Headteachers switch off phones as parents look for vacancies
By Augustine Oduor
| December 5th 2019
Headteachers are grappling with growing demand by parents seeking to transfer their children who were selected to join far-flung secondary schools.
It emerged yesterday that some parents are uncomfortable with the idea of sending their children to institutions in distant counties.
In one of the cases seen by The Standard, a candidate from Kakamega County was selected to join a school in Taita Taveta County.
Another candidate who sat the KCPE exams in Kisumu was admitted to a school in Nyeri while a candidate from Nairobi was selected to join a school in Busia.
Data from the Ministry of Education reveals that many counties do not have adequate spaces in their schools to accommodate their students.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said this week they were aware of the problem of limited places in some counties.
“Faced with this challenge, the ministry opted to place learners from these counties to schools in neighbouring counties, and not to schools of their choice,” said Prof Magoha.
The CS said nearly 30,000 candidates were placed in schools they did not select, which he attributed to skewed candidates’ choices or unavailability of vacancies in their home counties.
Headteachers who spoke to The Standard yesterday said they had been forced to switch off their cell phones as pressure from parents mounts.
“Many parents are coming to school and some are calling the office and our private mobile phones asking for Form One slots,” said a principal in one of the national schools.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) national chairman Kahi Indimuli said principals had also complained about a large number of parents demanding to be issued with admission letters directly from the schools.
“It is stressful because some do not know the procedure. It is impossible for a principal to issue a letter because parents are required to print them from the website,” said Mr Indimuli.
The chairman explained that for a transfer to be effected, the school must declare a vacancy is available after which the request is uploaded to the National Education Information Management System (Nemis).
“The conditions are that there must be a vacancy in the school that parents are seeking a transfer to. The school must also have been part of the choices made by the student during the application process,” said Indimuli.
He said Nemis would reject a transfer request if the school was not among the institutions selected by the candidate.
Sources at the ministry said the move to introduce printing of admission letters from the ministry’s website and a new rule for headteachers to declare available slots was aimed at ensuring fairness.
Previously, some principals reportedly sold vacant Form One slots to the highest bidder, locking out poor but deserving students.
Parents were also said to hop from one preferred school to another and readily parted with thousands of shillings to bribe headteachers and secure the hoarded slots for their children.
It also emerged that some principals under-reported the number of available Form One vacancies to allow more room for business when admissions start.
The principals are now required to declare these vacancies and propose the names of students who have expressed interest to take up the available slots.
Parents who spoke yesterday revealed the agony of the admission process especially when their children rejected their assigned schools.
Kenya Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo said he was a victim of the selection process.
“My child was placed in a school that he never selected. He declined to go there but I am convincing him that it is a good school,” Mr Maiyo said.
It also emerged that primary school headteachers contributed to the skewed secondary schools application exercise.
A Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) delegates meeting in Mombasa heard that parents and children do not get adequate advise on how to select secondary schools.
Some headteachers, however, faulted the manner in which schools clusters are arranged.
“Every year we face this problem of parents seeking transfers and we ask ourselves what the problem is. And if it is about school clusters, then make the resolution here and forward it to the ministry,” said Indimuli.
Giving an example, he said it was the wrong decision for a candidate to select Pangani Girls as a first choice and follow it up with Kenya High or Alliance Girls.
“If your second choice is a competitive school then be assured it is someone else's first choice and you will also miss out on it."
During the application process, each candidate is expected to select a maximum number of schools from four listed categories.
The categories are national, extra-county (divided into three clusters), county and sub-county schools. Candidates with disabilities also pick an institution from a fifth category of special schools.
Candidates are expected to select 11 schools: national (four), extra-county (three; one from each cluster), county (two) and sub-county (two).
Students with disabilities can pick one more school from a list of special/integrated institutions.
Under extra-county schools, in Cluster One, candidates select one preferred school from a list of 332 institutions. In Cluster Two, they select from a list of 208 schools while in Cluster Three, they pick from a list of 198 schools.
Extra-county schools are boarding institutions that admit only 60 per cent of students from the host county.
County schools, on the other hand, select all their students from the host county. Each candidate is expected to choose two schools from the list provided.
Some candidates find themselves at a disadvantage when they select county schools situated in other counties.
Speaking during the selection exercise on Monday, Magoha revealed that some candidates opted to select one or two secondary schools instead of 11, thus limiting placement to their preferred choices.
At the headteachers' meeting, it also emerged that guidance was lacking for secondary students seeking university admission.
The students have 18 choices when applying to join a university.
There are six options for degree courses, four for diploma programmes and a similar number for craft certificate options.
The students also have four options for artisan certificate courses.
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