A tent erected at St Teresa Secondary School in Ithanga ward, Muranga, gives the impression that a public function is underway.
However, the tent serves as a class room for Form One students. This year, the school admitted 172 learners although it has a capacity of 130.
Principal Martin Karanu said they were forced to erect the tent because there was no available classroom.
Parents scrambled to enroll their children in the school after it posted impressive results in last year's Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations.
“We are on a mission to ensure 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary in line with Government policy. The school has many challenges and support for construction of more classrooms has delayed,” said Mr Karanu.
Kagumo Girls in Kirinyaga converted corridors and classrooms into sleeping quarters to cope with the rise in student numbers.
A Form One student narrated how she had spent one term sleeping in a corridor on a two-inch mattress.
“I almost sneaked out of school to go back home due to the poor boarding facilities. The most congested dorms are built of timber," the student told The Standard.
These are the challenges most secondary schools in central Kenya have to face as they seek to meet the ambitious transition rate envisaged by the Ministry of Education.
School had to come up with ingenious ways to deal with the swelling numbers of students admitted early this year.
A few were forced to convert crucial facilities such as libraries and dining halls into dormitories and classrooms to accommodate the extra students.
Officials of the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association say there is need for the Government to allocate funds to address the concerns, as more learners are expected to join next year.
Some of the schools that recorded high enrollment of learners thus stretching their infrastructure are Kiaguthu, Njiiri, Kirwara, Kangema and Kahuhia high schools.
At Murang’a High School, the administration was forced to convert a laboratory into a dormitory to address congestion.
At Mugoiri Girls High School, the 1,625 learners have over the past two years been taking their meals in the open because the dining hall has a 700-seat capacity.
Classrooms, dormitories and laboratories are among the essential facilities that are stretched.
Principal Muthoni Rutere said she had experienced challenges with the large number of learners as she sought to adhere to the Government directive.
Mrs Rutere said the school enrolled 360 Form One students against a capacity of 300. She added that next year, the school is projecting to admit 450 students thus the need for increased space.
“The institution has only three laboratories against the requirement of eight. It also suffers a shortage of 36 teachers. Our 46 teachers are overworked as they serve an eight-stream institution,” said Rutere, adding that they require Sh40 million for expansion.
At Nyeri High School, Principal JK Maina said while the situation was manageable, there was need to urgently address the issue in the next two years.
"When the first class under the 100 per cent transition rate is in Form Four, we shall be stretched beyond capacity. The school is admitting between 80 to 100 students more than last year," Mr Maina said.
He noted that previously, the school used to enroll 270 students in five streams but it now had 350.
"In two years we shall have 400 more students in the school," he said, adding that the board was working to address the situation.
At Mahiga Girls School, principal Francesca Wahome said the institution had added an extra stream to accommodate the extra students.
"We had five streams per year but this year we have added an extra stream to accommodate an additional 50 students," said Ms Wahome.
Wahome said the school was planning to construct a new dormitory to accommodate an additional 200 girls and ease congestion.
Giakanja Boys Secondary School principal Onesmus Mwangi said the school was seeking ways to cope with the number of students.
“The situation in our school is not unique to what is being experienced by other institutions. We admitted 291 students this year and we are working to ensure they are comfortable,” Mr Mwangi stated.
He said in previous years, the school had classes of about 45 students but the numbers had increased to about 50 per class.
In Kirinyaga, the transition rate to secondary schools stood at 95.75 per cent and it created serious congestion.
County Director of Education Margaret Mwirigi said the situation was dire during first term when many schools were caught unprepared.
“Some classrooms had to be converted into temporary dormitories to ensure we accommodate the big number of new students, leaving most of the facilities overstretched," Ms Mwirigi said.
Other schools which are faced with the same predicament are Gituba, Karoti, Kiburia and Kiaragana, all girls boarding institutions.
Mwirigi said she expects each of the affected schools to have constructed at least one classroom from the Sh6,000 received for each student for that purpose.
“If a school has 500 students, this translates to Sh3 million per school. This is enough to construct at least a good classroom as we wait for more Government funding towards infrastructure improvement," she said. [Report by Lydiah Nyawira, Boniface Gikandi and Munene Kamau]
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