High schools best suited to host Grade 9 students

Grade 7 learners during a Home Science practical lesson. [File, Standard]

In four months, Grade 8 learners will move to Grade 9. Unfortunately, a firm, reasonable decision is yet to be made on where these learners will be domiciled. The government, in its own wisdom or lack of it, insists that the 1.3 million learners should remain in primary school in line with the recommendations of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms.

But while there is nothing wrong with this, the reality on the ground is different. There are no (enough) classrooms in primary schools to accommodate the huge number of learners. Sadly, the government’s promise to build extra classrooms in every public school to house these learners remains largely that - promise.

Although the Education Ministry says construction of 9,000 Grade 9 classrooms has already started, it remains to be seen whether they will be ready by December. But even if they are, another 7,000 classrooms are needed in order to accommodate all the learners. Will that be possible with a government that has reduced capitation and has been struggling to hire enough Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) teachers?

Ironically, the government is running against time to build the classrooms with minimal resources while there are enough classrooms in secondary schools to accommodate all the 1.3 million learners as there will be no Form 1 admissions next year. Building 16,000 new classrooms when we have a similar number of empty classrooms sounds like a waste of meager public resources. Why is it so important for the government for Grade 9 to be in primary school? Some in the government have told The Standard it is because some officials are afraid to tell the President the truth.

Consequently, the government looks poised to frustrate these JSS learners, who have suffered enough already, further as it is unlikely most classrooms will be ready by next year. The truth that the President is not being told is that it is more reasonable and financially sound to have these children study in secondary school for now. Meanwhile, the funds set aside for the construction of classrooms can be used to hire more teachers.