has six, and other schools have been forced to turn away applications from students in schools that have not been cleared to teach junior secondary.

The problem in public schools was exacerbated by the fact that many parents who could not afford high fees in private schools chose to transfer their children to government-sponsored institutions where the state is paying Sh15, 000 for each student.

Day One of JSS was also marred by protests from parents who accused schools of charging admission fees ranging between Sh3,500 and Sh5,000. However, with much more resources to quickly turnaround projects, private schools appeared to be more prepared with investment in new classrooms and laboratories.

Headteachers in public schools lamented over a shortage of classrooms. The congestion is worrying in some public schools like Nairobi Primary, Chuka Township and Shauri Yako in Homa Bay, that have been earmarked to host students from neighbouring feeder schools which lack the necessary infrastructure. 

Junior secondary school
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Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Learners coming in from those schools that were not approved to offer JSS were required to present transfer letters from their previous institutions.

Chuka Township headteacher Nahason Mungatia said they only had two classrooms, which could not accommodate an additional 30 students from the neighbouring schools and still adhere to the ministry’s guideline that one class should have a maximum of 45 learners.

“Besides the 189 learners we had last year, we expect to admit more because some schools were not approved to host junior secondary school. We have received requests from parents about the same,”said Shauri Yako headteacher John Omolo. Mr Mbondo Munyao, the headteacher at Nairobi Primary, which has 256 Grade Seven learners, said he had a shortfall of six classes with infrastructure initially meant to accommodate 600 pupils now being used by the 2,248 learners in both primary and JSS.

Olympic Primary School headteacher Silas Okumu said he expects to have admitted 733 students by tomorrow after 598 reported yesterday. Mr Okumu explained that, given the popularity of the schools, it had received so many applications that he had been forced to turn away students from five other schools.

“I have also turned down five headteachers who wanted to bring their students here because of congestion. I do not intend to take students from other schools unless it is very urgent,” he said.

Junior secondary school

Students at St Mark's Kigari Model Primary School in Embu County on January 30, 2023. The school admitted 12 junior secondary school students against a capacity of 120.

Photo credit: Charles Wanyoro | Nation Media Group

Headteachers will have to find creative ways to accommodate the many learners. Most of the public schools in Nakuru County will have to share laboratories with nearby secondary schools, before they build their own. Moi Primary School, according to the headteacher Caroline Chebet, will accommodate 460 learners.

“At Lake Kenyatta Primary School, we only have three streams to accommodate the 200 JSS learners. I’ll have to convert an extra classroom to accommodate the learners. The number continues to rise,” said Joseph Agutu, the headteacher of the school in Lamu County.

At Mwanyambo Primary School in Taita Taveta, the headteacher, Mr Livingstone Mlunga, said they are expecting to receive over 250 students for JSS but Nation understands there is a shortage of over 100 desks.

Many of the Grade Seven learners reported to their schools with their old uniforms while others wore home clothes despite the government requiring new uniforms in order differentiate primary section learners from JSS.

In Tharaka Nithi County, some learners who reported with their primary school uniforms were sent back home and given up to Wednesday to buy JSS uniforms. In other schools like Kisii Primary, the board had not settled on JSS uniforms while in others, parents had paid for uniforms but distributors had not fulfilled their orders.

In Kisumu and Vihiga counties, school heads said that most of the pupils had reported without uniforms because suppliers were given a short notice with a huge workload which had left them overwhelmed.

“The parents had paid but they have been asked to wait for two to three days before the deliveries are made, meanwhile we will continue to admit the students,” said Lake Primary School head teacher John Onga’ny. 

Junior secondary school

Learners during the admission of junior secondary school learners at Moi Nyeri Complex School in Nyeri County on January 30, 2023.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

At Moses Mudavadi Primary School in Vihiga County, Grade Seven learners will continue to use their old uniforms till the end of the year, according to a decision made by its board.

