What you need to know:
- At least 400,000 out of 1,179,192 learners joining Form One may not have learning spaces since only 747,161 left schools last year.
- A look at the results of Form One selection shows that some schools have been allocated more students than they can cater for.
A fresh headache over congestion and Covid-19 infection fears await headteachers, learners and parents as schools reopen today for Term One of academic year 2021.
At least 400,000 out of 1,179,192 learners joining Form One may not have learning spaces since only 747,161 learners left secondary schools last year.
A spot check by Nation revealed that many schools are still creating extra space, including classrooms, dormitories, laboratories and libraries to accommodate larger numbers of learners.
“There’s an increase of students across the board. We’ve not increased the capacity of secondary schools in tandem with the number of earners leaving Standard Eight,” Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) chairperson Kahi Indimuli told Nation in a recent interview.
And, although some parents will opt to take their children to private secondary schools, these have a capacity of only 70,000 and congestion in public institution will persist.
A look at the results of Form One selection also shows that some schools have been allocated more students than they can cater for.
Kagumo High in Nyeri, for instance, was allocated 398 students against a capacity of 285, Tenwek Boys High School got 400, yet it can only accommodate 272, while Kakamega School was given 500 against a capacity of 380.
At the same time, enrolment at Chavakali High School is expected to rise to 2,120 when Form Ones report although it has space for only 1,600 students.
“It’s difficult to comprehend how the government wants to handle quality of education. The new number of teachers is inadequate and there are still schools without basic infrastructure like laboratories,” secretary-general of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers Akello Misori told Nation yesterday.
Secondary schools are facing an acute teacher shortage with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) currently recruiting 9,000 staff.
The commission will today hold a stakeholders forum in Nairobi on teacher preparedness for the full reopening of schools. The congestion in schools, coupled with staffing challenges remain a major drawback for the 100 per cent transition policy.
The government has set aside funds to hire 5,000 teachers yearly over the past four years although this still fall short of optimal levels.
School boards of management are forced to employ teachers to plug the gaps amid budgetary constraints.
“There’s no policy on the 100 per cent transition but just a general directive. We’ve not been changing the system. We’ve just put it on life support,” Mr Jonathan Wesaya, the Tathmini Consulting CEO, told Nation.
“Schools are congested and principals have to create routines specific to the schools. Holding a morning parade for a school with 2,400 learners is like holding a political rally.”
He observed that the programme has not been anchored on the key pillars of financing, staffing, infrastructure and equipment, teaching and learning resources.
The transition policy, he added, has worsened inequality between learners who attend well-established schools and those from new ones.
“It should not just be a case of bora elimu but elimu bora (quality education),” he said.
Movement of millions
Mr Misori asked the Education ministry to adopt a template with checklist of what is needed in schools in terms of human resources and infrastructure in order to deal with the challenges that schools face.
Back home, parents who will bid bye to their children in boarding schools will be left fearing for the learners’ safety.
The condensed academic year will see them paying fees for the third time in just seven months, with the government keen to recover the ‘lost year’.The full academic year will take 30 weeks instead of the usual 39 with terms and holidays shortened.
The risk of coronavirus explosion in congested schools remains real, with data from the Health ministry indicating that the positivity rate still remains high.
The average for the last eight days stood at 11.8 per cent, with Saturday and Sunday standing at 13.7 and 12.2 per cent, respectively.
There are also fears that movement of millions of learners and teachers to various destinations across the country could trigger a surge in the infection rate.
But for Grade Five and Form One learners, it’s a relief after staying out of school for four months.
The learners had to remain out of school to avoid an overlap since they had opened earlier last year when other classes had closed.
“I’m happy to also go back to school. My sister used to leave me at home and only come back in the evening after school,” said Tamara Kariuki, a learner from Nairobi County who joins Grade Five today.
The competency-based curriculum pioneer class will enter their last year of the primary cycle next April.
They will sit their Grade Six assessment at the end of 2022 before they join junior secondary school.
Education stakeholders have raised concern over the high unprecedented dropout rates recorded when learners stayed out of school.
More learners, especially supposed to join Form One, are expected to drop out due to various reasons.
A recent report by the Presidential Policy and Strategic Unit says 16 and eight per cent of girls and boys respectively did not return to school when they opened in January.
It says “250,000 girls and 125,000 boys who were in school in March 2020 had not returned to school by February 2021 primarily due to lack of school fees, highlighting the impact of the economic downtown on their education.”
The report, titled Promises to keep: Impact of Covid-19 on Adolescents in Kenya reads cites unintended pregnancies as the second leading cause of school dropout for girls, and choosing to work for boys.