Ensure no student misses Form One due to lack of school fees

Anwar Busaka with 396 marks from Uriri Sub-County has reported to Kanga high school on January 15, 2024  without school fee and other requirement  as the form one join school for the first term. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

We are witnessing a very large number of learners who excelled in the 2023 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations but are on the verge of failing to report to secondary school.

Over 1.4 million pupils sat the 2023 KCPE examinations, 8,525 scored between 400 to 500 marks, 352,783 scored between 300 to 399 marks, 658,278 scored between 200 to 299 marks and 385,085 scored between one to 199 marks. This means that close to 70 per cent of all learners who sat the 2023 KCPE managed to secure places in Form One. This is according to the Kenya National Examinations Council report of December, 2023.

To be precise, 42,927 learners managed to secure admission to national schools, 274,746 to extra county schools, 288,201 to county secondary schools, 792,230 secured admissions to sub county schools where as 2,225 were placed in special needs education institutions of learning. Those who could not manage to secure space in the above institutions will proceed to village polytechnics to learn technical and artisan skills.

Over 300,000 learners are yet to report to Form One, and the reasons for their failure to do are many. However, the most outstanding one is lack of school fees. Other reasons could be sickness while others could have dropped out due to early marriages or early pregnancies.

We have witnessed many organisations that have gone out of their way to support bright but vulnerable Kenyans by paying their school fees and also proving them with basic and essential needs. Equity Group, through its Wings to Fly scholarship programme, has helped over 48,000 bright but needy students since 2010. The KCB Group, works with multiple agencies to support learning. The Jomo Kenyatta Foundation also supports needy learners. The National Government CDF also offers bursaries to deserving students.

But with all these interventions, over 300,000 learners are still on the verge of not joining Form One. This is a problem that the entire community should address. There is a feeling that some of the resources being pumped into the education sector through government capitation could be getting into wrong hands.

The government should ensure that once learners secure vacancies in secondary school, they get admitted on the basis of government capitation and then bursaries are processed to top up on their fees. This is the only way we can sustain the 100 per cent transition of these learners. We are looking at a situation where if these learners don’t report to school, then the opportunity given by government through capitation doesn’t serve its purpose.

The proposed funding model by the Presidential Working party on Education Reforms that seeks to understand the needs of all learners must be made functional. It would help the ministry to establish whether or not a given household can foot the cost of education. This will help in planning and supporting these students.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) proposes that it be made law that once a learner secures space in a secondary school, they get a direct admission in that school. That there must be a law that streamlines all education funds, be it bursaries, sponsorship and or government education support so that some students do not benefit more while others get nothing. There should be a system that centralises all these funds for easier and a coordinated approach.

We also propose that the Ministry of Education mops up learners who are still at home, just like the previous regime did. The ministry should also have a mechanism of regulating school fees for secondary schools at all levels. The hidden charges that are levied by schools end up being far much higher that what the ministry recommends and must be discouraged. These charges must be made public and pass through a regulator, say the ministry, so that they are known if they must exist.

Knut launched a campaign against privatisation and commercialisation of education, which has immensely effected public education which is a common good and a fundamental right under Article 43 (1)(f). Countries are having a conversation on implementing of SDG Agenda 4 on provision of accessible, affordable and quality education to all citizens by 2030.

This dream can only be achieved if we give opportunities to our children to access secondary education which is part of the foundational and basic learning in the Kenyan education system.