A literate population is an asset to a country seeking to develop. That explains the extra lengths to which the Kenyan government seeks to go to ensure illiteracy is eradicated. These initiatives include compulsory schooling; capitation, free textbooks and a 100 percent transition rate from primary to secondary school.
The government has been agonising over a new education curriculum that is not only in synch with the needs of changing society today, but also prepares learners for challenges later in life. Yet despite all these efforts, it has not been smooth sailing, not when stakeholders have erected one obstacle after another.
While the 100 percent transition rate from primary to secondary school has its advantages in guaranteeing all learners an equal shot at education; their disparate backgrounds notwithstanding, it turns out this was undertaken without proper feasibility studies and planning. As it is now, a number of schools are groaning under the weight of excess enrollment of students they can barely handle.
Most secondary schools depend on parents and the local communities to develop them. Away from the urban settings, many of them are in the rural areas where raising adequate funds for the routine running of the schools is a hurdle. Consequently, infrastructure and adequate staffing remain major operational challenges.
Thus, the enforced transition rate is both a curse and blessing. Cases where corridors and any open spaces have been turned into dormitories abound. In some schools like Teresa Secondary School in Ithanga, and perhaps many others, tents have been erected to serve as classrooms. Such congestion, whether in the dormitories or makeshift classrooms, comes with the risk of spreading contagious diseases. This is cause for concern in light of such cases as Moi Girls High School in Mbiruri, Embu County that was closed due to an outbreak of Hepatitis A last Friday.
Besides, unsupported number of students, poor teacher/student ratio, and lack of books, toilets, bathrooms and libraries do not aid free and qualitative learning. We should not just be seen to have large numbers of students when in essence little value accrues from their being in school. Every effort must be made to ensure schools are well equipped, both in terms of infrastructure and staffing to seamlessly handle the large number of learners.
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