High schools face double intake crisis

George Magoha

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha arrives to inspect the Construction of Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) classrooms at Changamwe Secondary School in Mombasa on July 21, 2022.
 

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

A crisis is looming in public secondary schools ahead of next year’s double intake to accommodate both Standard Eight and Grade Six leavers. This is expected to stretch infrastructure and teachers as all public secondary schools will host junior high classes.

For the first time, secondary schools will admit double the number of students they admit as Form Ones. Some 1,268,830 Grade Six learners will join Grade Seven under the competency-based curriculum (CBC), while 1,243,637 Standard Eights will join Form One under the 8-4-4 system. In total, 2,512,467 learners are expected to join secondary school next year.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has maintained that placement of students will follow the traditional system where top performers join top schools. Parents and teachers had anticipated that the CBC would solve the chaotic placement of students in secondary schools.

Most public secondary schools have had big enrolments and need more classrooms and dormitories to have an environment conducive to learning.

Kenya has over 28,000 primary schools against 7,000 secondary institutions. Schools such as Kenya High, Alliance High, Alliance Girls, Mangu declare Form One capacities of between 500 and 600 students. If they declare a similar capacity for each of the classes, Grade Seven and Form One, they will be expected to admit over 1,000 students yearly.

The situation may be worse in some county and extra-county schools that admit over 700 students. Sub-county schools, which admit most students from primary, also have inadequate classrooms. Given that an equal number of Grade Six and Standard Eight learners will be transiting to secondary schools, the crowding crisis to be faced could be worse than what has been faced before. Currently, most schools have more than four streams, each with 40–60 students.

The government has built a maximum of two classrooms in schools, with most of them having only one new classroom. The Education ministry has yet to address the shortage of dormitories.

Secondary schools are also expected to admit the youngest group of students, with a majority aged 10–12. Usually, they admit students aged 13–15 to Form One.

Parents told Sunday Nation that they are worried about the safety of their children who will be joining junior secondary next year.

“I am afraid my son may be placed in a school far away from home as it happened with Form One placement. I am considering taking him to a nearby private junior secondary even though it might be expensive,” said Mr Paul Kimani, a Nairobi resident.

Elimu Yetu national coordinator Joseph Wasikhongo said while the government is trying to find a solution to tackle existing challenges, next year’s transition will not be smooth. “Schools are facing various issues, including teacher shortage and infrastructure challenges,” he said.

Mr Wasikhongo called for serious stakeholder engagement to address the pertinent issues affecting double transition before January. “So far, the government is trying, but there is need for progressive interventions,” he said.

Knut secretary general Collins Oyuu challenged the Education ministry to domicile junior secondary students in primary schools with enough infrastructure. “As we respectfully support the new curriculum, we must advise the government very responsibly that it may be very ideal to have the junior secondary in primary section for many reasons.”

He said the placement issue should be addressed by the ministry decisively.

“A big number of teachers in primary schools can teach junior secondary students,” he said, adding that some have bachelor’s, master’s and PhD certificates.

“Do not assume that teachers in primary schools have P1 certificates only, they are qualified to teach secondary school students.”

Prof Magoha had said only public primary schools sharing a compound with secondary schools will host junior high. But the ministry has yet to reveal how it will solve the administration of junior secondary hosted in primary schools.

So far, over 2,300 public primary schools have been earmarked to host secondary schools.

“For students hosted in primary schools, which headteacher will be responsible for them, the primary or the secondary?” asked a principal.

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