Education CS Machogu's order on school hours sparks controversy

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu at Nairobi Primary School

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu at Nairobi Primary School on January 30, 2023, during the reporting of Junior Secondary School learners at the school.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Controversy is brewing over the push by the Education Ministry to enforce a ban on classes outside stipulated teaching hours that forces students to report to schools early and leave late.

Teachers say they will comply with Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu’s directive curbing early morning and late evening classes but point to challenges that force them to resort to extra lessons, such as understaffing.

They say that, given the teacher shortages, tutors arrange the extra lessons to help them cover the syllabus and the ban will disadvantage students in day schools as their counterparts in boarding schools continue with the additional lessons.

Teachers also say parents prefer their children to take extended lessons instead of leaving school early to “loiter in the streets.”

Kenya Primary School Head Teachers Association chairman Johnson Nzioka said the directive by the CS will be followed even as he outlined the unique circumstances that compel schools to arrange for extra lessons. He said the move by the ministry will have a huge impact on day schools.

“A child who has had some extra hours with a teacher because they are in boarding school has an advantage over the one who goes home at 4 pm,” he said.


Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Deputy Secretary-General Hesbon Otieno said arranging for lessons outside the stipulated classroom period was necessitated by understaffing in schools.

“The morning and evening classes are usually an arrangement between the teachers and their boards of management in individual schools due to the workload where teachers are under-staffed, making them feel like they need additional hours to be able to handle all subjects in an efficient manner,” Mr Otieno explained. Mr Nzioka also voiced parents’ concerns that prompted the evening and the morning classes.

“It is a call from the parents that the children should stay in class. Parents prefer that, instead of them going to loiter in the streets, they should be contained in the schools where they are safer than the estate. It is important that some challenges parents are facing be considered,” said Mr Nzioka.

“We have seen it is a challenge to let the children come to school late because nobody else is on the road and every other person has left to work. Who are they crossing the roads with? The big question is when they are left in their houses, what are they left doing without the supervision of their parents. The best place they can be is in the school, “ he added.

Mr Nzioka went on: “If we have a child in Standard Eight leaving school at 4 pm, what damage would they have incurred in two hours when they are alone? Let’s listen to the parents and do the best we can for the benefit of the child. We keep the child secure and when they are in school they are benefiting and learning.”

The CS has lamented that teachers were overburdening students, leaving them with little or no time to rest. Mr Machogu warned schools against forcing students to report before dawn or leave after dusk.

“With the resumption of the education calendar, the government will be vigilant on reporting time of students. Classes should start at 8.00 am and end exactly at 3.45 pm,” Mr Machogu stated, adding that students sometimes wake up at 4 am to prepare for school. 

“You will meet students walking in the streets before dawn so that they can make time for remedial classes. We will not allow that, and we will also take action against schools that ferry students home as late as 10 pm,” the CS warned. Kenya National Parents Association (NPA) Chairperson Silas Obuhatsa blamed parents for dropping pupils too early, recommending that parents with learners in distant schools consider transferring them to nearby institutions.

“In places like Nairobi, we know that some parents drop their children off as early as 6 am yet in day schools, teachers only start arriving at 7 am. This is irresponsibility on their part and they are not only punishing but exposing their children to a lot of harm,” said Mr Obuhatsa.

He urged parents to obey the orders of the ministry.

Unhealthy competition

Mr Otieno said the ministry’s move will not affect the performance between the private and public schools, saying, the competition was the driving force behind pupils being subjected to extra learning hours.

“Private schools are marketed by their performance and rankings. Complete eradication of such unwarranted competition will be the first step to ensuring that pupils get time outside the classroom for extracurricular activities,” he added.

Mr Otieno insisted that the time allocated on the timetable was enough, but only if all public schools are well-staffed. He called on the CS to facilitate teacher recruitment.