Education stakeholders have warned that the country is facing a disaster with overcrowding of secondary schools that is getting worse every year after the government’s failure to expand infrastructure.
Concerns have been expressed over safety, health, security, administration and discipline as some boarding schools now have more than 2,000 learners.
Over the past four years, enrollment in secondary schools has grown rapidly as the number of learners dropping out of primary schools is increasing every year. However, the development is not matching the expansion of the facilities.
According to data released by the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) last week, registration for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam had surpassed the 2020 figure of 27,276 candidates. It is expected to increase further by the end of the exercise this week.
This year, 430,000 more learners will be attending secondary schools than those who drop out at the end of the academic year in March.
Under the 100% transition policy of the government, all the candidates of KCPE will take admission in the secondary school. Parents have expressed apprehensions about the safety of their children in overcrowded boarding schools.
“We are concerned that in case of an outbreak of Covid-19, it will spread very quickly to overcrowded schools. Also, where will our children run in case of an unfortunate accident like a fire at night? We want a conducive and safe environment for our children to learn in,” said the National President of the Parents Association, Mr. Nicholas Mio, to the nation.
The Ministry of Education has detailed guidelines on the construction and capacity of classrooms and hostels. These have been ignored as the ministry is pushing for 100% transition. The education ministry spends Rs 22,244 annually on each learner in public secondary schools.
Of this, KSh. 5,000 has been set aside for infrastructure development. Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association President Kahi Indimulli said that the safety of learners is a major concern. He called for a review of the school financing model, saying the current one is based on the 2014 Kilmi Mawiria report which was out of date.
“At that time, the class average was 40 learners, but now it is 60. They were dealing with schools with about four streams, but now some schools have more than 10,” he explained. The increase in enrollment has also increased the workload of teachers, with many schools short of staff despite the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) appointing 5,000 teachers every year.
Mr Indimulli, who is also the principal of Machacos School, warned of a serious crisis following the January 2023 double intake, when the leading competency-based curriculum classroom shifted to the secondary school.
Another principal, who requested anonymity, complained that the ministry favors well-established schools while allocating infrastructure funds at the expense of day schools. He said that this has created inequality.
“Why would anyone give extra funding for infrastructure to well-equipped national schools while day schools don’t have basics? That’s why parents and learners don’t trust our schools. They know we are lacking the basics that every secondary school should have.”
Another principal of a sub-county school in Embu County said schools also face the challenges of overcrowding. He cited the example of a single-stream school, which had admitted 82 learners till Friday.
During the ongoing Form One admissions, parents have been campaigning to shift their children from schools that were put up by the ministry, which have a record of good performance and good facilities.
There have been allegations regarding the demand of these schools that some principals are selling Form One slots to the parents. Mr. Indimuly has rubbished the claims.
On the apprehension that the quality of education would be affected by overcrowding, Mr. Indimulli said that performance depends on the effectiveness of teaching.