Secondary schools in Nyanza have converted stores, libraries and laboratories into classrooms and dormitories to cope with a sudden surge in student numbers.
Head teachers, who are struggling to implement the Government’s 100 per cent transition policy from primary to secondary schools, have warned that the population increase has stretched all facilities, including toilets, to the limit.
Many schools are also spending millions of shillings to hire teachers to assist those employed by the Teachers Service Commission, whose numbers are not enough to handle the student numbers.
Head teachers now want the Government to provide money to expand infrastructure and employ more teachers if it is keen on achieving its transition policy.
The situation is so dire that in some schools, nearly 100 students squeeze into a single classroom.
At Majengo Mixed Secondary School in Siaya, each classroom is accommodating up to 80 students against the Government’s requirement of 45.
“We have built one additional classroom to ease the strain,” said principal Thomas Obura.
The school that was built to accommodate 360 students now has 611 students who share one laboratory and two toilet blocks.
“The laboratory is the hardest hit because it is a basic necessity. But we also need at least 10 new toilets to ease the pressure on the existing ones,” said Mr Obura.
The school is also grappling with an acute shortage of teachers and has resorted to using tuition fees paid by parents and guardians to hire more tutors.
“We currently have eight teachers employed by the TSC. The wage bill for employing extra teachers has risen to Sh1.8 million every year,” said Obura.
The situation has been worsened by the Government’s failure to fully remit free secondary education funds.
According to Obura, the school has only received government funding for 450 students.
The situation is the same at Ramba Boys High School in Rarieda, which is struggling to accommodate 1,800 students.
School principal James Okoyo said he needs at least Sh3.6 million to construct an additional 20 toilets and six laboratories to accommodate the growing student population.
At Maranda High School, principal Edwin Namachanja admitted that there was a crisis.
“We are spending extra money to hire additional teachers to match the swelling population,” said Mr Namachanja.
The situation is the same in Migori where the teacher staffing crisis is being sorely felt.
St Albert Ulanda Girls High School has hired 37 teachers to assist the 36 teachers employed by TSC to handle 2,256 students.
School principal Buyango Phinorah said she was optimistic that the 100 per cent transition campaign is achievable.
“Every child needs education,” said Ms Phinorah.
At Kodero Bara High School, 17 tutors have been brought on board to ease the crisis.
“We have 1,700 student as a result of the transition. Our 32 TSC teachers are not enough so we have hired 15 teachers but we still need five more. These problem cuts across all boarding schools in the region,” said principal Jim Agutu.
Mr Agutu said that while he supported the 100 per cent transition initiative, he wished that it came with more facilities and staff.
“The boarding facilities, classrooms and sanitation blocks are overwhelmed. The teaching and support staff are also overwhelmed,” he said.
Orero Boys High School, which topped Nyanza region in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, is also facing similar challenges after Form One admissions rose from 400 last year to 450.
“We only allowed the additional 50 students due to limited resources. If we admit more students, they are likely to live in a pathetic environment and we will be blamed by people who do not understand why we admitted them,” said principal Dickens Bula.
At Mbita High School, more than 1,000 students who sought admission to Form One had their applications turned down due to limited facilities.
“I had to admit only 336 students who could be supported by the available facilities,” said principal Kennedy Ojijo.
The Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association Kisii chairman Jairus Onchoke said the Government should have ensured that proper infrastructure was in place before enforcing the transition policy.
At Kisii High School, which is one of the oldest institutions in the region, 537 students joined Form One this year. Principal Maurice Ogutu said they needed an extra classroom and dormitory.
“The school has 11 dormitories but we still require more to ensure that the students have enough space,” Mr Ogutu said.
The congestion has drawn the ire of politicians who are demanding that the Government allocates more funds to expand schools if it is serious about its policy. [Reporting by Isaiah Gwengi, Caleb Kingwara and Edwin Nyarangi]