Panic spread across secondary schools as the Ministry of Education put its foot down on its resolve to invalidate Form One admission letters obtained directly from school heads.
Panicky school principals were calling on anxious parents to hold on as they sought to regularise their letters with the ministry ahead of reporting dates.
In turn, ministry officials were holding their ground, saying they were determined to stop a long-running racket involving illegal sale of unclaimed slots.
As the two sides sized up each other, stakeholders were piling pressure on Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed to rescind the decision as parents caught unawares by the move agonised over the turn of events.
The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) condemned the decision, saying it was a “bureaucratic and retrogressive knee-jerk reaction” aimed at breeding confusion in the admission of Form One students. Kuppet national Vice Chairman Julius Korir said the union might go to court if the CS does not rescind her decision.
“Amina has gone overboard by bringing in changes that add no value to education. We may have to go to court if she does not rescind the decision before the admissions start,” Korir said yesterday.
He accused the ministry of frustrating parents who were already preparing to take their children to school, saying it was insensitive and dictatorial.
“There is a problem in the ministry. The CS should not assume that she can do everything without engaging other stakeholders. She has declared war on education,” Korir added.
At the National Assembly front, Education Committee Chairman Julius Melly also sided with the principals and parents, terming the ministry’s directive as insensitive. He said the move was essentially forcing parents to accept schools they did not want.
“The ministry’s National Education Management Information System (Nemis) is not working. They should let schools give out letters and be monitored,” the Tinderet MP told the Saturday Standard on the phone.
But at Jogoo House, education officials were adamant, with Amina telling journalists that Nemis had the final say and that all students had been issued with Unique Personal Identifiers.
“The reason for that is that basically it ensures henceforth we will use these identifiers throughout the four-year school cycle of our secondary school students,” she said.
“And so as you report on Monday next week to your schools, you will be admitted using the Nemis accounts only. And we hope that that will be done quickly and expeditiously so that between the 7th and 11th we have to get the true picture of what it is obtaining in our country,” she said during the launch of Equity Bank’s 2019 Wings to Fly class.
Her communications official Kennedy Buhere later said the principals were aware of the new system, and they erred in issuing letters even after they had been informed that only Nemis will be used to select children into schools.
“Admissions were never cast in stone. Parents had the option of changing, but it could only be done through Nemis where the principals were supposed to upload names of students they are considering and wait for approval from the ministry before issuing calling letters,” Buhere says.
He said only heads of sub-county schools were allowed to issue letters manually, and later register the students into the system. He added that all school heads had been trained on how to interact with the system and make requests of children they want to admit, subject to the spaces they have.
The question on whether parents who had paid school fees will get a refund lingered, with most parents taking to social media to lament over what they termed as disorganisation from the ministry.
“I had booked a bus to Nairobi, and even taken leave of absence from work to take my son to school, but now it seems he may not report after all,” said Chrispine Ochieng’ on Facebook.
John Angaya, another parent, said he was not sure about what to do since he had wished his son to join a school different from the one identified through Nemis.
“My son scored 337 marks and was invited to join Kivaywa High, an extra-county school. However, I cannot afford school fees required and I have already secured him a place at a local day school charging affordable fees,” he said.
Angaya appealed to the CS to show mercy to poor families who cannot afford the schools whose fees are high.
“It means my son will not continue with education since I am jobless and I don’t have a stable source of income,” he said.
As parents agonised, their own association, the National Association of Parents (NAP), was speaking from both sides of its mouth.
Chairman Nicholas Maiyo was unable to confirm whether he was supporting Amina’s move but said he had received many calls from parents who were complaining.
He said only the ministry was controlling the Nemis system, adding that a violation of the system might deny capitation to students who receive letters directly from school heads.
Maiyo said it would be wise if the ministry grants school heads powers to admit students who may have missed out of the selection exercise.
“If there is a way for the ministry to allow principals to admit students so as get capitation of Sh22,244, then it would be good.
“If they can do it online, especially for parents whose children were not selected to any school during the first selection exercise, then it would save parents the trouble of travelling to schools looking for letters,” he said.