Mr Ong'any reported that the school will relyon the available staff to take charge of the classes.

“We have so far admitted 98 students but due to shortage of instructors, our existing staff will handle them as we wait for TSC posting,” he said. Other school heads remained hopeful that, despite the delayed reporting, things would still run smoothly.

Some school heads also complained that the distribution of books was slow and they were yet to receive textbooks and teachers’ guides. In Kisumu, Xaverian Primary School headteacher George Polo said they are still lacking 10 course books and teachers’ guides while Lake Primary School had only received the agriculture course book and teachers’ guide.

Junior secondary school

Junior secondary school learners in class at St Kizito, Kabichibich in Pokot South Sub-county, West Pokot County, on January 30, 2023.

Photo credit: Oscar Kaikai | Nation Media Group

At Moi Nyeri Complex School the headteacher, Mr Vincent Mwangi, said: “Even though the government has yet to provide textbooks, the school will allow learners to report to school daily this week until we are provided the necessary learning materials.”

Some parents in Taita Taveta also complained that some public schools were charging admission fees ranging between Sh3,500 and Sh5,000.

“We have been told that we have to pay before my child joins the school,” a parent at Mwanyambo Primary school told Nation. Given the crisis in public schools, parents who can afford the high fees opted for private schools, which explained the scramble for vacancies there.

In Nyandarua County, there was a scramble for space in some private primary schools, which were better prepared for JSS. At Jolly Hope Academy in Kinangop Constituency, the school had received applications more than double its capacity.

“We were prepared well in advance, we constructed four additional classes and a laboratory,” said the school’s director, Mr John Karanja.

Mr Eric Gichuki, a Director at Little Friends Academy in Naivasha, who termed the new curriculum as a capital intensive venture, said they built 11 additional classrooms to accommodate the increasing numbers of students.

Similarly, Fanaka School in Narok County had built four classrooms and laboratories. In Taita Taveta, Brighter Days Academy constructed a new block for the JSS and purchased a bus to ferry pupils to and from school.

Yesterday, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu warned all public school heads against charging registration fees for Grade Seven learners.

Mr Machogu, while monitoring the reporting of learners at Nairobi Primary, termed it an illegality and warned school heads perpetuating the practice that they would face disciplinary action.

He asked parents to report such incidences to their nearest education offices. Mr Machogu also revealed that teachers meant to teach Grade Seven learners will report to their stations from next week. He expressed satisfaction with how day one of JSS enrolment had panned out across the country. Mr Machogu said JSS students can continue to wear their old uniforms as school boards decide on the type of the uniforms they would have.

“JSS learners can use the uniform they were using before as the boards of management establish new uniforms. The schools should, however, not rush parents but give them adequate time to buy the uniforms” he said.

The Ministry of Education has allocated capitation of Sh15,000 per learner, which Mr Machogu said is expected to start being disbursed to schools in the coming weeks. He directed that at least 25 per cent of the funds be directed towards building laboratories.

“We have requested Members of Parliament to help us so that, by the end of the year, we can have a laboratory in each of our junior secondary schools using funds from the CDF [National Government Constituency Development Fund]. We will partner with the World Bank to put up 10,000 laboratories countrywide.”

He parents that the distribution of 17.9 million copies of textbooks and 423,514 copies of teachers’ guides was going on smoothly and was expected to run between January 30 and February 17. He asked schools which will not have received the books by then to report to their respective education offices.

Reporting by Esther Nyandoro, Mercy Chelangat, Mercy Mwende, Macharia Mwangi, Maureen Ongala, Kalume Kazungu, Lucy Mkanyika, Siago Cece, George Munene, Alex Njeru , Mwangi Muiruri Robert Kiplagat, Eric Matara, Waikwa Maina, Mercy Koskei, Angeline Ochieng, Derick Luvega, Elizabeth Ojina, Wycliffe Nyaberi and George Odiwuor


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