Secondary school dropouts rise in erratic transition push

Jamhuri High School students receive their exam papers during their KCSE Examination. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

More than 500,000 students who sat their KCPE exam between 2017 and 2019 did not complete their secondary education, coming in the wake of the 100 per cent transition policy from primary school.

The primary-secondary school transition policy may not have achieved its goal as it emerged 518,035 who joined secondary school did not sit KCSE exams. 

The ambitious policy was introduced by former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018, and was aimed at ensuring all candidates sitting KCPE examination join secondary school.

Six years down the line, the policy has seen three cohorts, of students who sat KCPE, go through secondary school.

An analysis by The Saturday Standard of the 100 per cent transition policy, using data from the Kenya National Examination Council, shows 993,718 candidates took the 2017 KCPE exam. But four years later, only 826,807 sat KCSE exam. It means some 166,911, who transitioned to secondary school as the first cohort of the 100 per cent transition policy, did not complete Form Four.

Some of the KCPE candidates did not join secondary school as expected. Others repeated classes, or died before the four-year cycle of secondary school, while others just dropped out.

Some 1,052,344 candidates sat the 2018 KCPE exams out of which only 881,416 sat KCSE in 2022.

A similar scenario is observed among this year’s KCSE candidates who are the second cohort of learners admitted under the 100 per cent transition policy. The group joined secondary school in 2020 after 1,083,456 sat the KCPE exams in 2019. Four years later, only 903,260 sat KCSE this year. The government has not unaccounted for those who missed KCSE.

The numbers lift the lid on the effectiveness of the policy. The law requires all children must go through a mandatory 12 years of basic education.

The National Parents Association chairman Silas Obuhatsa said the government has not managed to retain learners in secondary schools due to weak measures it has employed.

Obuhatsa said: “There is no proper policy to protect the most vulnerable learners and families. Some join secondary school but due to the high tuition fees, they are transferred to day schools. The unlucky ones are not able to complete secondary school.” 

Even before the 100 per cent transition policy, many students had been failing to complete their secondary education. An analysis of the number of students who sat KCPE between 2015 and 2019 shows 943,462 candidates never sat KCSE exams four years later.

KCPE exam

In 2016, a total of 942,021 sat the KCPE exam but only 747,161 sat KCSE exams four later.

For 2015, 230,567 students who sat KCPE, were not part of those taking KCSE exams four years later. In the same year, 927,789 took KCPE but only 697,222 sat the KCSE exams.

In 2020, the government launched the Elimu Scholarships in partnership with Equity Bank and the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation. The scholarships were aimed at providing students from needy and vulnerable homes with financial support to go through secondary school.

The support however is limited to 9,000 students who score 280 marks and above in KCPE.

At the same time, Obuhatsa noted that students from needy backgrounds, who cannot afford school fees, are extremely affected.

He said that due to the cutthroat competition in the exams, some low-performing students are compelled to repeat classes. This, he said, could lead to a decline in the number of students completing secondary school four years after finishing KCPE exam.

By May this year, the government announced achieving a near-perfect score in the transition rates with five out of the eight regions reported to have exceeded expectations.