By the end of deadline day on Thursday, less than 40 per cent of students admitted to secondary schools in Taita Taveta’s four sub-counties had reported to school.
These worrying statistics underline the Coast region’s low transition rate from primary to secondary school that has now attracted the attention of acting Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
Statistics published by education officials early this week indicated that by Wednesday, only 37 per cent of 28,796 students admitted to various institutions across the region had reported to school, according to County Director of Education Moses Karati.
Enrollment is at its lowest in Lamu and parts of Tana River counties where insecurity has shut down schools.
Several schools in Kipini area of Tana River, which can only be accessed from Lamu where insurgency attacks have peaked, have not opened for the new term. In Lamu, many secondary schools remain almost empty a month into the first term as near nil form one enrollment is reported for the same reasons.
Kwale and Mombasa also popped up their own challenges.
Historically, transition to secondary in the Coast has been weak but has shown improvements in recent years with introduction of bursary and scholarship schemes, especially in Kwale and Kilifi counties.
This year, a combination of factors -- including late disbursement of bursaries and scholarships -- combined with cultural and religious factors to push down secondary school enrollment even in the more cosmopolitan counties of Mombasa and Kwale.
Poverty and delay in the disbursement of bursaries from the county governments on time is cited as a major cause for the low admission in Kwale, Kilifi and Taita Taveta.
Analysis of discretionary bursaries by the counties indicate that many students failed to attain the cutoff marks set by the county governments to qualify for sponsorship.
During Matiang’i’s meeting with local leaders and education stakeholders in Mombasa, it also emerged that some parents had failed to enroll their children in some national secondary schools in the region because they do not offer Islamic studies.
“They (parents) say most activities in national and extra-provincial schools are against their religious and cultural ethics,” said Mombasa Deputy Governor William Kingi in a report that says some parents felt locked out from schools that only offer Christian Religious Education.
“The delay by the national government to release CDF funds this term which could have assisted in giving bursary to needy children also contributed,” said Kaloleni MP Paul Katana.
Educationists say more than 60 per cent of students at the Coast region depend on full or partial bursary, and that most are still unable to pay even with the introduction of subsidised secondary education for they still cannot afford uniform.
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This year, according to many students, most schools were very strict and turned away students who lacked any item required.
Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya says his administration has spent more than Sh1 billion in bursary since 2013 to pay fees for more than 55,000 secondary school students.
“This year, more than 3,300 students will benefit. Some are getting over 50 per cent of the total fees. It is a huge task,” said Mvurya.
In Kwale, some students have not reported because they were admitted to day schools hundreds of kilometres from their homes. Msambweni Sub-county Education Officer Mohammed Simba said on Wednesday that during form one placement, there was a mix up on call ups to schools of opposite gender, but this was being rectified.
“Several of the girls have been called to boys school but we have rectified this. Admission is still on, we are not time barred,” said Kwale County Education Officer Mohamed Simba, referring to the mix-up in admission.
And then there is the issue of distance, especially for day scholars.
“Some students from Lungalunga were called to a day school in Kinango,” Kwale County Secretary of Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) Mackenzi Tuki.
The problem of low form one turn out is more dire in Lamu. Before the admission deadline on Friday, Siyu High School in Lamu East had reported zero admission owing to insecurity.
Lamu County Director of Education William Micheni said on Thursday that the most affected area is Lamu East, particularly schools in the Boni area and on some islands.
“It is true we had very low turnout, but the numbers are improving after we begun sensitisation campaigns,” said Mr Micheni in a phone interview.
Only one student had reported at Moa Secondary School in Lamu out of the expected 45 by Wednesday.
At Mtondoni Secondary School, only two out of 100 students had shown up with Faza, Kiongwe, Mkunumbi, Kizingitini also recording low enrollment.
At Lake Kenyatta Secondary School in Lamu West, 25 form one students had reported by Friday out of the expected 180. At Lamu Boys, just 10 out of 200 expected had enrolled.
Lamu Girls had received 60 students out of the expected 192 by Friday last week, according to the figures by Education officials.
Uziwa Secondary had surpassed the 50 per cent mark by Friday after 53 students reported by Friday out of the expected 100. In Mokowe, 40 out of the 123 had shown up.
Micheni said all schools in Lamu had received money for all the form one students expected to arrive by last week.
In Tana River, Gitonga Mbaka, the local education director, cited insecurity along the main highway linking Mombasa to Lamu which connects with parts of Tana River.
At Mapunga and Kipini secondary schools, not a single form one student had reported by the deadline. Cumulatively, both schools have admitted 100 students.
“We have security challenges in parts of Kone Mansa, Kipini, Mapunga and Gamba areas where parents have refused to let their pupils go to school,” Gitonga said.
Reports indicate that some parents in Tana River and Lamu have decided to transfer their children to schools in Mombasa and Malindi.
Reports from Taita Taveta indicated similar happenings, including up to 60 per cent default rates in some schools.
Taita Taveta County Director for Education Phillip Wambua said 70 per cent of students admitted to county and extra-county schools in the region have recorded between 30 to 40 per cent.
Cecilia Murima, the principal of Ganze Girls Secondary School, told Saturday Standard that only 105 of the 350 admitted have reported.
The school was allocated 350 girls but only 105 have reported.
“Fifty of those admitted are from Nairobi while the other 300 are from Kilifi. None of those admitted from Nairobi had reported by yesterday. Most of those from Ganze only picked their lettersyesterday,” said Murima.
The principal said most of those who have not reported cannot raise the required fees.
At St Thomas Girls Secondary School in Kilifi town, 84 reported. The school was expecting only 169 students.
Eunice Mwaiseghe, the school’s principal, said she is expecting the number to increase since the institution is located in the county headquarters.