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Studio shot of a little boy with his head buried in his knees sitting next to his schoolbag against a white background. [File, Standard]

Just days to this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam, details have emerged of how secondary school heads kill the dreams of candidates.

The principals do not send their students’ applications to the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS).

It is a mandatory requirement for all candidates sitting KCSE exam to apply to KUCCPS for courses they wish to study in universities and middle-level colleges.

However, it has emerged that high school heads deliberately fail to make university and tertiary colleges applications for candidates, which undermines their prospects to pursue their dream careers.

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All schools are supposed to create an account where principals apply for students’ placement to universities or colleges. Only the principal can submit the school applications and not individual students.

The Standard has, however, established that some high school head teachers do not make any applications to universities and tertiary colleges, citing the anticipated poor academic performance of their institutions in national examinations.

And in some schools, principals select and register only top performers likely to score the minimum university entry grade of C+ and above and ignoring the rest they deem to be poor performers.

Data seen by The Standard reveals that for the past three years, high school principals failed to send applications for some 1.6 million children who sat KCSE. Last year, although 664,592 candidates sat the examinations only a fraction- 85,769- of applications were received.

Diminishing career growth

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This means that these candidates were not considered for any certificate, diploma or degree courses for the past three years, diminishing their career growth.

It also means that the candidates, some who performed well in national examinations, but did not have access to application infrastructure, killed their academic hopes. KUCCPS Chief Executive Officer John Muraguri yesterday said that failure to register children at school level condemns them to failure, saying tracking the candidates is hampered after KCSE results are out.

“We insist that registrations take place at school because there is the necessary infrastructure and they are assisted through heads,” said Muraguri.

He said that after the release of the KCSE results, the application portal is open for every one but a majority of candidates never apply because they cannot access necessary facilities.

“Some students cannot even access the application portal away from schools because their homes are far from the facilities such as cyber cafes,” said Muraguri.

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He said last year alone, of more than 500,000 candidates, only 110,000 applications were received after the revision portal was opened.

Sources familiar with the placement process however said that when the revision portal is open,many students are locked out because they have to compete for the limited slots. It explains the situation where top performers find themselves missing out on competitive courses that they otherwise might have secured had they selected them at school level.

This is because after results are out, the choices are open for competition. The spotlight is now on principals of secondary schools for failing to guide students on career choices at school level. Students have a total of 18 choices open to them when making applications at school level.

There are six options for degree courses, four for diploma programmes and a similar number for craft certificates options. The students also have four options for Artisan Certificate courses.

KUCCPS data for the past three years shows that only applications for 241,315 candidates were received from all the schools nationally.

In 2016, of the 577,338 candidates who sat the KCSE examination, only 92,683 were registered at school level. Only 62,863 candidates were registered in 2017 out of the 615,679 candidates who sat the examination.

And last year, only 85,769 applications were received out of the 664,592 candidates who sat the national examinations.

According to KUCCPS, principals are expected to provide necessary career guidance and assist the KCSE candidates with the online application for placement to universities and colleges.

Zero registration

The heads are also expected to collect, collate and submit online applications for placement on behalf of the students.

This year, KUCCPS opened the online school application portal on September 26 and will close it on December 31. Only Sh500 is charged per student.

Analysis of the county registration data reveals that some counties registered no candidates at all, with few applications submitted in most counties.

In 2017, schools in Mandera and Marsabit counties did not register any student to the diploma and degree courses.

Mandera County, which had 3,409 students, did not register even a single student. The same applied for Marsabit County that had 1,439 candidates.

And last year, Mandera, Kitui, Marsabit, Kisii, Kilifi, Isiolo, Homa Bay, Garissa, Elgeyo Marakwet, Busia and Bungoma sent the lowest applications of less than 10 per cent of the registered candidates.

Overall, Isiolo, Kilifi, Kisii, Lamu, Narok, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir, Usin Gishu, Nyamira, Nandi, Migori, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Trans Nzoia, Kitui, Homa Bay, Garissa, Bomet, Bungoma and Busia counties are listed among the regions that sent the least applications.

Some of the school heads who spoke yesterday said some institutions have lost hope because of the annual poor performance of their candidates.

Experts, however, said that with huge investments in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students can apply for diploma and certificate courses.

“It is not only about degrees, principals should allow candidates to select certificate and diploma courses as well,” said Muraguri.

There are 529 degree courses, 215 diploma propgrammes, 109 certificate courses and 137 artisan courses available to students.

An analysis of KCSE performance between 2014 and 2016 reveals a trend of poor grades with more candidates posting Ds and Es.

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